Being rather elderly, I’m always on the lookout for convenience and shortcuts. With that in mind, I set out one quiet morning recently to do some shopping at Wal-Mart, planning to practice driving one of their motorized carts. Easier said than done.
I approached the cart confidently and found the process of getting in was somewhat like boarding a small boat or climbing into a bathtub. In fact, the phrase “bathtub sailor” came to mind. However, there were neither oars nor rubber duckies at hand so I got myself seated securely and looked around for controls.
I found only a lever to press. How strange! My feet were pushing frantically on non-existent pedals and I didn’t have a steering wheel! Accidentally bumping the lever, my vessel was suddenly underway. It crept out of its parking area at a steady one-quarter mile per hour clip, veering sideways as if wanting to head for the exit.
Having no idea how to control it, I passed through the sliding doors and headed for the parking lot, nervously pressing the lever up, down, sideways and probably backwards. I did a lap around a bright red Kia illegally parked in the crosswalk, missed all four fenders and finally was able to aim for the doors.
Nerve wracking! I just got here, I need to shop, just get me back into the store! A lot of lever juggling took place before I made it, hanging on with a death grip.
Finally steering gingerly down Aisle One, I spotted an item from my list, pulled up and realized that, in order to reach it, I had to get out of the cart. Somehow this defeated the whole purpose of using the cart but I stopped, clambered out, grabbed my purchase and clambered back in. And so it went; every single thing I wanted seemed to be out of reach.
In and out, in and out, an unexpected exercise session right here in Wal-Mart. Anyway, I carried on, gaining confidence in my boat-like bathtub, or bathtub-like boat, relaxing enough to make several observations.
Down here in my seat I wasn’t seeing people eye to eye, I was looking up into nostrils. Unbelievable how hairy nostrils can be; I was amazed. It seemed … O-O-O- ICK! Grab a handful of tissues – FAST!. Paper towels would be even better. Look away and get out of here. WHEW!
Obviously I’d encountered a Walmartian. You all know what a Walmartian is? A bottom feeder you’ll never see anywhere else. Colorful and bizarre, they come in quite a variety and are easy to spot, mostly by the puzzled looks on the faces of other shoppers.
My favorite Walmartian was a pudgy older guy, apparently on a late night beer run. He was clad haphazardly in a fluffy pink robe and matching slippers, presumably belonging to his significant other. Or maybe it was his, one never knows and it did seem to fit him.
There’ve been reports of a lot of plumber’s butts, poorly fitting halters, interesting hair colors and add-ons, studs, tats, thongs (no, not flip-flops) and other gaudy attire and behavior. You see these everywhere nowadays, but not always all on the same person.
Anyway, back to my routine of in and out, up and down. I approached the Bread Aisle, stepped out and reached up to pull a loaf of bread out from under a stack. The loaf I want is always second or third from the top and I try to snatch it out quickly, but the rest of the loaves invariable bombard me. Thankfully most bread is soft. I gave myself a black eye once with a loaf of San Francisco Sourdough.
An unexpected benefit of riding along at a lower level; I get to see all the goodies aimed at the kiddie shoppers. Spaghetti Os, chocolate cereal, Maxi-Bags of Salty-Greasies and Gummi Bears. I hate Gummi Bears, one bite and they pull my partial right out, but somehow I had this compulsion …..
Rounding the end of one of the aisles and heading down the next took major maneuvering and concentration, kind of like docking a cruise ship. Oops, I may have wiped out several displays before I got the hang of it. But, I ask you, talk about poor merchandising, a pyramid of cabernet sauvignon right on a corner!
The crash was kind of exciting but there was no way I could make a fast getaway at one-quarter mile per hour, and I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t me. My vessel was filling with wine and as I peeked back I glimpsed an old codger slip-sliding along in my wake, skidding on the puddles and broken glass, wearing a goofy grin and inhaling deeply.I was feeling a little buzz myself and managed a quick wave at the clean-up crew who showed up with mops and dirty looks.
Taking one last quick peek, I spotted the codger now on the floor, lapping at the puddles. (I hope he was spitting out the glass.) Another Walmartian, for sure.
I don’t think I harmed anyone on that trip; other shoppers tended to scatter at my approach. There was an experience on Aisle Seven between the canned mandarins and the lima beans when I felt a few jolts and a hard rocking and thought I’d foundered. I didn’t dare look back but I didn’t hear any screams. I decided gasps and curses didn’t count as I dodged a few squishy tomatoes aimed squarely at my back, and I continued on.
Approaching Check-Out I sensed a potential problem with trying to unload, especially as I was bearing down at full speed, towing another loaded cart I’d managed to hook onto. Unfortunately, a screaming toddler was in it, and the mother was running frantically alongside. She hopped in my cart with me, grabbed the lever and rolled to a dead stop just short of Check-Out.
The checker had already jumped the counter, prepared to run for safety but she came back and timidly began to total my purchases, meanwhile eyeing me cautiously. Parking the cart was no problem; the clean-up crew was there waiting to mop out the rest of the wine. More dirty looks, Sheeesh! what a bunch of grouches!
So now I only have one problem, where in my tiny kitchen do I store all the Spaghetti Os, chocolate cereal, Maxi-Bags of Salty-Greasies and the Gummi Bears, not to mention three stray loaves of pumpernickel?
At least I’ve had enough exercise for the day and can recommend motorized cart shopping for anyone who needs a good workout.