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  • Some Occasions Just Call For Fancy

    January 18, 2007

    I went to Wal-Mart today and there was no incident. I just wanted to report that.


    Last week when Sean and I went grocery shopping, he was very insistent that he wear his dress shoes. With his sweatpants. I tried to tell him there was no reason to get all fancied up, that we were just going to Wal-Mart and he might not want to go to the trouble. But he was insistent saying, “I need to be fancy.” And well, I can understand that. Sometimes one needs to be fancy, even if it is just at Wal-Mart.

    The extra effort was not lost on the greeter.

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    Electric Cart Lady Karma

    January 9, 2007

    I lost Sean’s diaper bag, but thanks to some good electric cart lady karma, I got it back.

    I really hate to lose things. I check my wallet three or four times after using my credit card to make sure that I have put it back in it’s proper place and my plane tickets are always gray and frayed by the time I hand them to the gate agent from making sure they are still in my purse where I put them three minutes before. But the worst part of losing something is the obsessing that must follow.

    I really hated to lose this bag because after going through several different versions, this particular diaper bag was just right – not too big, not too small and not too fem for Antique Daddy to carry. It’s made of brown canvas and has little outer pockets for drinks and lots of inner pockets for Clorox wipes and Purell and all the rest of the disinfecting stuff we OCD types haul around. I found this bag in the tack shop at PetCo and now that I think about it, I’ve probably been carrying around a feedbag. Which makes my total lack of cool make a lot more sense.

    It was several days before I realized Sean’s feedbag diaper bag was MIA, but I knew exactly where it was. Wal-Mart. I mean it’s not like I had been to the spa, Neiman’s, The Kimball and then out for a three-martini lunch. If I had been, I certainly wouldn’t have had a diaper bag with me and if I did have a diaper bag with me, I would have chucked it out the car window on my way down the driveway. No, sadly, if I’m not at home, I’m probably at Wal-Mart – another contributing factor to my chronic uncool.

    Over the Christmas holidays we had a lot of visitors. A lot. And old Mother Antique Mommy’s cupboard was bare. I normally keep the pantry of a Mormon housewife. I usually have enough canned and dried goods on hand to survive a nuclear winter or at least host dinner for 120 on short notice, except for table favors and I doubt even Martha can do that. So I had to make one of those grueling stocking-up trips to the store. In the process of unloading one metric ton of canned goods onto the conveyor belt and spinning the turnstyle-bag-thingee and shouting “Big money!” as though I was on Wheel of Fortune, keeping track of Sean and chastising the cashier as I like to do, I must have set the diaper bag on the floor or somewhere I wouldn’t usually set it. Oh that the person in line behind me might have beseeched the cashier on my behalf to return my bag.

    Several days later, when I finally did realize the bag was missing, I went back to the store, stood in line at the Customer Service desk only to have the gal tell me that she hadn’t seen a brown diaper bag. When I asked her if she could please just look, she tossed a glance over her shoulder and said, “Nope. Don’t see it.” Deflated, yet undeterred in my obsession, I went home where I could obsess more comfortably.

    Like Nancy Drew (minus Ned and a convertible) I could not rest until the mystery of the vanishing diaper bag was solved. Three days later I decided to give it one last try and I called the store to inquire about said diaper bag hoping for a different person with a different answer. Apparently I had earned some good karma on the electric-cart-lady-egg-return deal. Someone competent answered the phone. She asked me to hold on while she checked lost and found. After she dropped the phone on the desk (which rendered me deaf only for a short time), she shuffled some papers, knocked over some boxes, used a blower dryer, ran her desk through a wood chipper and then zipped up an angry cat into a suitcase – at least that’s what it sounded like on my end anyway. Then she got back on the line and reported that yes indeed, they had my diaper bag! I was so happy.

    I have my diaper bag back and I owe it all to the Electric Cart Lady. God bless you Electric Cart Lady.

    I Don’t Actually Work At Wal-Mart

    January 5, 2007

    Jeff Foxworthy says that if you spend more than 40 hours a week at Wal-Mart and you don’t work there – you might be a redneck. This gives me pause for concern.


    Yesterday, I was at Wal-Mart for the few things I had failed to get on my previous five trips earlier in the week. I tend to have bad luck when it comes to check out lines and I’ve learned that the key is not to find the shortest line, but to spot the most skilled checker.

    With that criterion in mind, I landed in a line directly behind THE electric cart lady. The checker was a young man, about 20 and he was reasonably proficient. He managed to get electric cart lady checked out and on her not-so-merry way in no time at all and then he began checking my few things.

