Not long ago, I got done with work pretty late one night. I was thinking ahead to breakfast the next morning and realized that bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns sounded really good for breakfast.
On the right side of the road, about a quarter-mile ahead, sat a Wal-Mart. Against my better judgment, I said, “Why not? Then I won’t have to go to the grocery store after I wake up in the AM.” Jesus Murphy, what a mistake.
My phone read 1:07 am. I didn’t think much about it, I’d be in and out fairly quickly. I was greeted at the front door by a young man who looked like Joe Exotic’s husband, but with at least 2 fewer teeth. Whoa. I didn’t even know they HAD greeters this late at night. My guess was he ran on a tweaker’s schedule, judging by his 8–10 split smile.
The guy was friendly enough. A little hyper for my taste, this late at night, but a nice enough fella. However, he gave me a “good game” slap on the ass as I walked into the store, and I quickly realized I was involved in the World Series of late-night shopping, whether I liked it or not.
As I walked off the smack to my cake, I was suddenly a lot more awake than I figured. My radar was up. I noticed shit. I suddenly realized this was the original Walmart in town. Not the “nicer” one near the freeway exit. But the one you have to drive through the seedy side of town to get to. I made a mental note to call a realtor in the morning and find out what my home was worth.
They had one of the Walmart salons near the entrance. The one you made the mistake of getting your haircut at once. ONCE. I walked out of there in the early 90’s looking like Mario Lopez on Saved By the Bell, minus the muscles. A definite low point in my haircut history.
Walking by the customer service desk on the way into the store, I saw a lady arguing with the counter help there. Evidently, Walmart prefers you don’t try the underwear on BEFORE you try returning it. This lady looked like Mimi from the Drew Carey Show and something tells me that underwear got a little stretched out.
I meandered through the store on my way to the grocery side. It was fairly quiet at 1:10 am. WAS. Suddenly a huge screeching voice, not unlike George Constanza’s mother on Seinfeld cut through the silence. “HENNESSEY! COLT! JAMESON! WHERE THE FUCK ARE YA’LL?”
Instantly, Moe, Larry, and Curly come wheeling around the corner from the previous aisle. These future custodians all started shout-talking at once: “MOM! You gotta see this RC truck! MOMMA! They got camo sweatpants, can I get me some? MOM! HOW OLD DO YOU HAVE TO BE TO DRINK WHITE CLAWS?”
I chuckled to myself and kept moving on as I let Mama June take care of her Honey Boo-Boos. I was startled as I turned to the corner and I ran face-to-face with a goth-style young man. He looked like Marilyn Manson, but with a thin, wispy mustache. He looked me up and down and smiled. I half-smiled back while trying not to make eye contact.
“STASH!” another loud voice yelled from the next aisle. Or maybe she yelled, “ ‘STACHE!” I’m not entirely sure. He rolled his eyes, leered at me one last time, and slunk off to figure out what his vampire queen needed. I made a mental note to grab some garlic to go with my breakfast food, once I safely reached the grocery area.
I suddenly realized the call of nature and looked for a bathroom toward the back of the store. Not finding what I needed, I decided to peak through the double doors to the back area. This was unexplored territory. I’d never attempted this maneuver before, let alone at a quarter after 1 AM.
I saw a portly fella with the back door open handing what looked like a bucket to some sketchy-looking fella out of the back door. They hadn’t seen me coming through the double doors and I noticed the contents of the bucket had a burgundy-colored liquid in it. They were selling bucket-wine out the back door! No lid, no saran wrap, tinfoil, nothing. There were numerous empty wine boxes on the backroom floor. I decided I’d just hold my damn water and zipped back through the doors into the store.
I then walked past a fella wearing a Gravedigger shirt, who was looking for the new Reba McEntire album and discussing needing personal grooming options with his ol’ lady. I directed them to the home and garden area, in case a Norelco beard trimmer wasn’t gonna be enough for their nether-region needs.
I shuddered as I walked off and overheard yet another family of three in the book section. I registered a bit of shock internally that Walmart even had a book department. Then I overheard Cletus say, “Do you think they have Bibles here? I broke ours over Billy-Ray’s ass. I’m worried about that being a damnable sin.” His wife replied, “Nah, Sugar-Bear. It’s not. You were using the Sword of the Spirit to drive the devil out of B.R.” Another, bigger shudder, and I was on my way.
After hearing a stellar example of an upright citizen asking an employee if they had “Let’s Go Brandon” or “Fuck Joe Biden” flags in stock, and his lady asking if they sold Skoal in 6 packs, I finally reached my destination: The grocery area.
I quickly grabbed my bacon, eggs, and frozen hash browns, and was prepared to bid 1:30 AM Walmart a-fuckin’-adieu. But then yet-another obstacle: A lone middle-aged woman, who was letting her kids eat frosting cookies in the middle of the night.
These kids were eating the cookies, jumping in and out of the cart, running around, and screaming. I started wondering why so many parents had children out at one in the morning. Shouldn’t they be in bed, at this time of night? This was a scene right out of Gremlins. She fed them after midnight and was now paying the consequences.
I hauled ass to the checkout line, like most of these people avoiding their parole officers. I couldn’t seem to find a 10-Teeth-Or-More line, so I just settled into the shortest line possible. And of course, some mouth-breather jumped in line right behind me. Standing way too close to me.
I heard the cashier ask the people in front of me in line “Paper or plastic?” The smarter one of the two, and believe me, it was a toss-up, said, “Plastic. We use them bags to clean up our dog shit.” Then they both looked at each other and busted out laughing like Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber. They said, “Naw, paper. We just kidding. We don’t clean up our dog shit. It’s good for the environment. Like these here paper bags. They’re both bio-derangeable.”
Mr. Bubble-Invader behind me was still standing much too close to me. And it felt like he was getting even closer. I finally had enough. I let the fart I had been holding in fly. I didn’t even try to muffle the sound, In fact, I pushed it out. I wanted to send a message. If I could have left a skid mark on him, I would have. I’d had it, at this point. I had become one of THEM. A 1 AM Walmart patron. I didn’t even care anymore. Fuck manners.
I waited for him to step back and possibly object. Imagine my surprise when he took another step closer and took not one, but two, large, audible sniffs. I shed a silent tear, like that Native American fella in the pollution ads from the ’70s. I quickly paid for my merch and ran to my car.
A close friend of mine refers to his trips to Walmart as “The Night the Hillbillies Landed.” I never fully understood this, until visiting The Wal that late at night. If only they had an observation deck.
My new therapist says I need to avoid triggers in public from here on. No more middle-of-the-night Walmart ventures. Shopping at Target in the late morning or early afternoon is now my wheelhouse. It may cost more, but she says you can’t put a price on your mental health. I just hope the eye twitch disappears, soon.