Whenever I go home, I make a trip to Wal-Mart. My wife and I take the whole family shopping. I don’t know what it is. What is the magnetic hold to be with other fat people, rednecks, and buy cheap stuff from China? It beats me but it’s as tangible as gravity itself. Maybe it’s because I’ve come to the big city. When I pull into the Wal-Mart parking lot and cruise around the trucks and other trucks, and people with questionable handicap parking permits, I’m impressed with what I see. Every time is like the first time.
Even the garbage is new. We don’t have this garbage on Ocracoke. The empty Bojangles cups and McDonald’s wrappers blowing across the parking lot tell a story. I say, “Look y’all, people eat here!” If we follow this trail of rubbish inside maybe we can find the holy grail of diabetes and heart disease. Of course, before any of this happens, someone will need to hop out of the car and move the shopping cart from the parking space I want to occupy and return it to the cart return.
And they still have these red boxes that will give you a DVD. You have to give the red box money but I’m amazed with the technology that allows me to place money into a machine and receive a movie. I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I’ve got a thing in my hand; it’s actually in my pocket. This thing can download from the internet any movie ever made. I don’t need a DVD player, disc, computer, or television. All I need is the thing in my pocket. I know this sounds impressive. But you don’t get it; it will give me a real DVD for a dollar. The red box is shiny and adorned with pretty pictures. The thing in my pocket is black and boring. I think the battery may be dead.
We can never stay together in Wal-Mart. Once we cross the threshold, our family divides in five directions. Before I can ask, “Where are we going and when are we going to meet?” I’m left holding a shopping cart with five tubes of toothpaste and some generic Miracle Gro. I don’t know who put them in the cart or where my wife is. Suddenly, I am alone and afraid. Do I look vulnerable? Kidnappers look for befuddled people without their caregivers at Wal-Mart. I remember this from an after school television special. Perhaps I should find a security guard and tell him I’m 43 years old, I’ve lost my wife, and I’m certain someone might kidnap me.
I’ve been afraid of being kidnapped since I was 10. Although I’ve never known a kidnap victim or come close to being kidnapped, I’ve watched a lot of television. I knew all it would take would be turning my back from my parents in the grocery story or walking toward the antacids (unannounced) while my wife went to buy school supplies. The next thing you know, I’d be tied up in the back of a white van and my face would be on milk cartons.
I had a couple of options. I could start wandering around with my toothpaste and generic Miracle Gro. I could have someone paged. If I saw a security guard, I might ask if he’s seen my wife. The third option was the riskiest. Depending on how I sounded when phrasing the question, I might sound crazy. After a few minutes talking to myself in the cosmetics aisle, where I accented each of the five words a little differently, “Have you seen my wife?” I decided to walk toward the grocery section.
The journey from cosmetics to groceries took me through men’s clothing. In the virtual center of the store were t-shirts with a variety of symbols, logos, and stories. One garment caught my attention and momentarily assuaged my fear. It was a grey men’s t-shirt with these words emblazoned across the front in red, “I Don’t Give A”. Below the writing was as drawing of a rodent and donkey. Secretly, I liked the shirt. I felt guilty. But my problem is I give a rodent’s donkey about too many things. I could never pull it off with any degree of legitimacy.
I had bigger fish to fry. I was still abandoned with my five tubes of toothpaste and generic Miracle Gro in the weird shirt section of Wal-Mart. This was probably a known kidnapper hangout. I needed to be on the move.
The food section in Wal-Mart isn’t like a traditional grocery store; it’s better. For one, the wider aisles are arranged to enable lost people to find their wives more efficiently than they can at Food Lion or Harris Teeter. As such, you can move quickly and cover more ground or stay in one place (the deli to sample meat) knowing you’ll cut her off at the pass on the way to the check out line.
Fifteen minutes later, on my fifth sample of honey baked ham, I heard a voice from behind me, “Where have you been?”
“Right here,” I said, “holding on to the five tubes of tooth paste and generic Miracle Gro”.
“You know we’re putting that DVD back, don’t you?”
I bet the kidnapper would have let me keep it.