Many of you have heard me pontificate at great length of my seething white-hot hatred for most of humanity. I am something of an anti-social personality and the thought of being trapped in an enclosed place with the general population makes me want to run like I'm being tailed by the Khmer Rouge. However, my fear and loathing of social interaction is only outweighed by my love for acquiring shiny, pretty things at discount prices, so on occasion I am forced to put on my big girl panties, pop a Xanax, and venture out to Target.
I love Target. Along with H&M and Starbucks it makes up the Holy Trinity of my retail experience and I will be faithful to its red-shirted army until death. This is why it was with no small amount of vitriol that I learned of an enemy in our midst. . .yes, the neighboring city of West Linn had drank the Sam's Choice Kool-Aid and opened a Wal-Mart. But not just a regular Wal-Mart, laws no! It was now home to a SUPER Wal-Mart, for a regular Wal-Mart wouldn’t have been near majestic enough to house a veritable bounty of questionable luncheon meats and flammable children’s wear.
Although, maybe it was time for the citizens of Portland to embrace Sam Walton's vision. We were in dire need of such a place. Why, only the other day I said to myself, “Self, do you know what this town needs? We need a place where you can do your banking, buy some tube socks for $3.99 and eat an Egg McMuffin at the same time.” Ask and ye shall receive, my friends. So, I decided to check it out. . .do a little recon, if you will. Besides, I had seen the photos on the 'People of Walmart' site and was desperate to know if such aesthetically challenged individuals truly did exist outside of captivity. Huzzah!
As I am never one to undertake a new venture without back-up, I called upon my friend, Max for reinforcement.
"Why the hell would I want to go to Wal-Mart?" he mumbled sleepily over the phone.
"Because it'll be fun!" I chirped happily. "C'mon, we can mock people AND buy shitty food. Just tell whatever unfortunate member of the Skank of the Month Club you have stashed over there to get dressed and start making the walk of shame."
Max was silent for a moment. "How did you know that Tracy's here?"
"Because you're a slut. Seriously, Max, time's a-wastin'! The early bird gets the 99 cent gummy worms! Besides, you owe me."
He snorted indignantly. "What could I possibly owe YOU for?"
"Umm, how about picking your drunk ass up last week. . .twice?" I said. "I mean, I'm happy to help you out now and then but if you're looking for someone to be your 24/7 designated beck-and-call girl then I suggest you start patronizing the Mormon temple down the street. Those Elizabeth Smart types will be a hell of a lot more benevolent than a 41 year old alcoholic when you wake her sorry ass up at 2 a.m."
Max sighed deeply. "OK, fine. Let me just get rid of Stacy."
"I thought you said her name was Tracy."
Two hours later a grumpy and reticent Max pulled up outside of my apartment and we were on our way. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed by the clientele at this particular Wal-Mart; there were no visible track marks, no gratuitous exposures of flesh, and only a handful of Winnie the Pooh sweatshirts. At the very worst, they were a sketchy, edgy lot. . .most of them had that gaunt heroin-chic look that only comes from a lifetime of adhering to a strict diet of abject poverty and Mexican Adderall. So, I tried to avoid direct eye contact and attempted to move stealthily among the patrons, using care not to alarm or anger them. You see, one can’t be too careful at Wal-Mart. Target sells Archer Farms trail mix, K-Mart sells kicky Jaclyn Smith separates, Wal-Mart sells guns. Guns. You don’t want to mess with these people.*
*Although I am still puzzled that they have the guns readily at hand while the condoms are locked behind the counter. It seems to me that this is a population one would encourage to remain childless while DIScouraging a reenactment of Columbine, but I digress…
As I am not currently in the market for any new firearms, I made my way to the cosmetics section to stock up on travel-sized shampoos and conditioners. I'm not actually going anywhere, but I love tiny toiletries. They make me feel like I’m on vacation without all of the unpleasant hassle of actually leaving home.*
*Travelling? Oh HELL to the no. For someone who possesses both crippling agoraphobia and the social skills of Boo Radley, I avoid travel like a blonde avoids the Bates Motel.
"Are we done yet?" Max whined. "I'm fucking starving and this place smells like WD-40 and poor people."
