I never shop at Walmart, except sometimes, in an emergency, because I am a very busy person, between 10 and 11 on a Saturday night.
Sometimes it’s because I have a plane ticket the next day, or Monday morning, for Frankfurt or Anchorage or Dallas or Houston or San Diego, and I need that one last thing—a pair of fairy wings, a little plush pup, a Toy Story poster, a Snow White purse, a 3-inch Anakin Skywalker, or some dark chocolate for the trip. Once I suddenly thought I should have a cheap gold wedding band to replace the one I had four times outgrown, but the “good jewelry counter” closed at 10, and I was bummed. (The clerk was there, futzing around, but she wouldn't even let me try one on.)
Tonight it was printer ink because of Father’s Day photos I had promised to print. I’m done with Iguana Inks. That color cartridge should have been good for a long time yet. Anyway, I was already out (double, maybe triple, entendre) … and this is some sort of Cosmic Balance, because I was on my way home from a delightful dinner at Blue Iguana in SLC with my dearest childhood friend … and all I had to do was sacrifice my two more-favored exits and get off on the Parkway and buzz in there. I actually had tried to go earlier, in Lindon on my way. But after 5 minutes in a 4 p.m. Saturday Walmart parking lot, I just took off. Good thing, because after all those lane closings and TWO accidents on I-15, it took me 2.5 hours to get to Salt Lake, and I was late.
But no putting it off now, so cheered by a lovely few hours with Kerry, and fortified by a beautiful counter-tenor aria from Xerxes (Harmonia, on FM 89.1), I found a spot not too many miles from the East doors, at only 9:55. Do they close at 10 or 11, I tried to remember, and a man my age with a smile told me at the entrance: “These doors will close in 5 minutes. You'll have to exit on the West.” That's fine. I had already picked the wrong lane 6 or 7 times on the way to Salt Lake. What’s-time-and-anyway-I-need-the-exercise.
I had chosen the East doors so that I could check the plants. In the moonlit plant section I limited myself to two blooming clematis and several pathetic basils (in soggy moldy peat pots) to replace things that died in this very strange spring we’ve had. (But who’s complaining! The best peas and roses in I can’t remember how long.) The only other person in the place was a woman my age checking out the Foxglove aisle. (Myself, I'm not tempted by Digitalis.)
Back inside, I cruised by Adult Nutrition to pick up some extra Ensure for Mom, and then took a long-cut to electronics so I could grab another $6.00 necklace for myself. I’ve started doing this whenever I’m in Walmart or Shopko. I buy a plant or two, if possible, and snag some triple-berry, extra-protein Ensure, just in case (you can't always find it), and almost always pick up some cheap (hypoallergenic) jewelry for myself. Good thing I don’t actually shop.
I found the printer cartridges, picked up two sets … WOW (remembering now why I like Iguana Inks so much). Two tiny girls in dirty cream-colored satin dresses trimmed with gold braid chased each other around the computer-bag display with silver star-wands, stopping awestruck before the Toy Story 3 trailer playing simultaneously on seven giant TVs. Their mother smiled. I took a call from Pat who was working on her Relief Society lesson and needed to borrow the boom box tomorrow morning to play a selection from Messiah. I realized that, as with Kerry, as always, with everyone, in a previous conversation I had listened too little and talked too much. I called Doug to check on the vegetables and juice situation for Sunday dinner. (He already had it covered.) I ambled into the picture-frame aisle and picked up a few 4 x 6's.
The check-stand lines were 10-deep each. As usual I was surrounded by people of whom I do not approve, dressed immodestly, with too many piercings and often tattoos, or with children up too late, buying frivolous things. A sevenish-year-old boy in a soccer shirt karate chopped his little brother into agony, and his father dealt with it patiently, consoled his wife who was consoling her injured son, and waved for me to go ahead of them in the line. Several people made eye contact and smiled as if I were a friend. I stepped in sticky chocolate ice cream on my way past the Sensationals, wondering how many more times I would be tempted to buy a promise to help me lose 45 pounds by the Fourth of July. Resisted this time, I’m pleased to say. Also resisted the Snickers Almond Dark.
The bright young clerk was uncommonly cheerful and courteous; she brought her zapper around so I wouldn't have to lift my plants out of the cart, and she put the disintegrating basil pots carefully into plastic bags. Thinking of plastic bags, I had picked up a sage green sleeve thing (from the display by the Star magazine) into which to stuff more of mine. The other reason I go to Walmart is to recycle plastic bags, but I'd left them in the car, and anyway they have a recycle bin now at What Used to Be Albertsons.
On my way back from the (West) doors to my car, I crossed paths with a cheerful immodestly dressed couple with a couple of cheerful pajama-clad kids (Dora and Buzz). Rounding the end of Lane 7 I passed a mother, her arm around her chubby 12-year-old, who put his head on her shoulder for a sec. The mother smiled at me, and said Hi.
I packed up the Buick (I'm an old person now; I drive an old person's car) and returned the cart to its proper place, with at least two dozen of its fellows. The parking lot was still crammed. 10:54 p.m. I got in and rolled down all four windows. Beautiful summer parking-lot air. Fortunately, Harmonia hadn’t quite ended, and as I left the lot, all drivers uncommonly courteous, I picked up a stunning counter-tenor doing some Albinoni. I felt tired, and uncommonly happy.
By the time I got home (windows back up) Harmonia had ended, and I was almost my old common, judgmental, condescending, misanthropic self. For a while there, though, I had been better. Loving all humankind. And Walmart on Saturday night.