I don’t believe in a zombie apocalypse, even though I love The Walking Dead, but I think I know what it might be like. Recently, I visited the Kmart in Colonial Heights…a store that’s going out of business. It was…chaos; allow me to spin you a yarn.
The news was delivered to me that the store was closing, another commercial casualty in a rust belt of abandoned dreams. (Maybe “dreams” is overstating it when talking about Kmart…and Circuit City was no Shagri La, either.) Anyway, the prices were falling and so was my defense against instant gratification.
Off I went to the promise of 20 percent mark downs. I’m not an oak.
I should have known something was afoot when there were no carts in the cart corral (it’s like you’re a cowboy when you run your cart in there, isn’t it?) or aimlessly left to block parking spots and driving lanes. You usually can’t swing a reasonably-priced pair of socks in that lot without hitting a cart with a left-over circular from last week’s paper. Well, I thought, I’ll just get one inside. I’ve never been as wrong.
As soon as I entered the store I was struck by a rush of air pregnant with shopping lust and profit loss. What wasn’t in the air was the plastic smell of a cart. Not a one was visible. As I looked around for an empty cart, a child went by holding a melting popsicle (where did he get a popsicle in Kmart–not a super Kmart, just a Kmart?) and dragging a leash behind him with no pet on its business end. Alright, it’s unusual, but we can deal with unusual…I’ll just keep soldiering forth and try to find a cart. At this point, I felt a little like Rick Grimes waking up in that hospital in Georgia.
Walking through the store I was repeatedly met by images that my mind simply didn’t want to process. A woman with a cart (where the…?) with dozens of composition notebooks covered by a throw rug; a man carrying a cordless drill (with no box) and a 50-pound bag of dog food over his shoulder, a man with a barstool he was wearing like a hat (I couldn’t make that up), a fishing rod and a pair of messenger bags draped over his arm. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t find a cart.
Before long, I found a comforter that liked and began toting it through the store. Continuing my wandering, I found a 14-inch skillet I “needed,” and then a George Foreman grill caught my eye, and a placemat I wanted to repurpose as a side table cloth. And a throw pillow! Oh, I do love a throw pillow–that kept me grounded during this descent into shopping Hades.
Now…no cart, carrying all that crap in a precariously balanced heap towards the front of the store past throngs of shoppers and people staring about looking for carts. I made it to the front of the store and was confronted with lines at every register. Not regular Kmart lines; not even Walmart lines; more like Kings Dominion Drop Zone lines. I claimed a spot in one of the lines and waited…and waited, my arms falling asleep and my hands cramping as I clutched my pyramid of items close and cast furtive glances at my fellow bargain-hunters. After what seemed like an eternity (and it might have been), there was a lady two people in front of me who was frustrated that the place that was closing forever wouldn’t take coupons.
Once I reached the counter I unloaded my goods with the relief most often reserved for someone who just made it through a construction site in a rented white tux. The items were rung up, the total glowing on the LED register screen (that hardly seemed like much savings –20 percent…) and I paid for my purchases.
The shortage of carts only seemed to be eclipsed by the shortage of bags. Downcast, but not defeated, I lugged my goods to the door where a guy who looked a lot like Ving Raines in those ADT commercials demanded my receipt (which was marked by a red “All Sales Final” stamp–begging the question as to what purpose said receipt would serve) and marked it with a yellow highlighter (a la Sam’s Club).
Now I just had to get to my car…I plodded to my vehicle and fished out my keys, delicately balancing my pile as I mashed the “unlock” button on my key fob. I opened the tailgate (I’m still not sure how I did it, maybe I’m a Jedi) and threw my purchases in the back of my Toyota.
I clambered into the driver’s seat and pulled out of the parking lot…feeling a little like Mad Max fleeing the Thunderdome. I drove home and took a quick survey of my goods as I unloaded them. Was a 20-percent discount on these things really worth it? Yes, of course it was.
Like capitalism, on rolls the wagon, now with a fresh comforter and a skillet in case we have an in-wagon meal. Thanks for riding shotgun!
Submitted by Chuck Moss