In Russia, Wal-Mart Saves You!
I only go to Wal-Mart on Sunday nights, when it most resembles the empty shelves of a Soviet market.
They start to reshelve the aisles at this hour, just before the store closes. The staples of America are all here, a few hundred yards from the new Staples. However, the giant store has the cheerful atmosphere of Eastern Europe, without the Cuban cigars. It is here where I hear actual Muzak for the first time in ages. They are playing my song.
I see freedom of choice exemplified by the various brands of bread I have to choose from. Behind me is a long refrigerator, nearly empty of milk. From the other side, I pick a twenty-five pack of taquitos, priced at a lovely $2.50. When I get to the counter, they are actually $5.44. I apologize to the nice woman at register 20, and I decide just to get a 94 cent container of worms, and the various necessities I get for my mother.
I leave the store, only to develop a thirst. I would like to get a 25 cent can of generic soda, yet it is all sold out. Further down is a Coke machine, and a Pepsi machine, with their 20 oz. wares costing over a dollar each. In between is another machine, with at least a dozen buttons, all dispensing the same store-brand water. I pay thirty-five cents for what I could've had for free inside.
I feel guilty for buying a loaf of bread at a store where they give something to the Chinese their American counterparts never get, and vice versa.
In the mid-August night, I stop by my local convenience store. I have a good rapport with most of the clerks there, especially the one on duty, Tino. He gets out of the bathroom, and I tell him that a football game is on. Neither of us care that it's a pre-season match, and the Bengals are wiping the floor with the Redskins. I decide to make a rare purchase of beef jerky, and head on out.
I can get a lot more beef jerky at Wal-Mart for a lot less money. At my local neighborhood behemoth, however, I can't get small talk from someone who is like family, about two football teams we will never cheer for.