I work in a small town. It’s not a suburb of a large city; it sits by itself out in the middle of cornfields. When WalMart opened here about 25 years ago, it aggressively and handily killed the old-fashioned downtown with its shops and boutiques, not to mention a small, 1950s-style JCPenney store and a Montgomery Wards, so these days, there’s no place to shop in town except WalMart.
That is, if you can call it shopping. I don’t really consider going to WalMart “shopping” as much as “practicing for Hell.” I maneuver around the potholes in the puddly, shopping cart-laden parking lot and pull in near a scary-looking van. Loud TVs with obnoxious ads blare at me as soon as I get into the store, with bad music clogging everything else in the background. Small, dirty, nasty-looking, noisy children accompany the unkempt, dirty adults in their lives, pushing around bacteria-ridden, squeaky carts. Cheap, fakey plastic stuff from eastern Asia and the Phillipines sits on every shelf. A “greeter” says hello to me at the door, looking pained and bored. Anyway, you get the idea.
The one nice thing about the WalMart in this town, is the checkout clerks. These are the nicest, most capable, polite, industrious, friendly people imaginable. Most are middle-aged women who are badly underpaid but who go about their work cheerfully and helpfully. They’re the reason I’m able to tolerate WalMart when I do go there.
I work in this town, but I don’t live here. Usually, I shop in other towns, but since I work in this do-nothing town, I occasionally visit WalMart just to kill my lunch hour. I’d rather just stay at work, but the reason for this blog’s existence is that I am bored at work and don’t have enough work to do. Hence, the daily lunch hour challenge. Usually I read, walk, or go to the local library. Today was a WalMart Day.
I’d decided to visit WalMart today because I’m in the market for a new digital camera. I would probably not buy a camera at WalMart, as I’d rather patronize almost any other company, but I thought I’d look at WalMart’s selection and learn a few things. It seemed like a good use of my lunch break.
I spent half an hour in the camera section. I didn’t get to try a single camera, or gather any of the information I desired, because the stupid male clerk, a middle-aged loser with bad breath and no social skills, kept talking to me! He spent my time telling me stuff I didn’t want to know about the cameras, and about the people who come in to get pictures printed, and what this one guy said when he bought his girlfriend a camera for Christmas last year, and then what the girlfriend said when she came into the store after Christmas, and what teenagers want in a camera, and how good young people are at using all the bells and whistles on cameras, and how old people just want something simple, and ON AND ON AND ON!
Twice, I thanked him for his “help” and said, “well, can I just look around?” (Read: go away and leave me alone!) He literally ignored me—it was as if I hadn’t even spoken—and kept talking. I could not bring myself to be rude. It was clear the guy has been a loser his entire life with people trying to get away from him. I felt frustrated, but sad for him. I tried to look interested in the cameras themselves and not his stupid stories, but when I would look at a camera, he’d come and take it from me and show me something on its controls that I didn’t even care about!
The one time you wish another customer would come into WalMart, no one did. In almost a half hour of my standing there, not one other person in this entire town came to the camera or film developing area in WalMart.
Finally, realizing my lunch break was shot and that I was not going to be able to look at the cameras, I found a brief second where he wasn’t talking, and I said, “well, thanks, I really appreciate it!” and walked away. Did he even notice he didn’t make a sale?
I hope I didn’t hurt his feelings. But, I won’t be going back to WalMart to look at cameras again. That’s my story for today.