The great thing about Wal-Mart is that you know you can get what you want there. If you’re driving two-thirds the way across the country and you need ice cream sandwiches, Febreze, nail clippers, caffeine free Diet Coke and a cigarette lighter adapter for an iPod, they’ll have it all right there. You can be on the road in the middle of Nothingville, Nebraska and then suddenly–like a monolith of comfort–a Wal-Mart appears on the horizon to solve all your woes.
Another great thing about Wal-Mart is that they hire a lot of friendly people to work there. So when you don’t quite understand the self-checkout in Nothingville, Nebraska, a heavy-set girl in her mid-twenties will cheerfully bob on over to help you. When you make excuses about not being able to work the machine because it’s different than the ones in Tennessee where you are from, the heavy-set girl will talk fondly to you about her memories of a visit to southwest Tennessee and some small-town festival she went to while there. She’ll then tell you that she picks up accents really well because she was in the Nothingville drama club in high-school. And then she’ll prove it by doing the absolute worst “British” accent you’ve ever heard.
The bad thing about Wal-Mart is that they are hyper-vigilant with their security. So as you finally start to leave the store a klaxon will begin to wail and all of Nothingville will look at you like you’re Al Capone holding a barrel of the finest Canadian hooch. Yes, you may have paid for everything in your bag, but it appears that while you were distracted by Drama Club’s tales of Mule Days and Madonna-grade “British” accent, you forgot to swipe your cigarette lighter adapter on the alarm deactivation pad. This is when a short, gruff woman with a permanent gravelly whisper (what’s with the voices in this town?) will stop you, go through your bag and check every item against the receipt. She’ll look the receipt over front and back, not quite sure that you didn’t print it out in some dank basement in an effort to steal that adapter worth all of nine dollars and eighty-seven cents. She’ll then open a Book Of Possible Crimes Against The Bentonville Protectorate and write down all sorts of seemingly unrelated information, all while you stand there under the scrutiny of everyone else in the store.
At last you are free! You can hurriedly make your way to your father’s car, where everyone else is happily eating Klondike bars. (What happened to ice cream sandwiches? I guess your mother prefers the Klondike bars with bits of Heath in the coating. There goes your opportunity to make all those Arrested Development/Ice Cream Sandwich jokes.) You’re now embarrassed and extremely angry. Somewhere some charlatan is robbing old lady’s pensions or selling drugs to eight year olds. Yet YOU were detained. All because you were nice enough to make conversation with the locals. To add insult to injury, the stupid adapter is in one of those hermetically sealed packages that no one can open without a jackhammer or mitre saw.
Disgruntled, you shove the adapter in your suitcase. Two weeks later your husband will exchange it at Wal-Mart for the ingredients to make homemade salsa. You’ll stay home because you want to wait awhile before going through all that again.