After a wonderful Thanksgiving spent with my and Haley’s families, we decided it would be a good idea to stop at Wal-mart on our way home to pick up a Christmas tree. It’s our first Christmas together, so it only makes sense to get a tree.
Wal-Mart decided to start their “Black Friday” sale on Thursday night, blissfully unaware of the definition of Thursday. In addition to Wal-Mart’s slippery grip of the days of the week, the corporate giant has proved their dedication to giving absolutely not one bother about their employees. I don’t want to sound like a whiny hipster and blame corporate greed and the big businesses for destroying the very fabric of the American way of life. I’m just saying I think making your employees work on Thanksgiving is a pretty uncool thing to do. I understand some places need to be open; restaurants (for people who may not have family on Thanksgiving), gas stations, hospitals, etc. The necessary things. Opening a store where people are only buying a new television and 2 for $4 reindeer underwear can wait until the morning.
Anyway, enough whining. Haley and I made the adult decision to get our first Christmas tree at Wal-mart, at 7:30 pm, on (Blackish?) Thursday. We arrived at the store to find the monstrous parking lot nearly filled to capacity.
“I hate you,” I said to Haley.
We found a parking spot approximately 13 miles from the entrance to the store, and began our walk into the white-trash mecca of unlimited joy and wonder. As we approached the store, I noticed most of the patrons exiting had televisions. I would later find out Wal-mart began their sales at 6 pm on Thanksgiving, and the television was their door buster. I think it was a 48 inch television for like $200. That math does not add up. You could not buy a decent television from a one-armed blind guy in the middle of a packed black market bazaar in the heart of Lagos for $200.
However, I wasn’t here to judge or belittle the purchases of my fellow humans. I was here for a tree.
The front of the store looked like, no kidding, the entrance to an internment camp. Three police cars sat at different locations around the parking lot, as a line of cars extended what looked like a few hundreds yards into an adjacent parking lot. On the opposite end of this line, store associates assisted customers in loading goods into their vehicles. This line of cars was the TV line! It was the literal definition of a drive-in theater. My mind was blown.
We then entered the store. Somehow, there were still shopping carts available, a fact I considered to be nothing short of a miracle, and definitive proof of Wal-mart possessing an unlimited supply of everything. The store seemed brighter this day. We entered and the bright light hit my eyes like an angry NFL player.
It was utter pandemonium. Directly in front of me, the store manager, clad in a shirt and tie, appeared cool and collected, greeting shoppers and assisting anyone who needed help. It wasn’t until I got closer I saw his eyes. His cold, dead eyes. It sent chills down my spine. This was not a man who wanted to be here on Thanksgiving. To my left, a plethora of blue-polo-shirt-wearing store associates were rigorously checking every single item on every single receipt. I estimate these brave ladies read several hundred billion receipts that evening.
Surprisingly, to my right a uniformed police officer was sitting in a chair. I considered making a joke, but thought better of it.
Haley and I had a goal in mind: a Christmas tree. We took a cart and began our journey. We took an immediate right, towards the garden section, witnessing dozens of frenzied, screaming store patrons lugging around thousands of dollars worth of nonsense. The first guy I saw only had groceries in his cart! Literally, he had a 24 pack each of ginger ale and root beer, as well as several microwaveable dinners, fresh fruits and veggies, and some milk. This was either the most uncaring human being in existence, or he simply was not aware of the day.
Other carts were full of everything. One lady had an Xbox One, several iPads, and a metal garbage can. I presume not all of those items are gifts. I saw one confused man in a shirt from Cher’s 1989 World Tour with three shopping carts PACKED with items. I saw wives yell at husbands, moms yell at daughters, store associates yell at each other, and cashiers yell at everyone.
The displays were insane. Our long aisle had a display that could perhaps best be categorized as “just throw that stuff wherever” which occupied about 1/2 of the floor space. I quickly made the executive decision to ditch the shopping cart, pushing it into an empty aisle like I was attempting to lose my wanted level in Grand Theft Auto.
We found the trees, quickly decided on one that was a perfect mixture of fake and not too fake, and grabbed it. Some other miscellaneous items later we were ready to check out.
“Wow,” I said. “For how busy they are the lines aren’t too bad.”
This optimism was quickly crushed into oblivion by a store clerk who politely told us to go to the back of the store to get in line.
“Uh, okay, thanks,” I said, confused. I figured she saw we only had four things, so she was sending us to jewelry or electronics to ring us up quicker. How nice of her.