    I noticed that as I pulled my cart forward to the bag-turnstyle-thingee that electric cart lady had left behind a bag that contained a carton of eggs. So I told the young man checking the groceries that she probably hadn’t gotten too far and that if he hurried, he could catch her. So I’m standing there with outstretched arms holding a bag of eggs across the conveyor belt as though I’m offering him my first-born son. And checkout boy just looks at me. And then he looks at the eggs. And then back at me. With contempt. I’m not sure if the contempt was for me or for the eggs. Maybe he can’t eat dairy, I don’t know. But then he rolls his eyes to emphasize his contempt for 46-year-old women offering eggs. And I could see why. After all, a man of his stature and in his position could not be seen running after an electric cart lady hollering, “Ma’am, you forgot your eggs!” So undignified.

    So to help him in making a good choice, I thrust the eggs at him again and said to him in my best mother voice, “Young man. Go. Take that woman her eggs.” I nodded my head at him and gave him my disturbing “is it sweet or is it wicked” smile. And that must have frightened him because he took the eggs and trotted after electric cart lady, but not before heaving a sigh of yet more contempt. I waited patiently for his return while the three people in line behind me took turns heaving sighs of contempt in my direction. It’s good practice for when Sean becomes a teenager.

    When he resumed his post, I said, “There now. Aren’t you glad you did that? Wasn’t she appreciative?”

    And he said flatly, “No. No she wasn’t.”

    “But oh! Think of all the stars in your crown!” I said with much merriment.

    No. I didn’t really say that. I just said, “Oh. I can see that.”

    As I left, I checked the bag-turnstyle-thingee three times to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. I didn’t want checkout boy and three contempt-heaving shoppers to return my eggs to me one knuckleball at a time.

    Peace On Earth Good Will Towards Electric Cart Ladies

    December 8, 2006

    Yesterday I discovered that we were dangerously low on plastic sparkly Christmas stuff. How on earth could we celebrate the birth of Our Savior without a plastic toad wearing a Santa hat for our fake tree? We couldn’t y’all, we just couldn’t. So off I went to Wal-Mart in search of Christmas.

    If you’ve ever been to a Wal-Mart – and I suspect you have if you are still reading – you’ve probably wondered why on earth they make the Christmas aisles so dang narrow? Are they not aware that their customers are by and large (pun intended) super-sizers? My suspicion is that the guys who man the security cameras are also the ones who set up the aisles and they are just hoping some sort of incident will break out, some sort of electric cart lady-crazed mommy incident. That would make some good YouTube.

    And so.

    Thursday morning I find myself wearing Wal-Mart athletic wear in the Wal-Mart holiday department. And I know right then that nothing good can come of this.

    I make a right turn down the blue/white ornament aisle and I notice that there is a sizeable lady in her electric cart taking up more aisle than would allow me to pass with or without a cart. So I kind of stand there for a minute and attempt to look beyond her to see if I really even want to be in the blue/white row.

    I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be in the blue/white row because I’ve been in the blue/white row almost every day this week. I guess I think the stockers put out the good stuff out after I leave. But they don’t. It’s the same blue/white crap stuff that they put out in September, but a fresh supply of blue/white crap stuff. But what I think it demonstrates to y’all is how hopeful I am. I am a person with hope. A person who hopes to discover the mother lode of fresh blue/white sparkly plastic cr stuff that Wal-Mart has been holding out on us.

    As I’m standing there looking beyond electric cart lady, I notice that her head looks like a pea perched atop a sack of flour. She can’t turn her head, so she just turns her eyes. She sighs at me and gives me this “Do you mind?” look, as though I were trying to read a newspaper over her shoulder. Apparently I didn’t see the Do Not Disturb sign on the blue/white aisle. I give her my “No problemo!” smile and baby step back out of the aisle. I am in the Christmas spirit. God rest ye merry electric cart ladies!”

    No problem is right. There is more stuff from whence the blue/white stuff came just one aisle over. I head for the red/green or hot pink/lime or silver/white or wooden/country aisle because I’m all patient and easy going like that and it’s the holiday season! Somebody get that electric cart lady some figgy pudding!

    As I’m standing in the country ornament aisle looking at the fabulous array of tacky beautiful foreign factory made hand-crafted ornaments that have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, I hear the hum of electric cart lady coming down “my” aisle. She pulls her cart within inches of my knee. And she stares at me. She clears her throat. I look at her expectantly thinking perhaps she wants me to reach something for her. “Can you move? I need to get through,” she says in a voice that sounds eerily like Beevis.

    I respond by saying:

    a) That thang got a reverse on it?
    b) Your point is?
    c) You’re not the boss of me.
    d) I’d like to see you get off that thing and make me.

    Because I fear being featured on YouTube if I get into a fight with an electric cart lady in the Wal-Mart holiday department, I instead say, “Sure. Let me just grab my Santa Toad and I’ll be out of your way. Can I get one for you too?”

