Whenever Wal-Mart is in the news, it’s usually because of the same stuff that most often earns any hugely successful corporation ink: controversy over whether its lower-level employees are adequately compensated, whether its habit of putting mom-and-pop stores out of business in the course of offering lower prices and more jobs is, on balance, good or bad for a community, and so on.
And when people admit to shopping at Wal-Mart, they are often obligated to emphasize what a dump it is, and that their ownpatronage of the place was a programmed form of slumming, a necessary but temporary lapse; apparently, everyone who has ever bought something at a Wal-Mart and lived to comment on the experience is the best-looking, richest, and most polite person in the joint. With the nicest teeth.
Here’s what I never hear mentioned: Wal-Mart is about as real as it gets out there. It’s America.
I go to Wal-Mart all the time. The last time I went I was grabbing for some popsicles when a tan, trim blonde woman who was maybe 23 or 24 sauntered by in very short shorts and a tighjt brown sleeveless top. For the record, I will note two things: Such sightings are rare where I live (I amicably coexist with people who, in the main, are what a friend of yore would call “mounatin folk”), and the woman had an unusually eye-catching bust. But the kicker was the single word “BITCH” in cursive letters splattered across that very prominent chest. The fact that she looked like the last kind of person to wear such a thing — she had a low-key, unassuming, and not especially vigilant way about her, to my thinking — rounded out a picture that I found delightfully off-kilter.
Moments later I found myself in line behind a couple of younger guys whose cart contained only a couple of cases of cheap beer and several bottles of Red Hot sauce. My instinctive thought upon noting this was that they had obviously forgotten to pick up a few extra rolls of toilet paper. When thecashier started ringing up these purchases, she asked both of them for proof of age, but only one of them was over 21. This set off an argument because the guy doing the buying insisted that his brother wasn’t going to be drinking any of the skunk piss, while the cashier insisted that it was a state law that she not only deny the guy the beer, but that she had to refuse to sell him alcohol for the next 24 hours.
The guy didn’t get especially rowdy, but he insisted on hanging around and pleading his case until a noise began erupting about ten or twelvefeet behind me. I turned to see a very fat man in a motorized cart yammering and growling at the two punks ot get a move-on. At first I thought he was complaining in a foreign language, but I soon ascertained that he was merely incoherent. The two guys left without their beer, at which point the clerk unloaded her carefully restrained annoyance upon my beaming, ever-sympathetic person. “What dicks!” I commiserated. “They just don’t get that you could go to jail if you sold them beer and then the younger one wrecked their car or something!”
“Really?” she asked with a fresh look of concern.
“Well, maybe,” I said, gathering my vittles. “Have a nice night!”