Another store clerk saw us and asked if we were ready to check out our items. She quickly pointed us to another store clerk who eloquently said, “just go stand where the balloons are that say ‘stand here'”.
Duely noted, store clerk.
I then realized we weren’t being guided to some super secret checkout line for the special people like me who just wanted to get a Christmas tree and go home. We were placed in the back of the apparel section, with roughly 10 people ahead of us, all with full carts, and thennnnnnn we got in line at an actual register.
This was not good news.
“I’m going to scout the cashiers,” I said.
Now, if you aren’t familiar with this practice, I’m sure I can’t possibly be the only one who does this subconsciously. Anyway “scouting the cashiers” is a practice I’ve adopted recently. For example, say you’re at the grocery store and you’re ready to check out. Most people, I think, go up and down the row of lanes, checking to see which line has the fewest number of people, thus having the shortest wait. I take that one step further. While I’m shopping, I always take note of the employee on each register. I then scout their strengths an weaknesses as a cashier, and then access a score. Obviously, speed is a huge factor, and rightfully most important. But I also consider age, gender, physical appearance, and attentiveness. Sure, I may be shallow, but a mean, older lady with a swastika tattoo on her inner forearm is not someone I want to buy milk from. No sir. Anyway, I’ll spare details, but for your own fufure reference the best cashiers are usually younger women, aged 18-24. You want to look for a girl because they typically move faster in the checkout line then their male counterparts (I haven’t figured out why). They are usually very attentive, meaning better service, and being young and spry allows speed and effieceicy.
So I went to the front of the store to scout me a cashier. I returned to Haley with my scouting report, and fortunately had about 3-4 cashiers worthy of joining my team. We chose the appropriate line, where two young ladies who overheard my scouting report thanked us. A few minutes later, our new friends were split from us, where we joined a new line. I noticed this line was moving much slower, evidenced by the fact the two folks who plagiarized my scouting report ended up getting line before us. A man in front of us became aggressive when the lady directly in front of us had the nerve to accidentally bump her cart into his.
I wouldn’t have been mad if I saw a fight.
The line slowly crept forward. Aggressive man accidentally stepped over a forbidden imaginary line, forcing a store clerk to declare, “Sir! I need you to step back behind that line!”
I declared this female store clerk as “Nazi lady.”
So Nazi lady goose-stepped around the store, ensuring no one in our cattle car lines had the nerve to break the barrier of her invisible forcefield. I heard the lady in front of us refer to Nazi lady as “Nazi lady”. This made me happy.
Nazi lady then yelled for Chris. Chris didn’t come. She then yelled at another store clerk.
“Where’s Chris,” Nazi lady predictably said.
Chris finally showed up in all his glory, like an angel descending from the highest heavens to carry a razor scooter or Lite-Brite or whatever kids play with these days to some predetermined destination. He was a magnificent specimen. This is the last anyone would see of Chris.
Mericfually, after an hour in this line, Nazi lady ushered us over. “Go over to Holly,” Nazi lady said.
I kind of stared at her and innocently declared, “I don’t know Holly.”
I might as well have asked her if it was okay to use a diaper because the look of confusion in her face was priceless. “Just go over to that lady there,” Nazi lady said.
Several people in line laughed. I heard one woman tell her friend my heroic tale of unbridled hilarity. I was their hero, like a white knight of the downtrodden people of Blackish Thursday.
Holly told us to get in the “10 items or less” line. Thanks, Holly! This would’ve been helpful news 45 minutes ago. Grr.
After another 15 minutes, the frustrated teenage boy checking us out wished us an emotionless good night that he didn’t mean, but was required to reluctantly blurt out. I didn’t share his sentiment, because I know my words meant nothing to him. He didn’t care if I lived or died.
The team of receipt ladies checked our receipt. For a woman who has just read the binary equivalent of War and Peace, she was surprisingly chipper. It was only like 8:45 pm at this point, so maybe her shift just started. What a night she was in for. She wished us a good night as well, and I told her I hoped her night was awesome because one-upping the kindness of strangers is kind of my thing.
We then walked 13 miles back to my car and loaded up our stuff. Four items, an hour and 15 minutes later, and we were ready to hit the road.
If there’s any lesson to be learned here, it’s to buy a Christmas tree on December 26th and then wait until the next year, like a reasonable human being. Now excuse me while my cats destroy my new tree.