So, I was at Walmart last Friday, and what do you know? Without meaning to, I had myself an experience.
Walmart was my last stop of the afternoon, and I had exactly 12 minutes to spare before I needed to be on the road again to pick up the boys from school, so my motions were very deliberate and timed as I moved through the store, picking up a dozen or so items before I stopped to grab a gallon of milk, my most essential purchase, and headed for the checkout. The quick checkout lanes were clearly mislabeled, so I chose what appeared to be the fastest regular lane with only one lady in line, who already had all of her few items on the conveyer belt. I can do this, I thought, with a couple of minutes to spare.
It was not one of my better calls.
You feeling me?
First, this lady had her purchases divided into three separate transactions, as I learned while I stood behind her. Then, after I had been there about 10 seconds, a boy walked up and asked if he could buy a Sierra Mist. The lady stopped, got out her wallet, and gave him money. Now, I’m not 100% sure of this, but based on the way she interacted with the boy, I think she might have been his young (but not too young, just younger on the scale of reasonable grandmother ages) grandmother.
The interesting thing about this exchange really was not the exchange itself, but rather the fact that the cashier stopped working while the lady I’ll hereafter refer to as “Young Grandma” and the boy carried out their business, and stared at them, mouth open. Once the boy got his money and left, the cashier returned to scanning the items.
Then, after approximately 15 seconds of returning to scanning and bagging, a girl approached Young Grandma and said, “I need $63.15.”
“What do you need $63.15 for?” asked Young Grandma.
“The food,” she answered, pointing toward one of those little restaurants within the store that I think was a sub restaurant.
Excuse me, but how does one spend over 63 dollars on subs in Walmart? The idea is almost unfathomable to me. No, seriously. I didn’t see anyone else with her, and the sub place looked empty.
“Well, how much do you have?” Young Grandma asked this time.
“I have 32 dollars,” the girl responded.
“Wow, you’re rich!” interjected the cashier, and I realized she’d stopped working again and was watching this latest exchange, mouth suspended open except when she spoke.
“Well, I’m just going to have to give you money for the difference, because it looks like the lady over there is waiting for you to pay her.” She fumbled with her purse and handed the girl some money.
Then, as the girl started walking away, Young Grandma mumbled to the cashier about how the two kids will be working for her for a long time to pay her back. The cashier smiled and then caught herself and started ringing up items again.
Suddenly, Sub Girl returned, and she announced that she just won’t buy the subs after all.
Excuse me? She just ordered $63 worth of subs and then, after they are made, she unorders them? “But the lady’s standing there waiting for you to pay for them!” exclaimed Young Grandma.
“Yeah, never mind, I just won’t get them,” Sub Girl decided. The cashier was riveted. As I would be too, frankly, having never unordered subs before, except for the fact that I was moving quickly into the Mom-that-is-late-in-the-pickup-line status if this kept up.
They continued back and forth about whether or not to purchase the subs, and the cashier stood frozen, careful not to start working and possibly miss anything. During this discussion, Young Grandma kept moving a few steps toward the sub place, wallet in hand, as if to go pay for the subs. But then, it was like she’d remember she still had to pay for her things, and she’d start back toward the cashier, fumbling with her wallet until something Sub Girl said made her start thinking about the subs again, I guess, and she’d start stepping back toward the sub place again.
It was very odd.
Finally, amid the ongoing discussion, she managed to hand the cashier a credit card and the cashier managed to swipe it while still keeping her eyes on the drama unfolding. At this point, I quickly moved forward, got the cashier’s attention long enough to have her check me out as well, and I headed for the parking lot. Last I saw, Young Grandma and Sub Girl were still hashing it out as they headed toward the sub place.
On my extremely efficient drive where I attempted, with moderate success, to pick up the boys on time, I was thinking about what had just happened, and something occurred to me.
Working at a big box store that gets lots of traffic has to be much like working in an office where they broadcast reality TV all day. Except it’s closer, with more characters.
And more live.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to work at Walmart with the added benefit of live reality TV episodes being played out right in front of your workstation? You like The Real Housewives of New Jersey, or Beverly Hills, or Atlanta? Check this out. And did I mention it’s live?
Yeah, girlfriend, you say your company offers dental and paid sick leave? Mine offers live reality TV, all day long. So who’s got the better job now, huh, huh?
The Real Housewives of Walmart would blow all the other Housewives away in terms of ratings. Because the thing is, when you go to Walmart, there’s just no façade needed, even for those of us who have standards, minimal as they may be. You can just be you, you know? So with everyone just walking around being themselves, with no “suggested” lines or “staged” central themes, and no editing, of course, anything can happen. It’s the Pandora’s box of reality TV.
You know, it dawned on me as I was writing this that I really could make this a series, this concept of The Real Housewives of Walmart. The scary part is I might actually be able to pull off the role of the “semi-normal” housewife. Which, trust me, never happens in any other area of my life.