I hate going to Wal-Mart. It's not so much the store as it is all the people; the ones that pretend to shop but are really just hanging out, or rotting standing up, or whatever else they've decided to do rather than select goods from the shelves and move to the front to purchase them. Their dead weight transforms the entire experience from one of neutral necessity to one of pure hell.
You see, when I go to Wal-Mart I go to win. I arrive with a game plan. I commit the store layout to memory. I take the time of day and date into account to predict concentrations of shoppers to avoid, and if I'm really on top of my game I will even lay out a path through the store in my head.
As I get out of my car and start to walk toward the store it's like the long parking lot is a loading screen while my life caches Wally World. During my walk I can hear a voice over in my head detailing my goals:
1. Obtain 2 weeks worth of Bagel Bites.
2. Acquire 3-pack of SOS dish sponges.
3. Secure bread.
1. Investigate Marvel Action Figures.
2. Do not kill any civilians.
Complete all Primary and Secondary objectives in under 10:00 minutes.
When I grip the cold steel handle of my shopping cart the game has begun. I zigzag through the isles like I've just won a Nickelodeon shopping spree, tipping the items off the shelf into my moving buggy. Sometimes a brief pause is permitted when choosing between Wheaties or Frosted Flakes but most of the time I am racing with a purpose. My buggy rocks back and forth as I use a controlled slide to take the hairpin turns connecting the isles. Red sparks fly from behind my wheels setting the toilet paper and tissue boxes alight as I ride away cackling maniacally.
Well, ok no, that last part doesn't happen. What actually happens on my attempted Supermarket Kessel runs is a lot more frustrating. I start out fast enough, obtaining anything on my list located in good flow or low traffic areas. Antacids, candy, vegetables (the vegetable section is a freaking ghost town), and anything else that's a sure thing is collected first. Then comes the boss fight: the frozen food and bread isles.
One does not simply walk into the frozen food section. Its screaming children, angry rednecks, and grotesquely obese zombies make the simple act of moving forward 20 feet seem nigh impossible. If Wal-Mart were alive this isle would be the dangerous blood clot in its leg.
The whole time I'm trying to circumnavigate this excess deposit of human beings the timer in my mind is counting down reminding me that if I don't get a move on the whole mission will be a failure. Sometimes I want to stand on my buggy and scream, "You sorry bastards are making me crazy! You've already lost at Wal-Mart! Don't bring me down with you!"
I wish, like a little girl wishing for a flying pony, that Wal-Mart was a game. If this were a video game there would be some mechanic built in to subdue or overcome the masses of warm bodies in front of me. I could freeze beam them or upper cut them through the roof or maybe even jump up and smush them flat. But no, this is the real world, where leaping off a stack of dog food to hop on someone's head has been deemed by the establishment as "illegal."
The biggest frustration is that these people just don't get it. If you get yourself into a race you want to come in first. If you storm into Dr. Robotniks' Chemical Factory you want to make it past the checkpoint flag at the end. If you jump into the ring with Piston Hurricane you better be ready to kick his ass, because if you aren't ready you are going to get pummeled into the canvas. The same thing should be true of the American store and it makes me furious that there is no penalty for poor performance.
When these people walk into Wal-Mart and aren't ready to shop the hell out of that store they are failing a basic everyday human activity. You can't beat the supermarket? It's got to be one of the easiest levels! What else do you suck at? If you managed to accidentally buy this food and get it back to your house would you even be able to figure out how to eat it? Would the police break down your door a week from now finding you dead from starvation on your kitchen floor, the fork still in your hand from where you were shoveling mini-ravioli into the open tape slot of an unplugged VCR?
Honestly, if you can't decide between Sprite or Barq's in the span of 60 seconds maybe you should reevaluate your priorities. Do it away from me, though. Examine your values over by the fish tanks. I hardly ever go over there.
Some of us, probably mostly gamers, are actually trying to accomplish something when we are in a store. We want to be able to complete our objectives in a quick efficient manner so that we can leave and get back to our lives. The ultimate goal on my list is to get back home as quickly as possible so it doesn't feel like I've spent a substantial percentage of my life in the florescent glow of a store, but there are some that would rather stay here and keep me here with them for company.
You know who you are. People bringing whole newspapers into the market so they can read the coupons while they shop. The troglodytes that don't fill out their antiquated checks until the teller is finished ringing them up. Or, the high functioning chimps that park their buggies diagonally in the middle of the isles. You all need to be collected in a big sack by Superman and thrown into the sun like a batch of Russian nukes.
I'm not saying that people shouldn't be allowed to shop; nothing like a "one strike and you're out" policy. I just think that when someone is bogging down the system they should be called on it. It can be sensible too. You don't have to look at an old woman sticking her whole head in the milk refrigerator and spout off to your wife, "Look honey! A mannequin made out of dead spiders!" Something more subtle will work just as well, if not better.
This year I'm going to start carrying around a sheet of stickers featuring sad faces instead of the traditional happy face. If someone cuts me in line or turns their buggy sideways in the cereal isle I'll just lean over and stick a sad face on their shirt. I'll add in a disappointed shake of the head, like the kind you get when your Dad sees you shoot the kid next door in the butt with a BB gun.
Be safe these next few weeks everyone, and if you get a sticker on your shirt don't panic. Just stop and look around you and try to figure out what you are doing wrong. I promise it will make your life and mine a lot more enjoyable.