    Shamu Shops At Wal-Mart

    November 7, 2006

    I am loath to admit that much of my wardrobe comes from the Wal-Mart active wear department these days. It has come to that. Unthinkable for a gal who in her 20s once ate at the happy hour buffet for an entire month so that she could spend her entire grocery budget on a pair of Joan & David boots.

    The reason I end up buying so many of the things I wear at Wal-Mart is simple: I am there. Everyday I am there. I have a cart. I throw it in the cart. I take it home. I wear it. End of story.

    Photo Temporarily Unavailable

    This morning, after I donned a brand new pair of black Danskin “athletic” pants and a matching black long-sleeved top with blue and white stripes down the sleeves I was thinking that I looked as though I could pass for a person who actually works out, a person who actually deserves to be wearing so-called athletic wear. I was thinking that cheap clothes are not THAT bad. Until this:

    Sean: Hey Mom! I like your diving suit!
    Antique Mommy: My what?
    Sean: Are you going diving with Shamu?

    I looked at myself in the mirror. I did look like I was going diving with Shamu.

    Perhaps I need to rethink my Wal-Mart wardrobe.

    Things At The Grocery Store That Make You Want To Say Darn

    October 3, 2006

    1. The 400-pound deaf lady in the electric cart who is memorizing the entire section of jelly and refuses to move so that you might grab your blueberry jelly and be on your merry way.

    2. The unshaven out-of work single guy wearing pajamas bottoms who wants to chat you up about 2% vs skim.

    3. The woman in leopard leggings who insists on putting her items on the check out conveyor belt even though you still have half a cart to unload.

    4. The cashier who double scans a $20 box of diapers which you discover only after you are on your way home.

    5. Getting home to find the bottle of pomegranate juice you splurged on leaked all over the back of your car.

    6. The bag boy who puts the frozen turkey in with the bread.

    7. Running a cart laden with $153.71 worth of groceries over your own freshly painted and pedicured toe.

    8. Spending $153 on groceries instead of a nice pair of shoes.

    Antique Wal-Mart Babe

    August 8, 2006

    Sunday, I violated not only one of God’s commandments, but one of my own: Thou shalt not go to Wal-Mart on the Sabbath. But it had to be done. We were out of Cheetos.

    Usually when I darken the door of Wal-Mart in the middle of the week, I’m all dolled up in a pair of paint splattered cut-offs, a faded Old Navy tank top, flip flops, no makeup and a ponytail. I like to accessorize my look not with stylish earrings – that’s too expected for someone as trendy as moi – but with a toddler on my hip for a bit of whimsy. Since it was Sunday and I had been to church earlier in the day, I had on a dab of makeup and my hair had been recently washed. And I was minus a kid attached to my thighs like a bad pair of leggings. So, yeah, I was looking pretty good for me.

    After selecting the least disgustingly filthy cart, I gave it a perfunctory Clorox swabbing and then headed into the store in task-mode ready to get the goods and get out of there. I stood near the entrance by the cookies, reviewing my list and making a mental plan of attack.

    As I was going over my list, I felt someone looking at me. I felt it on my neck. I felt eyeballs on my neck. I lifted just my eyes from my list to see a young guy, maybe 24, clad in cowboy attire complete with Stetson, standing by the roasted chickens. Staring at me. I looked behind me to see whom it was that might have captured his attention, expecting to find a 20-something Carrie Underwood look-alike. No Carrie, just icky Wal-Mart cookies.

    I looked back to my list and I felt the eyeballs again. He was still there. Still staring. I was still a little sensitive from my recent McDonald’s experience, so I checked my blouse to make sure it was buttoned.

    Gawking cowboy or not, I had stuff to do, so I headed into the store — towards him but only because he was standing between me and my Cheetos. As I walked in his direction, he nervously strode off towards the ladies clothing, but unfortunately, he was still looking at me when he walked into a rounder of clothes. The last I saw of him was two cowboy boots sticking out from under a rack of ugly flame-stitched sweaters.

    Is it really an ego boost when you’re turning heads in Wal-Mart? But then again, at my age, you take what you can get.

    Must be the new math…

    January 14, 2006

    This recent exchange with the cashier at the grocery store:

    AM: There was a sign that said red peppers were two for $3.
    Cashier: No ma’am, they are $1.50 each. Do you still want both of them?
    AM: Yes, I want both of them. That would be $3. Two for $3.  $1.50 x 2.
    Cashier: (rolling her eyes and twisting her eyebrow ring)  Ma’am they are $1.50 each, do you want both of them or not?
    AM: Umm…  Okay, $1.50 each and not a penny more.

    Christmas Shopping 101

    December 5, 2005

    Christmas Shopping 101: A crash course study in the inanity of humanity. This course meets at Wal-Mart and studies holiday shoppers in their natural habitat.