"Patience, Grasshopper." I smiled, taking a whiff of some sparkly body lotion (Ooh! Peachy!) "Ten more minutes and then I'll let you buy me Taco Bell."
Knowing that I had only a narrow window of opportunity before Max started killing hostages in an attempt to procure a gordita, I gathered up my glorious bounty of Fisher Price "My First Hair Product" bottles and we made our way to check out. I did not, however, account for two things that are apparently de rigeur when shopping at Wal-Mart. One, that the average checker is about ten days older than God, and two, that every person in line coupons like it's an Olympic sport. I plunked my precious little miniature toiletries on the belt and watched in awe as the woman before me was rung up by a man that was most likely in the same fraternity pledge class as F.D.R.
I understand the necessity of waiting in line. Truly, I do. As unpleasant as it may be, we all need a certain level of bureaucracy in our lives or we would all descend into madness. But while I do not particularly mind waiting in line, I DO mind waiting so long that the people behind me begin to develop their own regional dialect. Now, generally my ability to find the humor in absolutely everything on the fucking planet has more rewards than a Discover card, but after about 15 minutes of watching Methuselah attempt to ring up one basket of groceries I was close to overdosing on a lethal dose of pure, uncut hatred.
Of course, Old Man River wasn't entirely to blame. Apparently the woman who was purchasing said groceries was doing so with the entire Sunday Oregonian's worth of coupons. I get the need to save money...*
*I get it, I just don't do it. Baby steps, y'all.
...but Sweet Baby Jeebus in a Hot Pocket, if you are going to block the Express lane like a defensive lineman in your attempt to save 12 cents on that box of Rice-a-Roni, then I am fully within my rights to go all Naomi Campbell upside your damned head with my cellphone. And this woman didn't play. Oh no. She stared down that checker and questioned every price like a Russian bronze medalist demanding a recount. God knows I am a pretty patient person...*
*What? I said "pretty" patient. . .shut up.
...but even I have my limits. When did the simple process of purchasing shampoo become as nerve-racking as an Iraqi bar crawl? When did basic respect for others disappear faster than a pack of smokes at an A.A. meeting? And when did this woman POSSIBLY find the time to cut coupons with the same ferocity the Nazi's used when destroying France!?!?
"Wait!" she cried, "You're charging me too much! That tuna should only be 49 cents. I have a double coupon! You didn't ring in my double coupon!"
"Oh for Christ's sake!" I cried, throwing a handful of coins onto the belt. "Here's a dollar-fifty. It's on me!"
The woman stared at me in stunned silence, then s-l-o-w-l-y edged her way to the end of the aisle, gathering her newly acquired discounted bounty and inching toward the exit.
Nice!" Max grinned, slapping me on the shoulder. "I wondered how long it would take you to lose your shit! So, is it safe to say we'll be adding Wal-Mart to the list of places where you are no longer welcome?"
"Pfft, please." I countered. "She totally had it coming. My actions were completely justified."
"Oh, sure" Max conceded. "Now, putting flowers in a soldiers gun in peaceful protest. . .that would be crazy. But throwing money at some old lady like she's a Mardi Gras hooker? Totally understandable."
"Boo, whore." I waved my hand dismissively, swiping my debit card and gathering my bag from the checker's withered and liver-spotted hand. "I got us through the checkout line, didn't I? And I totally scored on these twee little lotions!"
Max nodded sagely. "I'm sure God will take your smooth and fruity scented hands into consideration when he's choosing your room in Hell."
"Oh, Sweetie" I said, gesturing to the hallowed aisles of the Wal-Mart, "Look around. . .we're IN Hell."
"Huh," Max gazed around the store. "somehow I pictured Hell as being warmer, you know, more fire and brimstone and fewer scooter chairs and Hello Kitty sweaters. But there is one thing here I was sure would be in Hell."
"Yeah?" I asked, "What's that?"
He grinned broadly and slung an arm around my shoulders. "You."
*6 mini bottles of hair and skin product: $5.94
*Cost of scaring off coupon lady: $1.50
*Friends who are willing to follow you into eternal damnation: Priceless