22 March 2013


by Andy Weddington
Friday, 22 March 2013

"People have to follow their hearts, and if their hearts lead them to Walmart, so be it." Maynard James Keenan

For today, nothing tiresome.

No politics - though the 'evolving' Hillary Clinton sort of came out of the closet setting up a 2016 run for president, and the most transparent president ever has yet to come clean on Benghazi; no sports - though NCAA Ink (aka: March basketball) is on, and Tiger Woods is finding his old swing (with a golf club) and a new woman (a downhill'er); no religion - though there's a new Pope for the planet, and America and the world needs a lot of prayer; no science - though some sort of God particle was discovered (good timing), and new anti-biotic resistant super bugs are on the prowl; no military - though the war in Afghanistan goes on, with casualties, and so does training, with casualties, and other parts of world of at least passing interest to the U. S. are in chaos; etc., etc., etc. 

For today something simpler, and something much lighter, and something everyday, and maybe more interesting, that happened Monday past.

That morning - clad in old jeans, a favorite pair of suede slip-on boots resoled four or five times, a lightweight black sweater, and a Marine ball cap - I headed for the only big box store in town. That is, the place where all the items on my list, scribbled on a junk mail recycled scrap of paper, from healthcare to glassware to underwear might be found - Walmart.

As some items, if on hand, were bulky - for the first time in a long, long time I opted for a shopping cart.

And come to think of it, I don't remember seeing a greeter.

Rolling past the Easter display and shelves lined with colorful baskets, chocolates, cards, and whatnot; past two or three aisles of greeting cards and party favors and helium inflated balloons; past a couple of crafts aisles; I turned hard to starboard into the school and office supplies.

Not in Walmart all that often, it was surprising how busy mid-morning on Monday - lots of moms and toddlers. Lots. And older folks, too.

Intently looking for a particular gel pen, I was distracted by a woman just up the aisle to my port who was speaking loudly with a slight accent and she seemed to be looking my direction. Assuming she was addressing me, I approached.

She was short (maybe five feet and trim) and looked Mediterranean. Guessing, she was in her mid to late 60s. And like me pushing a cart and carefully scanning the shelves and still talking.

"Madame, pardon, are you speaking to me?"

"Oh, no sir, sorry [laughing], I am talking to myself." Somewhat exasperated, "This is just unbelievable!"

"What's the problem? Is there anything I can help you find?"

Shaking her head, "No, I don't think so. You probably wouldn't know anything about it."

"Well, two sets of eyes are better than one, maybe I can help you. What is it?"

"I am looking for tubes of artist's paint - individual tubes."

Then she walked me to the end of the aisle and showed me the artist's paint kits - complete with tubes of paint of colors not found in nature, cruddy brushes, toy palette, etc. - and said, "I don't want all of those tubes and the other stuff. I only need a few tubes of paint. Don't they sell individual tubes?"

"Well, let's take a look." So, I looked high and low up and down both sides of the aisle and took a look on both flanking aisles and sure enough Walmart, at least this one, does not sell individual tubes of paint.

The woman was still talking to herself, and to me, in disbelief that there were only kits - she did not need.

Then I remembered being in a local office supply store a few days earlier and seeing tubes of paint in a small art section - basic supplies mostly geared for hobbyists and students.

"Madame, do you know where the old 'Steve's Office Supply' was located?" "No, no I don't." "Do you know the Kentucky Fried Chicken?" "Yes!" "Well across that odd intersection is a small shopping center and that's where 'Steve's' used to be. It's called something else these days, which escapes me, but they carry individual tubes of paint. It's the only place in town I know that does."

She said that would be her next stop, thanked me, and smiled while making a passing comment something along the line of who knew a Marine would know about paints. She moved on.

I stood there thinking, right - who knew. Kinda made my day - and it was only a little after 10:00.

Then I found the gel pen and continued wandering the aisles - backtracking a time or two (in search of a decorative artificial lemon) - for what I needed. And I stumbled upon a few things I didn't know I needed. 

The last needed item - clear nail polish (to secure the thread on shirt buttons) - I know nothing about. So I stopped a woman nearby shopping for cosmetics and asked, "Madame, excuse me, I am out of my league here, a question - other than the $1.50 price, is there any difference between these products beyond one having a hardener and the other instantly drying?" She took a look and said she didn't think so. I studied the bottles a bit longer, looked again at all the other options (way too many and most too expensive), tossed a bottle in the cart and headed to check out.

The cashier was cordial and chatty but didn't ask if I'd found everything I was looking for (maybe that's another store). Had she, I'd have mentioned the paints and lemons.

Exiting, I bumped into my nail polish advisor. She offered, "Have a nice day!" And asked, "What did you decide?"

"The cheap one," I said.

She laughed.

And such will not surprise my wife - who usually just shakes her head.

Oh yes, I know a little something about paints. And lemons, too. And both long before knowing anything about being a Marine.

Finally, a closing recommendation for Walmart: Stock individual tubes of paint - red, white, blue, and yellow. Not only will it look patriotic but with the primaries and white any color is possible. Ask any artist. Ask a Marine! 

Post Script

Walmart, at least this one, does not stock decorative artificial lemons - so a sales associate told me.

Though I saw a few younger folks rather casually dressed and heavily inked, I did not see anyone who remotely resembled the Walmartians depicted on the popular emails. Otherwise, I'd have taken a photo.

A Super Walmart is soon to open. Maybe there will be room to stock decorative artificial lemons and individual tubes of artist's paint. And maybe the martians will appear.

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