of a Wal-Mart consumer:
(or, I bought cheap plastic crap ar Wal-Mart)
by gloria good
I decided to buy a baby pool for my dog. This was a strange reversal
of economic policy, as I hadnt even bought a baby pool for my
actual baby. (And she was almost nine.)
Lucy barked at the washing machine the whole time that it was runningthe
happy bark. She persistently brought home live turtles; dead, dried-up
squirrels; and turkey carcasses to gnaw on in front of crying children.
She jumped into every full bathtub and shower we took for almost a year.
She was a virtual blur of action and excitement. And I really do not
function well in an environment of action and excitement.
considered buying her a flock of sheep, to give her something constructive
to do. But money issues whittled down my choices of backyard fun. I
had to do something, thoughthe new, insane dog was taking up my
all free time, and the house was a vortex of pure, swirling evil. The
only time I had to read was when Lucy was on top of the car, asleep.
A baby pool began to seem like a darn fine idea.
called K-mart, but it was the end of the summer, and they were out of
pools. It was imperative, however, to my mental state that I bought
a pool THAT VERY DAY. This meant one thing. It meant that I was going
to have to break my boycott of Wal-Mart.
did not feel good about this. Wal-Mart exposure causes me to brood and
stew about our obvious eventual extinction. And I did not enjoy the
prospect of buying products that were lovingly handcrafted by machines
run by juvenile slaves. As a mother, that is very bad karma, and I expected
to be roundly punished for it. (Furthermore, certain snippety activists
were going to make comments. They know who they are.) But I was desperate
for reading time.
still had enough tattered shreds of integrity to have some minor
restrictions: The pool had to be a demonstration model, and drastically
reduced in price. And the pool would then have to become a sort
of family heirloom, to be handed down for generations. Maybe I could
fill it up with dried beans someday (when Lucy was calmeror
better yet, dead) and we could, well, lay in it. It could become
the family reading pit. I would have to get a good job, of course,
to get a bigger house to accommodate it
maybe I could eventually
remarry. But we could deal with that later.
grimly drove to Wal-Mart, but ended up parking down the road at Office
Depot. One of my two bumper stickers could be construed as mildly
anti-Wal-Mart, referring to Wal-Mart as your source for cheap plastic crap.
This was, of course, completely true, in the descriptive sense. But
some people may have found the word crap to have pejorative
connotations. You know, sensitive people. I didnt want some
nice, elderly employee upset by itmaybe Gwendolyn or Ed didnt
know about the children in bondage making sneakers for 24 cents
right, all right, so I was feeling squeamish about the blatant hypocrisy
thing, and I didnt feel like being called on it! I had to get
that pool! Stealth was the ticket. There would be plenty of time for
public remorse and atonement later.
Unbelievably, everything went as planned. The only pool available was
the battered display model out front. The right people were contacted.
A deal was cut. Money was exchanged. I was feeling pretty smooth. I
was getting away with it! Now all I had to do was this: run and get
the car, pull up front, pop the pool in the back of the car, and scoot
on out of there. Pop and scoot! Pop and scoot! Piece of cake.
I pulled right up to that huge bright-blue piece of plastic crap, and
I dragged that thing to the car andoops, it was a lot heavier
than I thought it would be, heh heh, just had to heft that baby up a
Thats funny. I didnt think of that. I am very good at guessing
peoples weight, but I guess Im not very good at guessing
the size of pools. The pool was about five feet wider than the back
of my car. That is quite an error in judgment. Five feetwell,
I am five foot three. So thats like an entire one of me. I wondered
if it weighed as much as I did. That would be very bad news, indeed,
as I dont have a lot of upper-body strength.
as this horrible realization was washing over meand I was standing
there, under the pitiless sun, surrounded by happy families (all with
blue plastic bags, strained to possible explosion, full of their very
own plastic crap)just then a kindly, elderly employee came over
to help. It turned out that Bob had worked for most of his long, adult
life in the field of hauling, and I guess that he could sense that I
was at a deficit in this department. He volunteered to get me some twine.
He did not seem to notice the impertinent bumper sticker, dissing his
soon as his back was turned, I got a burst of adrenaline, fueled
by horror. I pushed that piece of big, heavy crap up against the
the car, and then somehow managed to slide it up the side and over
the top. Ha!
got back with the twine, I began throwing twine everywhere--hoping
to somehow thoughtlessly affix the pool to the car,
by dint of manic energy alone. (Plus, if I kept moving, maybe Bob
wouldn't notice the bumper sticker on my car--which I now found to
be senselessly cruel, as the happy beneficiary of Bob's twine.)
"Slow down, young lady!" Bob
said, apparently needing glasses, as I was
almost forty. "It's better to go slow and do it right the first
than to go too fast and have to do it twice."
"I agree!" I said, whipping that twine every which way but
my daughter and I always say, sometimes the easy way is the hard way!"
did not seem to assuage his concern. I was rushing around the car
like Speedy Gonzales. He watched my performance for a few moments
and then tried again.
really think it would be a good idea for you to slow down and
focus...or you could pay for it later, with a big disaster on the
so busy plying my craft that the word "disaster" didn't
usual morbid and off-putting charge it generally has for me.
"Uh huh!" I
beamed at him, as I tied knots in random and
counter-intuitive places. "Like the Zen phrase says, 'when we
try to go
quick, quick, we often end up going slow, slow!'"
on the twine to check the tension, and the somewhat taut system I
had created fell into loose loops. I renewed my work with
vigor and a fresh infusion of twine.
"Gotta get going!" I told him. "I
have to get my daughter at school in
"Your daughter is at school, and safe and cared for," Bob
reasonably. "It won't matter if you're a few minutes late--especially
if it averts disaster."
