You can say what you will about Walmart, but in my heart of hearts, I'm a fan. I can't help myself.
Like Going Home
I have a confession to make. It's going to blow your image of me, I know it.
I know that many out there are conscientious objectors and would not put one foot through those sliding doors and onto that white vinyl. Before you stone me… let me just say that we also do LOTS of shopping at Whole Foods, farm stands and our local, Texas-grown grocery store too.
For me though, beyond the fact that it's nice, now and again, to get all your shopping done in one spot rather than schlepping cranky kids to three different stores, I like going to Walmart sometimes just because it feels a little like going home.
Listen, I mourned the loss of wooded space when our Super Walmart came to town. I was sad for what it meant to the local store owners. At the same time though…
Well, Walmart, to me, has this nostalgia factor going for it. I know, I'm a victim of propaganda I guess.
In the small town where I was born though, Walmart was what you did, what EVERYBODY did, on Saturday. You said hello to Aunt Polly, the greeter, and you asked about Uncle Tom's surgery. You promised to stop by sometime as you rolled your cart past your old friend Vicky. You got your slurpy and maybe, if they were lucky, the kids would get to run up and down the toy aisles while the grown folks hugged and talked with someone they hadn't seen since "I don't know when."
My favorite time to go was Sunday, because everyone would be in their church clothes, all gussied up. And maybe, if you came before noon, they'd have those red ropes up to keep all the ne'er do wells off the liquor aisle until a respectable hour. I always looked at those ropes with wonder when I was a kid – they had magic power, the power to save us all from ourselves. Surely there would be drunken mayhem in the streets on Sunday mornings, beer soaked brawling in the aisles of St. Mary's, were it not for those ropes. Wait – was that Walmart, or the grocery store? Now that I think of it, I recall it being big news when "the Walmart" finally began selling alcohol. Controversial stuff, to be sure.
Walmart is STILL that kind of place, a gathering place, a holy place, where my Granny lives. It's the place to be.
Imagine the excitement when plain old Walmart became SUPER Walmart – groceries and workboots and McDonalds all in one place! We went up there at 10 PM to cruise the aisles just because we could – Walmart was now going to be open 24 hours a day!
The Walmart here, in the "big city" where I live now isn't quite the same. There's no Aunt Polly to greet us at the door and tell us about Uncle Tom's latest ailment, but there is Harold. Harold is nice to my kids. He gives them yellow happy face stickers and tells them that they've surely grown since he saw them last (yesterday.)
There are the sweet older ladies and gentlemen with their walkers who sit on the benches and wait for the bus back to the retirement home. We say hello and smile, and usually one of my boys stands too close and gets pinched and called "handsome."
People don't usually stop in the aisles to catch up with old friends here though. City folks are too busy, and their lives too fluid. No one here knows anyone's third cousin, so they can't ask, "Didn't he just go off to school? How's he makin' out?" Still, we go often enough to know lots of the people who work there, and occasionally we run into a neighbor or someone from church. For a minute or two we ask after each other's family and it takes me back.
We don't spend half the day at Walmart like we would back home, but we take our time, see the sights.
(I hate when I leave my cloth bags at home! Drives me crazy to have to cart home and deal with those plastic ones!)
There are no red ropes at our Walmart on Sunday morning. But I tried it once, just to see, and sure enough the check out lady won't let you have your Boone's Farm until precisely 12:01 or thereafter.
So you know – I know all about the price gouging and the whole business about how employees are treated (they look so happy in their blue vests though, don't they?) and I know that it's mostly cheap, imported, commercialized slop. And believe me, I love handmade, homemade, locally made. I despise the idea of big box stores, but to be honest, … when home is far far away, Walmart is right there on every corner and in some ways, if I'm going to be real with you, I have to admit that's kind of comforting. It means that when I have loaded all my groceries in the car and returned my cart, I can smile and wonder what the folks back home are doing.