Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Walmart Experience

My Dad just turned 87. He has gotten to the point where tying a tie is problematic. Recently, he has resorted to wearing mock turtlenecks with a sports coat to church on Sunday, and that’s fine. But for a man born in 1924, going to church in a turtleneck doesn’t feel quite right. It’s kind of like going to a funeral in a Hawaiian shirt. So yesterday I set out to find my father a couple of clip-on bowties. First stop, Men’s Warehouse.

My go-to place for clothes had a very limited selection of clip-on bowties, that is, they had one color…black.. and shiny tuxedo black at that. The sales guy pointed out their tremendous selection of regular bowties, all the latest designs and colors. But each of them came with a 5 page instruction manual in three languages explaining how to actually tie the thing. If I couldn’t figure it out, an 87 year old man with arthritic fingers had no chance. From there I drove to Khols and then Dillard's with no luck. A perky sales girl in Dillard's pointed out that she was sure that Walmart would have plenty of clip-on bowties. “They’re a clip-on sort of place,” she explained. I thanked her and headed out to the parking lot vowing that there wasn’t enough money in the world to make me go to Walmart on December the 22nd. My Dad was just going to have to get over his Turtleneck issues. But, as is always the case with everything concerning my parents, guilt soon attacked me with rude menace. For the first time since the great Christmas light emergency of 1996, I would shop at….Walmart.

At the front door I was greeted by a kindly old man who called me “Champ” and asked if I needed any help. I nodded nervously and asked where the men’s clothing section might be. “ Easy..walk ‘bout two football fields down this aisle and when you get to the Snuggie display turn right. You can’t miss it.” Walking down the aisle was like being transported to the mail room at the United Nations. There was an adorable Thai family, an angry looking Mexican woman with two screaming children in tow, a stunningly beautiful Russian girl with fingernails longer than my fingers. Mixed in were an eclectic collection of white people, the kind that you see in the funnel cake line at the state fair. It was as if Bob Geldof decided to reshoot the “We Are The World” video using all living members of the Blue Grass hall of fame.

The men’s clothing section featured a staggering display of camouflage jackets, and blaze orange baseball caps. After I plowed my way through the blue jean racks I finally found a small display of ties. The clip-on bowties were all in a grab bag box marked with the everyday low price of $9.99. Unfortunately there were only three colors, velvet pink, uranium yellow, and toxic waste green. About the time I had decided that the bowtie thing just wasn’t meant to be, I felt the presence of a large man who smelled of bacon and had no regard for the American concept of personal space. “ $9.99!! Can you believe that?? One of the many reasons I hate this store. No wonder Bob’s Bowtie Emporium had to shut down. This place is sucking the very life blood out of America!!”

There’s a reason that the kids up in New York decided to Occupy Wall Street instead of Walmart. In New York all they had to worry about were a few over anxious cops. At Walmart, you get between a shopper and the $5.99 clearance box, you better be wearing shoulder pads and a protective cup. You can get cussed out in three languages before you make it out of the parking lot. Walmart in America is that crazy place where commerce meets the melting pot. They have dinner, go dancing, then commerce picks up the tab. But then, just before they head back to his place they have a raging knock down drag out right there in the 15 items or less line. I made my way slowly and cautiously back to the front door, and out through the parking lot, glancing right and left for stray felons. No bowtie, but I did survive to shop another day.