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El Loco Termina
I will admit that the topic of shopping was something that I never thought would be the topic of one of my website postings, yet here I am, and you may want to stay tuned for a bit.
I used to have a somewhat warped view of Walmart, the customers, and the merchandise based on my years of shopping at other large chain grocery stores in various parts of this country. I saw it as somehow a place where I did not want to go, based only on some inner hidden prejudice about who shopped there. This was when I was far more financially comfortable than I am now, more rigid and uptight in my viewpoints, and had never even been in one.
In addition, I began reading about the founder, Sam Walton, his vision, how he carried it out, and how he treated his employees. I was quite impressed with his vision and his public engagement. When we moved to Santa Fe, the closest grocery outlet was a Walmart Supercenter, and the Supercenters have a size ranging from 70,000 square feet to 260,000 square feet, with the average being around 180,000 square feet. That is quite large, more than any other food retail outlet that I have ever experienced, with Safeway with which I was most familiar having an average size of under 50,000 square feet.
And so it has become our favorite place to shop, and we can most of our shopping needs from within that store. It is clean, bright, the parking is ample, and everything seems to be well thought out, and it is easy to find things, particularly if like me I find it difficult to remember where things are in such a huge store. The store is immaculately well kept and clean. I have also found that the Walmart app on my smartphone is indispensable, since I have a hard time remembering where things are, and yet another advantage is that I get a good bit of walking exercise walking back and forth with my huge cart. I hardly ever get lost any more, for one thing.
Sometimes, when I cannot avoid it, I go on weekends, and when I do, I try to get there early to avoid all the (other) idiots who do not know how to shop efficiently. The carts are almost as large as a Volkswagen bug, in my opinion, weigh a ton or two, and can be difficult to navigate, but they sure do hold a lot!
Recently I went on a Sunday morning, by myself, early, so as to avoid the crowds that I sometimes encounter during the week. I found that the customers seemed to all be (other) elderly men walking around in a daze, as if it were the first time in the store. And so, in my usual way nowadays, I would often complain out loud about the great difficulty in finding the arcane and unusual items that my wife Liz wants. That is to say, anything other than flour, sugar, chips, and beer, the staples of middle-class existence.
I found that I was not alone in this, and there were many others about my age, all male, wandering aimlessly around the store search for the highly unusual items that were on their list (see flour, chips, and beer above). It is sort of like a scene from "The Night Of The Living Dead." So we have somewhat formed a loosely knit of senior male outcasts, griping, bitching, and even occasionally, only when absolutely necessary as is the normal male way, actually asking for help from one of the women, who seem to know exactly where ever item is without referring to their cell phone. It has become a very exclusive club of sorts, and we try to help each other, which reminds me of the phrase my junior high social studies used to say: "The blind leading the lame."
Since I now care little what people think of me, I usually engage in banter with the greeters, and some have become my favorites, since they laugh at my stupid jokes. For example, I will go in, one of them will smile at me, and I go up and surreptitiously look both ways, and whisper to them: "Is everything under control?" with the most serious expression I can muster. At a minimum, I smile, make some other off -the-cuff smart-ass remark, always with a big grin, they at some point realize I am harmless, so they have no need to call security, usually, and they finally laugh. I always enjoy brightening someone's day.
Another little line I use is something like this: "Say, I was at a séance last night, and I channeled Sam Walton (you do know who he is, don't you, I ask) and Sam asked me how (you) are doing nowadays. I tell them that I told Sam that you have it all under control, are a model employee, and you deserve a huge raise. They grin, somewhat awkwardly, glance around, nervously laugh, and start greeting other customers, even if there are none around. I'm even beginning to learn their personal stories, which I remember, and ask them how (insert their activity) is going. I love it, they realize I am harmless, and go along with the absurd jokes. We all have our day brightened.
It sure beats solving quadratic equations.
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