That word again!
"I'm out of gas, too," I
now looked like the web of a spider on LSD. I put some finishing,
useless touches on it. I was determined to skeedaddle. It
was the first day of school and if I was late, India would be anxious.
And I'd look like the queen of the loser moms. As usual!
"Good enough!" I
said. I slapped my hands together, as if completing
some particularly satisfying work. "I'm off!"
I handed Bob the rest of the twine. He looked downright depressed.
"Keep it," he said. "You may need it.... Go slowly," he
"I'll do it!" I
said. I gave him an enthusiastic, double-handed
thumbs-up. Even when I'm relaxed, I apparently have the appearance
being on amphetamines. Bob did not seem convinced.
into the car, put on my blinkers, and cruised through the parking
lot--very... slowly.... Bob waved at me, wanly.
feel the pool budging on the roof of the car already, which did
not seem like a good thing. I was only going about a half a mile an
hour, on level ground. Just wait until I got on the highway, I thought,
and onto all those hills.
stand to be in the Wal-Mart parking lot for another second--with
that bumper sticker about cheap, plastic crap on my car--and with
the biggest, cheapest piece of goddamned, plastic crap imaginable,
strapped on top of my car just above it.
the steering wheel tightly, trying to swallow my panic. So
this is it, I thought. This is where I get punished for being weak
breaking my boycott--all for the pathetic gain of personal reading
time. This is where I get punished for buying cheap, plastic crap.
I had thought that the punishment would come later.... Much later.
did not seem fair. I am such a small player in the environmental
degradation game. Others, with far more reach than I, operate with
seeming impunity: Monsanto markets genetically engineered organisms,
which could eventually disrupt global food production, and life
as we know it. Thats
pretty bad! And what about Union Carbide? Or Exxon? How about Dowanyone
remember a little thing called Agent Orange? Hello?
these crimes warrant a stern rebuke, at the very least. But, no.
God, the micromanager, who cant seem to see the forest for
the cut-down trees, slams me over a ten-dollar baby pool
its because Im not a corporation. Maybe they really
arent accountable, after all.
I made it about a half of a mile. I was in the right-hand lane, and
all the other cars were staying very far away from me. As I glanced
in my rear view window, I saw the car nearest to me moving urgently
into the left lane, so I figured that it was probably happening at
you know, when that pool finally did groan and heave off the roof of
my car, it was such a relief. The dread was over. And, might I add,
the stupendous piece of crap sailed beautifully. It was a magnificent
sightas if some mythical smiley face had come magically to life
and taken flight.
landed gracefully in the front yard of the Beverly Hills Baptist Church.
As I was pulling into the parking lot, I was alerted to another, lesser,
groaning and heaving. I was surprised to see an identical bright blue
baby pool sail off of my car into the opposite direction. Well, that
was strange. I seemed to have accidentally stolen a pool.
dragged the pools behind a wall, sandwiched them back together, and
drove to the gas station. I gassed up. I picked up my daughter at school,
and then drove to another neighborhood, to pick up her two friends.
I traded my car for their fathers van, and the girls and I went
back to the church.
was then forced to learn that I was still not good at judging the size
of pools, despite the days valuable lessons. The pools were not
going to even remotely fit into the opening of Franks van. The
girls laughed and laughed at me.
I dragged the pools back behind the wall. I threw the girls back into
the van. I drove the girls to my house, just to be rid of them, and
their sardonic taunting. And then I drove back to Franks house,
traded the van for my car, and drove back to the church.
in the parking lot, I was displeased to note that the church preschool
was letting out. So I had plenty of inquisitive by-standers to make
was further displeased to note that my other bumper sticker was causing
me to be the butt of embarrassing irony once again: it read, Jesus
is coming. Look busy.
the fact that I was very busy in front of a church, making a damned
fool of myself, this could have been construed to be amusing, by evil
(However, I was relieved that I had not bought that other bumper stickerthe
one about the School of Assassins. If all my bumper stickers were going
to figure prominently in one day, I may have at least avoided a confrontation
with trained killers.)
woman with a three-year-old stood nearby for a while, watching my artistry
with the twine.
got the smaller pool, she finally told me, because I couldnt
figure out how to get the bigger pool home.
I said, making my strategic knots, isnt that funny! Because
when I bought the pool, I didnt even notice that it was big. Ha!
guess thats the difference between the two of us, I fumed, as
the blond Baptist and her staring toddler drove away. Normally, I never
would have even bought a piece of plastic crap like this, to begin with,
let alone admit to itand now here I was, being forced to own up
to it in front of hundreds of people. I was like the Hester Prynne of
the contemporary world.
somehow managed to keenly assess the situation and be effective. This
time the pools were on there tight as a drum. So I drove home, cut the
pools loose, and filled them up.
when I found out that one of the pools had a hole in it. So I now have
two pools for lifeone of them unusable as an actual pool. But
I am sure that some creative use will pop into my mind, eventually.
for the pool-pool, Lucy is not really interested in it. Of course. But
India and her friends love it, despite the fact that they are basically
way too old and big for it. They inch down that one-foot-long baby slide
for hours a daynaked, and spectacularly surrounded by millions
of dish soap bubbles. Its not exactly what I had in mind at all.
And with all that soap, I cant even reuse the water in the garden.
Its a fantasy romp for children, and an environmentalists
a brief nap on top of the car, Lucy watches the girls from afar. She
is looking inscrutable, while gnawing on the shell of a live turtle.
Then, when everybody feels secure, she dive-bombs into the pool, biting
and scratching the naked children. Everybody ends up screaming and crying,
including me. Im sure the neighbors love us. I should be hearing
about my nomination for Asheville Mother of the Year any day now.
in Asheville NC.