Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back to School Blues: The Walmart Story

It's August.  In the States that means, "Back to School".  Cue fanfare.    It's the time of year when the sounds of Maternal Joy can be heard far and wide contra'ed with the low, depressed murmurings of their off-spring.  Ah yes, the sounds of August are a cacophonous melody that makes me smile.

What doesn't make me smile:  the crazed masses trying to get in and out of small school parking lots  and; those self same masses trying to purchase the exact same box of pencils, crayon and such at Walmart.  Normally, I don't mind Walmart.  How can you mind a place that allows you to purchase your staples, as well as staples and hunting rifles all in one place.  It definitely has a great pull especially for budget conscious families. It's great going to one place to get what you need for the school year instead of trapsing around town,  disgruntled kids in tow, hitting five different places.   Trust me, with the heat we've been experiencing lately, getting in and out of a really hot car once, is enough.  After living here for a  couple of years I have learnt that there are a few times in the year when you really don't want to go to Walmart.    The absolute worst is Black Friday.  For those of you who don't know what that is, it's the day after Thanksgiving.  Traditionally, retailers mark down their merchandise to rock bottom prices, which creates a similar reaction in people as does the Sardine Run down on the South Coast.  People do extreme things to get the extreme bargains.  Since being in the States, there has been at least one trampling death at a Walmart, on Black Friday, every year.  The first year, I thought it was a fluke.  I blamed it on the new gaming console that had come out.  It was being sold for less than half it's normal retail price.  Frankly, I would blame adrenaline for that horrible accident.  The following year when it happened again, I was mildly concerned that maybe there might be a problem here.   When it happened again the next year, I made a solemn vow to myself and my family, "I will never shop at Walmart on Black Friday no matter what!  Even if they are giving away iPads .... well ... er ... Snap out of it man!!  Not even if they are giving away iPads and throwing in a iPhone 4s!"   As the years have rolled on and my children have started going to school, I have added another day to that list: first day of school.   While nobody has actually died doing their back to school shopping, I'm sure it's just luck that has kept it so.  For some obscure reason, they put all the school supplies into these really narrow little aisles, that barely accommodate one buggy (trolley).  Imagine that buggy with one coming from the opposite side, no room to turn around in, so you have to literally back out,  with people packed tightly into every available space there is.  Everyone reaching and stretching and pushing and grabbing.  All in  the quest of fulfilling the "School Supplies List."  If  "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,"  then Hell hasn't seen a mother of three, tired, nagging, fighting kids,  trying to get to the last 10 pc crayon box set.  There are plenty 24 pc crayon box sets, but the teacher was adamant - it had to be 10.  Just as she finally has the "holy grail" within her reach, some unseen contender comes out of left field and swipes her prize right from underneath her nose!  Oh man, the fury that woman has, would make a scorned woman look like a perfect sweetheart!  Last year, I decided, if it is at all possible, and even if it does cost me a little more, I'm not doing my first-day-of-school-supply-list shopping at Walmart again.  I love swimming in the sea, just not a sea of people.

This morning, after fighting my way out of one parking lot and into another and then out again, I headed out to a different place to do my supply list shopping.  Larger aisles made things easier to find.  Fewer people fighting over things, caused less stress.  Not once did I feel scared for my life for having put something in my buggy.  Nor did I feel the apprehension of, "Oh-my-gosh-I-am-going-to-lose-my-mind" come over me.  I even managed to keep my language within acceptable parameters! 

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