Saturday, December 3, 2011

Boo, Gobble, Ho: The Tao of the Walmart Holiday Kiosk

My husband Tom and I decided to host this year’s family Thanksgiving celebration, which was a fantastic idea in July when discussed over mojitos.  Not so much so the third week of November, as we made mega to do lists in a filthy house with Halloween decorations still up.  None the less, I “manned up,” as my ten-year-old son says, and set to making Thanksgiving a holiday to remember.  I took Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off work to prepare the domicile for Thursday festivities.  I figured in three days I would have plenty of time to clean, shop, and even squeeze in a little time for me…yeah right. Wednesday night at I found myself heading back to the God forsaken land that is Walmart for the eighth time in two days.  Yes, I needed tea, turkey gravy mix, and picture frames.

I assumed my step father Bill had gotten the tea, because it is a major item on his finicky list.  He finds tea manufactured in bulk much more to his liking than homemade.  He is a connoisseur of generic, artificially-sweetened tea products, and when he finds a brand he likes, no other will suffice.  He took to bed when his all-time favorite tea supplier, the Winn Dixie Grocery Store chain, downsized and closed all local outlets.  Winn Dixie apparently produced a tea that was brewed by angels with water from paradise.  After an inappropriate amount of mourning, he painstakingly and begrudgingly searched for the next best mass produced tea. A year later, he found it under the Great Value label with an orange top at Walmart…thus one of my reasons for a Thanksgiving Eve visit to Sam Walton’s Shopping Mecca.  I thought Shiraz and tap water was a good enough selection for our meal, but what did I know?   

The turkey gravy mix request came via text from my Mom while I was en route to Wally World, in case Tom couldn’t master giblet gravy from scratch…a safe bet.  “It will probably be in a holiday kiosk on the grocery side,” her text said.  Holiday kiosk…yes, Walmart’s one-stop shopping creation to make you buy more shit than you need for any given celebration.  Example:  “Hey Rita, where did you get those mammoth, albeit interesting, football earrings?”  “Well, at the Walmart super bowl kiosk, of course.  I was buying goalpost plates and napkins for this party, and there they were.  And, look at the little doggie jerseys and matching jock straps I got for the Bichons….”

The picture frames were my last minute frantic requirements.  You see, as I visualized my home full of relatives, I realized that I had no pictures displayed that included ANY of Tom’s family members!  And what would they think?  That I didn’t think them significant enough in our lives?  That I cared more about having a wall full of my pets, even dead ones, than their smiling faces?  Or that I had every intention of hanging their photos, but had only been in the new house for eight months, and just hadn’t had time?  The last one was true, but I just couldn’t risk them opting for either of the first two…so I had to get some pictures on the wall of the Grant clan posthaste before they arrived.

When I walked into Walmart, I found it eerily spacious.  There were NO holiday kiosks, none.  Apparently, in preparation for Black Friday, Walmarteers had removed all riot- hindering obstacles.  But it was Wednesday!  What about all the Turkey Day procrastinators?  Where were they going to find their mammoth turkey earrings?!  Where was I going to find the turkey gravy mix?  Just as panic was about to set in, I had a brief moment of sanity which I had not experienced in three days… the sauce isle!  That’s where it will be!  I found a crowd of people huddled in front of the gravy mix section, eyes glazed over, staring at the selection.  I elbowed my way to the shelves, and surveyed the wares…brown gravy mix, chicken gravy mix, poultry gravy mix, beef gravy mix, red eye gravy mix.  Not one turkey gravy mix.  WTH?  Really?  So, I texted mom, “isn’t turkey a type of poultry?”  No response.  People were now rudely pushing forward, so I grabbed two poultrys, two browns, and one red eye (just for shits and grins.)  I then headed to the refrigerated section for the orange top tea.  Okay first unit…milk, eggnog, no tea.  Next one…orange juice, grapefruit juice, eggnog, no tea.  Next, grape juice, fruit punch, Sunny D, eggnog, no tea.  No tea could be found in any of the 15 refrigerated units.  I started to sweat.  No mass produced, generic gallons of tea?  My mind raced to the worst case scenario…E. coli recall.  Thanksgiving spent in the hospital with Bill.  “No!” I said to myself, “Focus, Angie. It must be somewhere else.  Maybe with the other name brand teas? Where were they?”  So I texted mom again, “Where is Bill’s tea?”  No response.  I had circled the store two times and went in and out of all isles and found no pre-made tea, of any kind.  The panic was truly closing in now.

Mom really needed to respond before a police officer showed up at her doorstep, explaining that I was found rocking back and forth in a video gaming chair midway down the wine isle, smoking my e-cigarette, hugging a carton of eggnog, muttering incoherently about E. coli, poultry gravy, and turkey earrings.

On my third round, I happened to glance into a refrigerated unit in the middle of the grocery section, full of spiral hams…and eggnog.  Underneath a ham butt, I saw the faint image of an orange top.  I began to dig feverishly through the porky heap, and there they were…an orange sea of Bill’s tea.  My phone vibrated.  Mom had responded.  “Yes, dear, turkey is poultry.  The tea is with the spiral ham.”  Well, what was I thinking, of course tea would be housed with ham butts, it makes perfect Walli-sense…I grabbed two gallons, then set out for the frames….now where might they be?  With the feminine hygiene products or in Electronics?       

After locating the frames (which were in Housewares, go figure) and checking out, I stood in the Walmart parking lot feeling violated and confused.  Do the store layout planners and marketing strategists smoke crack at their meetings?  Is Walmart secretly owned by the US government? Did I fall down a rabbit hole?  Whatever the case, reality and Walmart mentality are two totally different beasts, and I currently didn’t have time to ponder the conundrum.  I headed home to frame and hang pictures until dawn. 

A. Ballerina    

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