Kaya was just 10 months old and this was Rene's first time out of Europe. I kept reassuring him he'd be fine, I spent much of my childhood in Florida, he's going to love it, and he'll find driving won't be that difficult after all. The roads are big and the cars are automatic. It was late at night when we finally arrived after delays. The first thing he did after exiting the airport area was try to turn onto the wrong side of the road on a major highway. Oops. Enter anxiety and quarreling here.
We got lost and drove 1.5 hours away from our intended destination. Kaya was screaming for her life in the back seat and we were tossing a giant map back and forth and getting tangled in it. We finally arrived at the hotel in the wee hours of the morning, just to be told it had been flooded and they reserved a room for us in a hotel. It's only a few miles away. There was no way we were getting back in that car so after a little intense discussion they got us a cab which took us straight to the hotel without any detour.
After we slept off the stress we got our rental back and decided to try to go some place and enjoy our vacation. We were intimidated by the vastness and unfamiliarity of America and weren't enjoying ourselves a whole lot. Until we figured out the route to Walmart.
Insert angelic singing here.
We were sorted. We pretty much spent the next week in Walmart, getting lost in it many times and reveling in the wonder of the huge shelves stacked high with colorful packaging and bold colors and fonts. The clothes were so cheap we bought a new suitcase to bring home as much as we could stuff into it. There was a Dunkin' Donuts near the entrance and lots of new food types with high fructose corn syrup which was a new wonder to us peeps from glucose syrup land. So we spent the vacation going from hotel room to Walmart to hotel room and so forth. It provided food, entertainment and miscellaneous other shopping.
We aren't the only ones. Whenever friends and family come to visit from Scotland, one of the first places they want to visit is, Walmart *insert angelic singing again*. In fact, after 4 weeks of crazy fixing up, packing up and selling our house, getting visas, saying goodbye and leaving the country for an International move with 2 young kids on tow and another one due in 5 weeks, on arriving in the freezing cold Northern Maine in the middle of a blizzard after not sleeping for about 50 hours, one of the first things Rene and I both wanted to do was go to Walmart. We were chomping at the bit. We had moved to the land with streets paved with cheese (or is it supposed to be gold? I watched too much American Tale) and we wanted to jump straight in to this beautiful, materialistic society. It was all such novelty.
I guess we bought into the golden arrow thing that they talk about on The Story of Stuff (click on it! It's a fun 20 minutes of online watching. The kids will enjoy it too)
Of course, the novelty wore off soon enough. We realized we are the poster family for People of Walmart . The obese couple with lots of unruly kids wearing pjs and sporting messy, unbrushed hairstyles. We started to notice how you walk into Walmart to do your weekly grocery shop and you enter some time warp. You come back out hours later hanging onto your sanity by a thread. In the interim, you've exhausted yourself walking around this miles long store, just to realize you forgot something back on aisle 1 and will need to go back for it, dragging unwilling children behind. You've become involved in more than a couple lovers tiffs over whether or not you should buy this brand or that or why they didn't check if we were out of paprika like you asked them to. And the People of Walmart around you are loving this free entertainment and don't mind at all if they start at you. You walk out the door frustrated, exhausted and confused as to how on earth you came out spending twice your budget after you planned it out so carefully.
I watched an interesting bit of propaganda recently called Walmart, High Cost of Low Prices. You can watch it online, and I suggest that you do. Click here to watch online via google video. It's also on netflix view immediately.
And Rene and I have decided to boycott Walmart for a year. Jan 2010 til Jan 2011. Hopefully by then we'll be quite out of the habit and won't go back to Walmart ever again. I'd like to say our reasons for this were noble. But mostly I am just so sick to death of shopping there. I can't stand the place. The produce is so bad. The store smells bad and is dirty. The kids almost always catch a virus after we've shopped there. We lose half a day of our lives just trying to shop for our basic needs every week. We always end up fighting. I grew weary of waiting in line for an excessive amount of time before the senile chic behind the counter finally remembers where she is and why and decides to start serving people. It's just. not. worth. it.
Thankfully here in Lincoln we have many other options. And Rene and I are having fun visiting the other grocery stores and choosing our favorites. We might need to visit a few places now instead of getting everything from one place. Kind of like how it used to be, the butchers, the bakers and the candlestick makers. We have one place we prefer for produce, another for grains etc. It won't cost a whole lot more than shopping at Walmart if we plan properly and go to the right places. We're buying more local produce and supporting smaller, local businesses.
Don't get me wrong, I am fully aware that Walmart is being made a bit of a scape goat in this. It represents the epitome of American capitalism and extreme consumerism. It's not just all about Walmart. But this is a little thing we can do that can be a small contribution to a big issue. Lots of small contributions can have a big impact.
And it's such a relief to drive past Walmart (hold the angelic singing voices please, they're driving me crazy) and know that we don't have to go in there!