Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hoi polloi

I went to Walmart yesterday. In our house this store is known as "The Devil Store". We heap scorn upon it because of the consumer mecca it is. Because of the little local stores it squashes. Because of the waste it engenders. And yet, since it has so successfully obliterated the local competition, when I am left making a choice between box stores I often end up choosing it because it's the closest.

We started our adventure in the returns line, where I had ample time to contemplate the intellectual abilities of the cashier on duty. The unwashed hair. The coats that couldn't close over the beer guts. The very special choices of hair cuts. The mass produced cheap clothes that are saying lots of things, but none of it worth hearing.

After completing the tour of the store we got in the checkout line, and both Boy and I were astonished to see what appeared to be a very, very small turd on the floor. A turd. On the floor. We skirted around it and moved up in line to take the place of the people who were just leaving which is when I was washed in the odeur of raw, human sheee-yit. Seriously. I believe the man in front of us in line had pooped himself.

It was at this point that I began to feel a growing sense of panic. Usually I'm the great apologist in the family- the one to point out that no one poops themselves if they can help it, and people have it hard these days, etc.- but right at that moment I was hung up on two horrible thoughts. The first was that everyone here was so common. This store was grotesque, a freak show hawking a peek at the horror that is the working class.

The second horrible thought?
I belonged there.

The Bug's coat was all manky around the edges from some cream cheese on a bagel fed to her in the car. Fed to her in the car the day before yesterday. I lose points for feeding her in the car and for not washing her coat.

The Bean's coat was in better shape, but her hair was sticking up "ever hwhich uhway". I smoothed down the worst of it with my fingers, but no amount of smoothing is going to hide the unbelievably bad job I did of cutting her bangs. I know how to cut bangs, but I didn't do a single thing I know I should do, and the result is that most people think she cut her hair herself. I lose points for not brushing her hair and for mangling her do.

I myself wasn't in the best state. I'd hid my hair under my hat rather than do anything with it.

I understand that people are the way they are for a reason. We generally make the best choices we can with the knowledgeand resources we have at the time. Spending time at Walmart, however, does not bring out my compassionate side like I want it to. I get overwhelmed by the ugly and the stupid and I want to run from the store, tearing my clothes and screaming. I feel so classist. I desperately want to be able to say that these aren't my people. That this place is beneath me. That I don't belong.

Sometimes I think I will never again step foot in that store. Other times I think I need to shop there until I have conquered by inner classist and regained solidarity with my fellow man.

I haven't gained any real insight from this. All I'm left with is the feeling I need to shower.

Going to make her snobby self another cup of coffee,


Z said...

mm. Yes.. You know, I've been up so early the past couple of days that I haven't washed my hair and I'm sort of wondering how long I can get away with it.

I don't think I've got anything insightful to say.

ephelba said...

Ahhhh. yes.. but there's the rub. Some of the people had hit the point where they couldn't get away with it any more, not by a long shot, and yet there they were.
And I really can't talk. Showering is on my to do list way underneath washing the dishes and feeding the family and diapering the girls and sometimes I don't get around to it for days, but I can't help getting the willies standing in line with all the other skivvy masses. I feel very hypocritical.

J. Thorp said...

permit me to say, belatedly, that this was a great post. walmart visits often remind me of seinfeld's line, "have you been to the motor vehicle bureau? it's like a leper colony down there!"

and we fit in just fine.

Z said...

Have you been eaten by the mank? You've been away a long time.

Andi said...

If you were going to another store, would your hygiene/dress have been in a better state?

I think most everyone shares the same contempt for Walmart. Those who can dress better, don't. Those that can't, well this is the only place they can afford to shop.

I just stumbled onto your blog. Enjoyed your post. I too share your contempt for that store.