Monday, November 14, 2005

Banging QWERTY

WalMart purgatory

A couple of days ago at yet another newly erected Supercenter, a freshly hired "cart boy" (for lack of a more ingratiating term) could be heard screaming to the top of his lungs at, one could only assume, himself, "Working for WalMart!! Do a good job!! Go!!" And then running across the parking lot, his cart rope and hook collected over his shoulder like some weekend mountaineer, rushing around energetically mating shopping carts, front of one through the rear of the next...front, rear, front, rear. Now I know you imagine him being some helpless little mentally challenged kid with ever-so-slight Downs' features, smiling aimlessly in the distance, trying his best to please the benevolent personnel manager who hired him, partly out of pity but mostly to fulfill some community enrichment quota set by a bean counter in Bentonvlle. No, this guy looked almost normal, but didn't seem to have all his faculties working in unison. Not completely aware of his actions, he seemed to be enjoying life. We'll just call him eccentric. Well, with only 4 or 5 carts in tow, "cart boy" checked for parking lot traffic down his aisle by looking left (with exaggerated head throws resembling that of the comedian, Jim Carrey) "Clear!," he shouted. Looking right, "Clear!" he exclaimed with each head throw. Left, right, left, right, left, right..."Go," he exclaims. Off he raced with impaired coordination, neverththeless, reaching his goal, that being the four foot tall, 20 foot wide door adjacent the exit of the main building and depositing his collection of unused carts where they would rest indefinitely, awaiting the grasp of the next would be customer.

What does one call that little area between the outer door and inner door at WalMart stores? You know, the space with the video games, the kids’ carousel, and those unattended carts stacked in place by our aforementioned rocket scientist, cart boy. Sometimes, a mom might attempt to send her child to this department store void so she can confirm, unmolested, the prices of scanned sale items via the provided "mini me" register display to assure proper discount allocation or so she can search endlessly through her purse to find her check book, credit card, coupons, or to thoroughly scan a shopping list to make sure she didn’t forget anything. She can be heard saying, "Here’s fifty cents. Now go on out there and get out of my way!" as she points in the general direction of the exit. Out there? Where’s out there? The kid has a preconceived notion of where "out there" is, because he just finished unloading a barrage of entreaties upon his mother for some spare change, to be used for just a moment of childhood pleasure in that breezy game-haven.

But if two adults wish to meet at Walmart in this capitalistic black hole, they would be hard pressed to describe it in five words or less. "I’ll meet you out front." That description implies in front of the building if the wife wants picked up after checking out, insinuating the husband should pull the car around. Or if the husband never went inside in the first pace, but instead dropped her off in the ped-xing lane in front of the building some 2.., no 3 hours earlier and she calls his cell phone and wakes him from his slumber in the driver’s seat parked in section G, to announce, "I’m waiting out front in the cold!"

One could say, "I’ll meet you at the front" which certainly means the space within the confines of the shopping arena, just short of the main merchandise aisles not yet though to the little impulse-buyer islands full of batteries, portable book lights, and ice scrapers which entice shoppers waiting in long checkout lines. But at the front lies near the registers, maybe even the deli, but just shy of that glass enclosure that separates real life from the dreamland, Wallyworld.

"Entrance tunnel" could be a likely candidate for that area between the automatic doors at Walmart. One experiences the exhilaration of an athlete entering through a stadium tunnel on game day. He's practiced hard, trained for physical fitness, he's been coached for proper execution of each play, and is mentally prepared to engage his opponent with nothing short of victory in mind. All his training, all his preparation culminates into a short run from locker room to playing field. Everything in the tunnel, the walls, the floors, the security guards, the press, wayward spectators, all merely sillhouettes against that glow of staduim lights at the end of the passage. Similarly, Walmart customers practice by making shopping lists, their checking accounts are fiscally fit, the family has been coached on aisle numbers as they pertain to desired purchase items, departmental location of needed supplies have been mapped out, and basic behavioral expectations have been embedded in adolescant pshyches through a hoard of veiled threats proposed in the car on the way to the store. No wonder parents are so disdained when forced to wait in the idle area betwixed "ENTER" and "NOT AN EXIT". The battle lies within, not in this exogenous purgatory.

Someday, a lack of proper name or designation, notwithstanding, you may find yourself standing in the space between sidewalk sales and "Hello, welcome to Walmart," surrounded by community announcement bulletin boards, racks of "clearance sale" flyers, with the ding-ding of arcade game sounds chiming in your ears. You might be wondering, "Am I leaving, or did I just get here?" Here's a couple of clues that might help orient your thoughts: If your a man and not in possession of your wallet or a shopping cart, don't worry. Your wife will soon arrive with a cart full of little blue bags filled with clothing, produce, and household paraphernalia, and will direct you to follow her while you push the cart, listening to her ramble on about how expensive feminine hygiene products have become. If your a woman, car keys in hand, you've probably forgotten your purse in the car.

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1 comment:

Matthew Ward said...

excellent post!!