I swore off shopping at Wal-Mart about a year ago. Now, where I grew up Wal-Mart is an experience. At any given time of day, you are guaranteed to run into at least two people you know. It’s generally tidy, generally frequented by fairly normal people, and other than finding a parking spot, generally not an unpleasant place to be. In fact, it was one of my favorite late night activities when I lived there–an after midnight Wal Mart run. They always had something I had to buy–a nice picture frame, a CD at a reasonable price, a DVD available to purchase for less than I would have expected to pay to rent it.
So I was more than a little disappointed to find that not all Wal-Marts are equal. Not by a long shot. First, the Wal-Marts here are VERY crowded. You easily get your daily cardio in just walking from the parking lot. Perhaps because of these crowds, these Wal Marts are also very dirty, and generally have a “picked over” look to them.
My first memorable Wal Mart experience was in the wee hours of one morning. The night before, I had somehow managed to get my big toe stuck in the hem of my sheets, and in the process of disentangling myself, ripped the damned things in half. After a night on the town, I suddenly remembered I had no sheets to sleep on once I got home, and so made an emergency Wal Mart run at 2 AM. There, on the sheet aisle, were two men who looked like this guy: It was obvious we were all looking for queen sized sheets, which in typical “picked over” Wal Mart fashion, eluded us. These fellas, who somehow made it clear they were a couple, started some conversation about how their dog had chewed their sheets up the night before.
“Well, I just tore mine.” I said, grabbing a set from the rack.
“I betcha did.” one of them said, with a twinkle in his eye. I left them to hunt up a set of 180 thread count percale…scratching my head as I did at the thought of two men of that size, plus pets, in a queen sized bed. A few minutes later I saw in the checkout line.
“Have fun in those” one of them said.
Last year, I foolishly forgot to pre-order my copy of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” which was released the night before my beach vacation. Not wanting to fight the inevitable mob of Hogwarts-costumed die hards at the local Barnes and Noble, I (correctly) assumed that there would be a much smaller crowd at my local suburban Wal Mart. I arrived a bit before midnight, signed myself into whatever ridiculous system they had for disbursing the books, and wandered around the store until my time was called.
Book in hand, I got into the somewhat lengthy checkout line. I was turned to the woman behind me, engaged in a pleasant conversation about children being excited about reading when a shreik pierced my ear. Just steps away, a rather large woman emerged from the crowd, stumbled backwards and fell onto her ass–her young son in tears at her side. At first, I thought she had just lost her balance and fallen. She screamed in what appeared to be pain. Her fall had been a hard one, and I wouldn’t have been surprised had she broken something. A group gathered around her, someone called out to a cashier, someone else called 911.
Concerned voices said “Don’t try to move ma’am!” A grandmotherly type tried to console the fallen woman’s child–who was hysterical at this point and screamin, “You’ll be ok won’t you mama?”
“Can we call you an ambulance?” someone asked.
“NO!!!!!!!” she shreiked, a desperate look in her eyes, “Call the law enforecement division!” At this point I was wondering, “Did someone push her? Is this some domestic dispute?”
She started to roll onto her knees, as onlookers urged her to stay still.
“SPACE!!!!” she shouted…”I Need SPACE!!!” she stood on her knees and put her arms up in the air…waving them about to clear the area. People stepped back. She stood, someone went to offer her their arm…she pushed them and took off RUNNING toward the rear of the store…screaming the whole way. She tried to pull her son along, but he lagged back, crying “You’re scaring me.” I looked around for whoever was after her, but saw no one. An older woman broke through the crowd, took the little boys hand, and walked off with him.
As she passed me, she muttered, “I swear…that girl…”
The lady I’d previously struck up a conversation with and I were confused as to what was happening. By the time the 10 or 12 other guests in front of us had been checked out, the police were entering the store.
“What the heck was going on there?” I asked the clerk.
“Oh that woman was huffin floor cleaner and flipped out.”
“You aren’t serious?” I said.
The lady in line behind me said, “We all thought she’d broken her back!”
At that point I didn’t know what to think. First off, I was furious that she had put her son through that. Secondly, I was thinking, “Dammit bitch, don’t do that to a bunch of strangers! Huff your pine sol at home!”
By the time I walked out the door, the police had her in cuffs at the Wal Mart snack bar–one officer was holding a can of cleaner up and shaking his hand at it. Tears rolled down her dazed eyes. I hope she got the help she needed, but I won’t be going back to Wal Mart to find out.