Not long ago, I went on a bizarre safari with my parents, to one of those monstrous, membership-driven, continent-sized, discount shopping marts (I can’t spell out the name of the store, because I can spell “lawsuit”). Although I didn’t have a membership, my parents did, so I canceled my mail, got my entry visa stamped and stepped in.
The place was enormous: spacious enough to merit its own postal code, big enough to own its own military base and Congressman (of course, these days, you can buy a Congressman anywhere). As a single guy, I was staggered by the “bulk purchase” options. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, after taking the wrong pill.
Jars of mustard the size of lampshades. Bags of personal plastic cups, 850 per bag. 250 shrink-wrapped slices of American cheese. Rolls of tin foil you could use to re-roof a house. Pallets — PALLETS — of laundry detergent.
I saw a box of Wheat Thins you could stand on to paint the ceiling. An ark of animal crackers that no airline would accept as carry-on baggage. A hogshead of syrup that would send half of Hollywood spiraling into a sugar coma. A colossal container of liquid soap that I couldn’t use in three lifetimes – I would have to bequeath it in my will.
As a single guy, I can’t consume a bag of shredded lettuce before the looming expiration date. I end up prowling the pantry, looking for things to throw lettuce on, at, in or under, baking lettuce on toast, strewing lettuce in the yard for colon-conscious birds, offering cups of lettuce to my neighbors.
I saw 50-pound bags of sugar. In my fridge at home, I’ve had a 2-pound bag of sugar since, roughly, the Nixon administration. I noticed … and it’s probably not a coincidence … that from a cloud-shrouded shelf high above the sugar bales, you can buy a full-sized couch.
While shopping, you can also snack on samples, which is a good idea, because shoppers have gone missing for days, and were semi-conscious and famished before finally being located by geo-positioning satellites. It’s just not temporally possible to get from one side of the store to the other in one lifetime. In one aisle, I saw an elderly gentleman embracing his grandchild, dispensing advice and pointing him to the next aisle. The patriarch handed his compass, staff and shopping list to the earnest child, tearfully surrendered his shopping cart, and then laid down and died. Four minutes later, he had been tagged “Marked Down!” and somebody bought him.
In this one building, you can find a realtor to find you a house, or hire a builder to construct one, furnish it, pick out tile, countertops & window treatments, buy a fridge, stock it, have your prescription filled and your eyes & ears checked, choose an entire fall wardrobe, and pick up a new pickup, with a spare set of tires, to drive all the loot home … and fill up the truck with gas … all while waiting for your photos to be developed.
They also have their own liquor store, but next to, not in, the main bazaar. I don’t know why they segregated alcohol, but I’m guessing that Baptists were involved. Or maybe it’s for those in a hurry: those enterprising binge drinkers who miscalculated the rush hour traffic, ran dry in mid-road-rage, and need to pop by for a quick purchase, before weaving back into the middle of two lanes. Busy, busy, busy. I got things to do, places to go, people to hit.
For all I know, somewhere in the store’s distant back acreage there’s a full casino, complete with “personal massage therapists,” a surgical ward and Labor & Delivery unit, a full K-through-12 education system, a retirement community and a crematorium. I don’t know. Maybe that’s what I missed by not having a membership.
But at the end of day, using my parents’ credentials, I bought what, by my math, will be a 15-year supply of kitchen garbage bags. Cost me three bucks.
I’ll be needing them when I toss out my 239 expired slices of cheese.