    Our first case study meets in the Lawn and Garden department where the aisles are wide enough to accomodate Calista Flockhart or a zipper turned sideways, but not both. Here we will observe the shopper who is searching for just the right large electrified plastic lawn ornament to compliment the plaid sofa and washing machine on her front porch. The shopper in this example wears leggings three times too small thus cutting off the circulation to her ears which is the only reasonable explanation as to how the she can be oblivious to the trail of bleeding ear drums and busted fluorescent lights left in the wake of her screaming child. The child, clad in a diaper and T-shirt, does not appear to enjoy Christmas shopping. He/she is positioned in the cart seat like a wet lasagna noodle and breaks from screaming periodically to gnaw on the cart handle.

    Our second case study will take place in the Photo department where you will observe a 93-year-old deaf woman getting a lesson from the only clerk available on how to use her new digital camera. The clerk speaks loudly and ernestly about e-mail to which Granny Clampitt responds, “You say this is on sale?” The people in the line behind her, which snakes around the perimeter of Texas, are only there to pick up their photos. Their collective goal is to get out of the store before New Years or before someone’s toddler blows a gasket – which ever comes first. Those in line are conflicted in their emotion and alternate between exasperation and greater levels of exasperation.

    Our third and final case meets at the check-out area where we observe the line from the Photo department has wrapped around and become tangled up with the check-out lines and some sort of spontaneous shopping-cart square dance has broken out. Off to the side we see an abandoned cart of carefully selected holiday gifts and a woman leaving the store holding a squirming toddler by the ankles. “Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!” the greeter calls to the woman wrestling the child like a boa constrictor. “Yeah. Right. Merry Christmas. What. Ever.”

    At the end of this course you will learn how to shop on-line.

    Advanced Grocery Shopping

    August 16, 2005

    The earth is inhabited by two kinds of people: Those who love to go to the grocery store and then the other 98% of the population — those who have a life. Until my son came along, I was among the 2% who rank a trip to the grocery store right up there with a day at Six Flags. Lately, however, going to the store is more like going to a friend’s Tupperware party — you are obligated to go, you’re looking for the cheapest thing to buy and you hope you don’t have to go again for a long time.

    Once upon a time, my weekly visit to the store was a serendipitous adventure. Tom Thumb was my boyfriend. I couldn’t wait to see him. It was exciting to think about what new and exotic fruit or vegetable or gourmet item he might have for me – would it be tomatillos, star fruit or imported olives? I would spend several hours going systematically up and down the aisles looking at all the different items and thinking about what fabulous dishes I might prepare. My cart runneth over (or to use proper Texan, my “buggy” runneth over). Even though my household consisted only of my husband and me, the boy bagging the groceries once asked me how many children I had to feed. Unfortunately, for him, he happened to ask this question too soon after a failed in-vitro attempt. I burst into tears. He tried to become invisible, and in fact, he was never seen again.

    Now that I have a kiddo, I’ve quit seeing Tom. Sam is my new guy. If Tom Thumb is Omar Sharif, Wal-Mart is Al Bundy – convenient, cheap, annoying. The truth is, I have a love-hate relationship with Wal-Mart. I hate how they dominate the retail landscape. I hate how they wipe out the small mom-and-pop businesses when they come to town. I love that they are a block away and sell formula and diapers for less than anyone else in town. And most of all, I love the entertaining study in humanity that is Wal-Mart — almost as good as the airport, only with more local flavor.

    Aside from where I shop, how I shop has changed as well. Where shopping once was a leisurely exercise, like golf only with more physical and mental exertion, it’s now a study in ergonomics and economy of motion. The goal of every trip is to maximize the shopping that needs to be done within the time restraints of my toddler’s disposition on any given day. No wasted motion, no wasted effort, no wasted time. Not even a second glance towards the beloved olives. I remember how, in my previous life, I used to see women in Nike’s, running through the store like spooked race horses that had somehow gotten out, pushing carts laden with children and macaroni and cheese, taking corners on two wheels. And I would think to myself: “They should really slow down and stop and smell the cilantro — life is short.” (Apparently I also had more time to wax philosophic.) What I didn’t know, until now, is that no one with a toddler buys cilantro and yes, life is short, but a toddler’s cart-tolerance is even shorter and death is only a slightly less attractive an option than a toddler melt-down.

    Before Sean came along, there were no daily emergency trips to the grocery store. I consulted my cookbooks, I made a list, I pressed my clothes. If I were out of, say, anchovies, it could wait until next week. These days, it seems that I am at Wal-Mart just about every day for some emergency item, like chocolate. I realized this recently when the greeter, who knows me by name, calls to me as I’m pushing my over-the-legal-weight-limit cart out the door. “Nice Nike’s,” he says with a knowing look and a wink, “See ‘ya tomorrow.” I felt so cheap and tawdry! As if no other grocery store would have me! Tom wants me back you know. He still sends me coupons….