Retail Combat

There are people for whom shopping is a pleasure. These are the folks for whom the process of seeking and/or acquiring new clothes and other goods is fun and enjoyable if not downright thrilling.

I am not one of them. To me, shopping is a chore I would do almost anything to avoid. Unfortunately, in our family, responsibility for this necessary nuisance falls to the person with the greatest amount of free time on their hands or the one who puts in the fewest paid work hours. In other words, me.

Not that I’m complaining. Despite having to do the one job I dislike more than almost any other—and that includes scrubbing the toilet AND cleaning the floor if the Princess isn’t home when one of the cats throws up—I definitely have the better deal. The Jarhead may get to spend his days in a comfy office while I slave away in the kitchen, the bathroom, or the garden, but I get to do my work in shorts or pajamas. Unless I’m going to Walmart, in which case I’ll wear lingerie.

I’m kidding, of course. Like many people, I do my grocery shopping fully clothed and armed to the teeth. I’m only half kidding this time. Unless you count my sharp wit, I rarely take a weapon to Walmart. That said, if future visits to that place are like the last one, I may start wearing combat gear and body armor.

The trip started out like any other—with me selecting a cart and heading toward the garden center via health and beauty. I was passing by the shampoo aisle when I heard a strange grinding noise in the rear right wheel. Having inspected all of the wheels upon yanking the cart free from the fourteen others it seemed to be bolted to, I was surprised to hear that sound and gave the cart a couple of good shoves to see if it would happen again. After all, if I was going to have to replace it I wanted to do so before it was laden with 150 pounds of groceries and gardening supplies, and well before I had walked the equivalent of five city blocks back to the cat litter.

Unable to recreate the sound, I headed out to the garden center, chose three bags of potting soil from the stack, and walked back to the main building. I was just approaching the electronics section when the cart came grinding to a screeching halt. Literally. It was as if someone had put ground glass in the right rear wheel housing and it was now being squeezed between the ball bearings. And I not only heard it; I felt it—in my arm and all the way up and down my spine. If you don’t know what I mean by that, just imagine chewing on a mouthful of lasagna that’s been seasoned with a cup or two of gravel or sand. It nearly killed me.

Now at this point I COULD have set the cart to the side, walked to the front of the store, chosen another cart, brought it back to electronics, moved all my items from the defective cart to the other, and went on my merry way. But I was not about to surrender so easily, so I picked up the back of the cart and dropped it onto the floor a few times until the wheel came unstuck and headed toward the restrooms in hopes of finding an empty or partially filled cart that had been set to the side by someone with a full bladder.

I don’t know if I would have had the nerve to surreptitiously swap my cart for someone else’s, but I sure wish I’d had the chance to find out. Unfortunately, there was not one single cart parked near the bathroom doors or the photo center.

And so I continued to suffer at the hands of that wheel, which came to a screeching halt about a dozen times between electronics and the cat food, and about a dozen more between there and the cleaning products. In between, it carried on grinding, which sent shivers up my spine, made my eyes water, and nearly made them roll permanently backward inside my head. Kicking myself for my stubbornness, I decided I deserved the stupid cart at this point, and picked up a can of foaming bathroom spray—which I promptly dropped.

Now, I’d like to blame it on the nerve damage I suffered as a result of that $%#@ wheel, but I’m guessing it had more to do with the fact that I’d picked it up by its lid. Either way, I knew there was NO chance of catching it as it hurtled toward the floor between the shelving and my cart. And at first I was relieved that it was a spray can because that meant it wouldn’t break open and spill all over the floor. But then I was terrified because it was a spray can and could EXPLODE all over me. So now I’m holding the plastic lid in my hand as if it’s the pin from a grenade as the can itself tumbles as if in slow motion toward the floor, and waiting to be hit in the face by either foaming cleaner or spray can shrapnel.

It landed—and hard—and bounced, then landed again—hard—but didn’t explode. It bounced a few more times then came clanking to a halt. Fortunately no one was in the aisle at the time to witness it or my reaction, which was a mixture of shock, horror, and shame that blossomed way beyond what was warranted in the situation.

I decided then that nothing could possibly happen to make this trip any less enjoyable, but I was wrong. For a few steps later, the wheel seized up completely and no amount of pushing, shoving, yanking or dropping would make it come loose. And so I had to drag the b@$t@rd—which was now piled high with potting soil, cat litter, dairy products and bottled beverages—from the back of the store, through the meat department, canned goods, frozen foods and produce.

When I’d finished I felt like I had circumnavigated the earth on foot while alternatingly pushing and dragging a mastodon. And so, with the checkout stands now in sight, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief believing that my battle with the cart would soon be over and calm would be restored. But, again, I would be wrong.

I should mention here that in my cart were a number of floatation devices that we affectionately refer to as ‘noodles.’ When I say a number, I mean eight. Unfortunately, the number I paid for was six. It was an innocent mistake which resulted in my having underpaid by $3.95. But I didn’t NOTICE it until I was putting them in the back end of my car, when instead of three yellow noodles and three blue ones, I realized there were four of each.

I nearly died again as I realized I had shoplifted not one but two items from the country’s largest retailer. Hoping to both preserve my reputation and avoid prosecution, I trudged back into the store with the now empty cart—which was much easier to push even with the stuck wheel—and made my way to customer service where a nice young lady accepted my payment for the two extra noodles and thanked me profusely for my honesty.

Of course, if I were truly an honest person, I would have told that young lady about the cart and left it with her to be repaired. But by then I was so tired and frustrated that I couldn’t bring myself to care. So I pushed it back to the doorway, and left it to become someone else’s problem.

That was a pretty gutsy thing for me to do considering the toll it could take on my karma. So if you happen to run into me at Walmart, don’t be surprised to find me wearing body armor. Over my lingerie, of course.