I had never been to Walmart. I have never been to a lot of places so I didn’t, in particular feel like I was missing out on something big. I just hadn’t been to Walmart. I go the grocery store, and the stores that we used to call drug stores (I don’t know what they are now because there is so much store offering overlap), I go to Target, though not often now that we are out of the toddler rearing stage, department stores, local stores, boutiques you name it. I had never found that there was something I was in need of that I could not obtain but for going to Walmart and thus I had not been. I should add that I am not a recreational shopper or curious shopper. I but what I need, when I need it and I go to the places that I know will have whatever it is and that are relatively convenient to my home. It was not an intentional avoidance on my part, it was just never the place I needed to go.
Colleagues heard of this and were shocked. All had been to Walmart because it fulfilled consumption needs that they had. Stories were told of the people you could see at Walmart, the condition of the store as an alternate American universe that had to be experienced to be understood. I said sounds like schadenfreude and I try to be better than my worst self; I am not at my best if I am feeling judgmental and superior and I did not want to go somewhere with the precise purposes of building my psyche up by comparison. That’s what it sounded like Walmart was. Also a place to get cheap organic produce of dubious origin and authenticity.
So a mission was laid to get me to Walmart and off I went. There is a picture to prove it. I did not like the store in the sense that I do not like big box stores generally. They overwhelm me with their choices and crowds and lack of natural light. I do not care for endless aisles of choices and promises of big savings for things I am pretty sure I don’t need. I also don’t like to spend time browsing so the vastness of the warehouse style store means I have to spend a significant amount of time looking for what I want and I can’t get in and get out and get on with my life in any kind of efficient manner. But beyond the sort of standard left-wing objection to the operational practices and consumptive conditioning of places like Walmart there was nothing to object to. The people were just regular people doing regular people things. They had the brands of product that I prefer and was clean enough. There were no ape like people roaming the aisles crooning their love for Donald Trump and the confederate flag. Mostly it looked like office workers on lunch trying to get some errands done in the middle of the day.
We can see the bothersome, the strange, the shocking pretty much anywhere if we take the time to look around. I’m not sure you have to go to a particular geographic place to find it. But maybe going to Walmart is giving permission to judge, is looking for the ways in which we want to be reassured that we are not so bad after all. Or maybe we just need the perspective to remind us that we are not so different and gratitude is an active exercise, you know, ‘there but for the grace of god’ and what not. Walmart stands for something in America probably, like most things what it stands for, for you depends on where you are standing and looking at it from.