“I pass an aisle of travel mugs in different colors, and sizes, with Disney characters, Duck Dynasty members, motorcycle riders and flowers growing in orange and purple, overdosing in consumer excess and Walmart is the pusher.”
I hate pulling into Walmart’s parking lot in Monroe, Louisiana, where I watch out for motorized patrons who carry bags to their cars on their laps. Then I identify if I’m parked to the left or right of the Walmart asterisk. And more specifically, whether I’m near the Nursery or Household entry points. Otherwise, I stand to lose my car, later pressing my key fob hoping to hear the echo of a beep from somewhere in parking lot wilderness.
Am I masochist? There’s Brookshire’s, of course, a supermarket chain that operates in three states and draws customers with the promise of ten cents off the gas pump for every one hundred dollars spent, and several other possibilities that lie at the outskirts of this northern Louisiana metropolitan of nearly 50,000. That’s about it. And Brookshire’s is expensive.
Today I go inside the store and have to admit cleverness in the red and green display of Coke cans at the store’s entrance, which are stacked into Christmas trees. I get my cart (there are no baskets at Walmart), and try to locate the picture frame aisle.
I pass an aisle of travel mugs in different colors, and sizes, with Disney characters, Duck Dynasty members, motorcycle riders and flowers growing in orange and purple, overdosing in consumer excess and Walmart is the pusher. I pass towels, microwaves, an aisle of scented candles from sandalwood, candy-cane, and graveyard, possibly a left-over from Halloween. It’s marked down.
I spot a Walmart attendant who is attaching bar codes to several items and ask if he has seen photo frames within one mile of where we are standing. Immediately, I realize I’ve made a mistake. He looks harried. A sausage of flesh encircles his waist; dark circles droop beneath his eyes. He sighs, “I’ll show you.” We walk past several more aisles. “I think they’re here somewhere,” he says, and then, “They used to be around here somewhere.” We finally find the picture frames and I thank him.
The fact that I only recently finished reading an article about organizing workers at Walmart makes me doubly hate myself for being here. The article describes the difficulty of warehouse workers to organize. Walmart with its Disneyland-like headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas uses a web of subcontractors who staff warehouses and allows the company, “to avoid responsibility for the miserable working conditions, consistent wage and hour violations, and myriad other labor abuses.” (Jewish Currents, Autumn 2013, An Inside Look at Organizing at Walmart.) Yet the company is also a significant contributor to the University of the Ozarks, and one of the Walmart kids, Alice Walton, financed the amazing Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, free to the public.
But the thing is, I always feel so dumbed down at Walmart with its items ranging in quality from okay to sucker! And shelves of refrigerated food that offer mall food to millions of Americans. But what am I kvetching about? I’m here, aren’t I, standing in line to pay for my stuff? After all, this is the best part of Walmart, people-watching, eyeing whose got what inside their shopping cart, a communal shopping experience. The global village.