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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Shopping Zombies

As I approached the intersection of the parking lot that would lead to the center aisle in front of our local big box department discount store I noticed an unusually large number of people walking toward the entrance. “Wow!” I mused, “What are they giving away to bring all these people out today?” Once inside, with my list in hand I perceived that there weren’t actually that many people in the store. Guess we just all happened to arrive at the same time.
I was walking toward the grocery department, trying to figure out where everything is now that the holidays are over and they have done some rearranging. I just hate it when they rearrange everything in a store, I am the kind of shopper that just wants to get in, get my stuff, and get out, and rearrangement makes it nearly impossible to do that. As I was looking around I noticed something about my fellow shoppers. They were all walking around (as I’m sure I was) with a glazed, zombie like expression. As if once inside the store something takes over the mind. On a few of the faces I thought I recognized the same thing I was feeling, an overwhelming sense of confusion brought on by too much information to process quickly. Occasionally one of us would stop and look around, like a small child who has lost sight of his mother, until we found the direction we needed to go. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I don’t truly enjoy shopping. I don’t think that I’ve seen the same expression on the faces of the shoppers at a small out door market that I’ve seen in a magazine or a clip on the TV. Those people all seem to have their wits about them and know exactly what they are looking for and which stall to find it at.
The same thing happens at those big home improvement stores. I don’t recall my father ever walking into our local hardware store and looking around as if he was lost. Then again, in my father’s day there would be a nice friendly clerk around to say hello and ask if he needed assistance. It was a different time. Last winter, on the night before a big storm was expected, we realized that we were too low on ice melter to be able to wait until another day to buy some. I remember that parking spots were hard to come by and that once inside the huge cavern of hardware & home improvement, we became confused. We did stop at the courtesy desk and inquire as to the whereabouts of ice melter. The woman working pointed us in the general direction and off we went with our empty shopping cart. As we walked, I felt the need to look behind me and suddenly it was like a scene from some bizzarr remake of “Night of the Living Dead: Suburban Winter” as there were what seemed like hoards of fellow ice melter searching zombies following behind. We picked up the pace and arrived in time to see the last bag being loaded into someone else’s cart. Standing there, looking around in eye glazed confusion wondering among ourselves how it could be that there was no more ice melter, one of us over heard two employees talking about a “secret stash” of ice melter in the corner of the contractor’s entrance behind the lift truck. “Quick!” I urged my husband, “Go get a bag!” He was already on his way, but so were about 6 other male zombies, who had heard of the secret stash. One man with his zombie like strength jumped over the forks of the lift truck and was loading several bags into his cart. The people who arrived shortly after the initial word got out rushed over and I lost sight of my husband for a minute or two. Anxiously my daughter and I waited, not breathing, until finally he emerged triumphantly carrying a bag of ice melter. It was a sad thing to witness those who were not so lucky, looking on in consternation at the empty pallet and the bag of ice melter in the carts of those of us who were lucky enough to have arrived in time. Next, it was a race to the registers. No one wanted to linger lest things turned ugly and people started stealing the ice melter they desperately needed. Clearly those jumbo sized stores are not good for our brain function.
Fortunately for the general well being of our society the zombie like trance of the big box stores mostly disappears once we are out of them. With any luck, I won’t have any need to visit one of them any time soon.

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