I know why.
I parked all the way out on the last row in the gardening section. I like stopping there first and make my way to the store because it’s easier to park on the side than in the middle. Plus seeing all the plants and beautiful flowers helps me prepare for what I invariably see.
The faces of Wal-Mart. Don’t laugh. Yes, there are websites about this phenomenon.
Still, I got depressed.
First, I profusely thank a beautiful woman from India who greets my arrival in gardening: “Welcome to Wal-Mart!” Her beauty is eclipsed only by a serene sense of joy. I make a mental note to smile more peacefully and perhaps consider a gold stud in my nose someday.
Next I walk by pharmacy. A Caucasian 25ish looking man is studying anti-diarhea medicines intently. Bummer! Oops, not my business. Moving on.
A fortyish mom strolls by. Her cart has about seven boxes of Tampax and one box of Great Value Fruit Spins Cereal. She probably has a lot of daughters I think. I wonder if her husband is attentive or tuned out to PMS drama. Perhaps she doesn’t have a husband or seven daughters, and she’s about to make a hefty donation to a local shelter. It doesn’t matter because I’ll never know!
I walk parallel to the cash registers as I make my way over to the grocery section. That’s when I see a man in his early thirties with oxygen tubes running from his backpack to both nostrils conducting his banking business from a chair. I utter a small prayer for him. Lord, just heal him. Amen.
Next I see what looks like six similar sixty-something sisters walking towards me. They are laughing joyously and have very large gaudy flower printed shirts on that resemble one another. I am not one to judge or be bothered by people of copious size. I just find it interesting that all are snowman-shaped in terms of physique and have shirts on that look as if they are in a 1970s time warp. No judgment here, just observation.
I make my way back towards electronics where I only need to get one thing: A memory card for my camera. I’m proud of myself; I didn’t grab a cart on the way in, so I’m super focused this time with no extra unplanned purchases!
I walk past the Crafts and Fake Flowers department. I see a lady yelling profusely at her baby. “I said STOP THAT!” The baby begins to cry. Do I intervene or walk on by? I am running late. I am a coward. I justify or else lie to myself by thinking other people’s lives are not my business.
Two aisles over, I see a moderately large African-American woman scoot past me in a hurry. I only see her from the back. The reason she stands out the most is because she has a huge red silk Superman Cape on, complete with a Superman S in the middle of a yellow diamond on her back. I assume she has clothes on underneath, but I’m not sure. I hope she is off to save the distressed baby in the Fake Flowers department. To each her own I think. I am just about in electronics.
A tall thin Arabic young man is politely helping another customer with a question. I patiently wait. A few minutes pass; he finishes answering the customer’s question and quickly took steps to evade me. Believe me I understand, if they help every person that ask them a question, they probably won’t have time to clean their area, stock it, ring people up etc. I blurt out anyway. “HEY! I need your help! Can you please come with me and unlock the doo-hickey that keeps the memory cards on it?” (For security purposes—otherwise every picture-clicking thief would just lift these tiny little storage units.)
He walks over with me. “Oh, you can just pull it off the rack.” And with kind smugness, he shows me how you can just slide an item off of a straight pole. Apparently, they are no longer locked up on the pole, they are encased in plastic vaults on the pole that you can just take to the register where they will promptly wave a magic shoplifter tool over it and extract it for you.
I thank him for his kindness and apologize for my stupidity. “No problem,” he says gleefully.
I realize it’s been less than five minutes and all of a sudden I am feeling stressed but can’t pinpoint exactly why.
I go to the register and a woman in a sari and hijab rings up my memory card. Almost done! I feel myself getting happier inside. Oh no. Five swipes and my credit card doesn’t go through. I swear I have money I want to say. After all, I’m the only person in all of Wal-Mart getting stalled out over one item on their charge. “It’s okay” she says, “let me try.” She slides it on the register’s card reader. It works! Vindication!
I decide as long as I’m here and mildly hungry, I may as well get a quick smoothie and small fry at the McDonald’s at the opposite end of gardening. I pass the nail salon where five Asian women are furiously filing, filling, and painting several sets of fingernails. That’s when I almost gasp when I get to McDonald’s.
There at one of the tables is a man and a woman together, both in wheelchairs, drinking out of a large Styrofoam cup and eating some fries. Both look like they are in their fifties. Both clearly have had a stroke as I watch their hands shuffle and try to cope with the items in their bag. The man looks really tired and weathered. He has a gray beard that rests on the middle of his stomach which rests on his lap. I internally say a simple tiny prayer, just “God bless them. Help them if they need it.” I smile at him. He doesn’t smile back.
I grab my small order and berate myself for buying fast food yet again when I don’t really even like it that much, but was in a hurry and I still haven’t been to the store yet. Rather than forage for food in my barren pantry, I took the easy route again.
I walk the length of a football field all the way back to gardening. I finally arrive at my car. I see old cars with missing hub caps and several with all the windows rolled down. It’s hot outside; their A/C’s probably don’t work. I see an employee try to corral about fifty wayward carts with a single strap all by himself.
I start my car and am just incredibly happy I’m leaving. See I love diversity and diverse people. I really do. But for some reason at Wal-Mart, I get sad. I see people who just look like they have challenging lives. I see lots of people younger than me in scooters. I see weathered faces. I see people that look worn out before their time, older than their true years. And then I remember; I am a face at Wal-Mart. Who knows the sympathy I may garner unaware?
Maybe it’s not Wal-Mart or the people that shop and work there at all. Maybe it’s just the vastness and quantities of items contrasted against such a sea of humanity. It just doesn’t go together…all the cultures, and shapes, and colors, and personalities and varying degrees of health, all swirled around with blenders and towels and diapers and DVDS and fake flowers and groceries towering under a fluorescent sky and vinyl earth.
Something just feels all wrong I think. These people should be out shopping in open air markets, or walking their dogs, or cuddling their babies, or eating an apple/cranberry/spinach salad, or receiving medical treatment, or taking a long walk on the beach, or reading a book for five minutes without once looking at their phone. Then again, who do I think I am? Who am I to judge?
I get my memory card. But more so, I get in the car with a load of memories. Ah, the more to write about, the more to write about.
DISCLAIMER: I have NEVER or WOULD NEVER take pics of anyone at Wal-Mart no matter how tempted unless I had permission. I just did a Google image search and since these pics are always taken unaware, I chose one that is not distasteful, embarrassing, or over the top. I picked this one because it shows how we are all a montage of personalities; we all want to put our mark on the world in our own way! Besides, who doesn’t internally smile when Rob Pattinson looks at you with those mysterious Edward Cullen eyes? Even if it’s off the back of another mom!