Smile and Nod

Smile and Nod: Looking for Touch in All the Wrong Places

Russ Pitts | 3 Mar 2008 21:00
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The very last time I'd intentionally gone to Wal-Mart was over a decade ago, when, at 3 a.m., I decided I needed to buy a pack of white T-shirts. I'm certain there was alcohol involved. Oddly, the store was almost tolerable at that time of day/night, but even at 3 a.m. there were still at least three angry mothers wheeling around screaming babies in their squeaky-wheeled strollers. I bought my shirts and .... I forget exactly what I did after that. But the shirts were important, I know that much.

In the ten or more years since, the experience has not mellowed. On the Sunday I ventured into my local Wal-Mart I felt certain I was one of a small minority who actually spoke English. This includes the people working there. Angry mothers were legion, and the din of their screaming children ruined what little of my hearing I hadn't yet blasted away with heavy metal and videogames. The aisles were literally jammed with people loading all manner of things into overflowing carts. It was like a scene out of a disaster movie, except the disaster these people were fleeing was the crash of the American economy, and instead of rice and bottled water, they were stocking up on Chinese goods.

I took five steps inside and instantly regretted my decision to return. It was a wall of sound and horror. Like Phil Spector meets Tobe Hooper. I waded through the mass of humanity to the back of the store, feeling like Agent Smith in the Matrix, afraid of being infected. I found the game I wanted (which, for a Wal-Mart exclusive, was surprisingly well hidden), paid for it, grabbed a piece of hardware I needed to hang a painting on my wall in passing, queued up at the self-service checkout stand and waited for the torment to be over.

Advice: Don't use the self-service kiosk at Wal-Mart. For every time you run into a store to grab a jug of milk or a battery, breeze through the self-checkout and are back in your car five minutes later, there will be one time when you find yourself in line behind someone who shouldn't be trusted to go shopping by themselves at all, much less using the self-service kiosk. Inevitably, that one time will be at Wal-Mart. And they will have children who will try to help them and end up making things worse. And they will then start beating those children right there in front of you. And you will suddenly wonder why you even got out of bed that morning. So don't do it. Trust me.

And now for why I wanted to buy a silly game like Chibi Robo: Park Patrol: It makes the pain go away. After a long day of swimming below the poverty line at Wal-Mart, very few things will take my mind off the fact that this is the world I live in and these are the hands I've been given. One of them is scotch, but I've been a good boy lately and so that's out of the question. Which leaves Chibi Robo.

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