“To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving the peace”
– George Washington
The other night I was asked (ie. ‘told’) to go to Walmart to pick up Christmas cards I thought my wife and I agreed we wouldn’t be sending out this year. I remember distinctly the conversation we had about the cards being an unnecessary purchase this year.
“You thought wrong.” So said my wife.
Going to Walmart can be an arduous enough task on a regular Wednesday night without Christmas being right around the corner. But this time of year, Walmart’s doors are blasted wide open for the hordes of consumers hungry for last minute items. The aisles are congested with shoppers, parents dragging their crying kids, and the one lady on the motorized scooter taking up the entire greeting card lane (and yet there are still only 3 checkout lanes open). The freaks, mutants, parolees, and parents who come in their pajamas with their kids after midnight even show up. It’s like the worst collection of partygoers at Studio 54 ever (think Grace Jones ten times worse and with three wailing children attached to her hip). So this is not a trip I take lightly. A trip, if I am to survive, I have to prepare for. Did I mention the kids were with me too?
I had to prepare them for the worst too. Lord knows that store looks like day 25 of the zombie apocalypse so I needed everyone on the same page. I turned the television off, because they listen to that better than they listen to me most days. I stood in front of them mustering up as much confidence and courage as I could. I was like George Washington prepping the Continental Army at Valley Forge.
“Ok kids, listen up; we have to go to Walmart.” Groaning ensued.
“I’m not happy about this either but your mother needs us to pick up the Christmas cards.”
“Daddy”, the 9 year old has a question, “I thought we weren’t doing Christmas cards?”
“Neither did I but that’s not the point. The point is, we all have to go to Walmart and we all have to get home from Walmart. This means you two are next to me at all times. No goofing around. We’re not there to browse. I want to get in and get out so we can get back home. I suggest you wear sneakers because we’re going to be moving quickly. We are going for the cards and then we are out of there.”
The 6 year old had a question, “Daddy, can we look at the toys?”
“Did I not just say…no. No toys. Any more questions?” the room was silent, “Good, get your sneakers on and let’s go.”
We pulled in to the parking lot of our Walmart which was like a demolition derby played to the background music of 40 Salvation Army volunteers ringing their bells incessantly. I snuck around to the back of the lot. Parking 3 ‘clicks’ away from the doors was a small price to pay to avoid waiting for the guy with the overflowing cart and a broken wheel try to get through the crosswalk. Not to mention the maniacs given a Class C driver’s license by the state of Pennsylvania all searching for the closest spot to the front.
We started towards the doors. They were already lagging behind.
“Hannah, Emma, let’s go! I want to get home.”
“Daddy”, the 9 year old again, “I’m Miranda and this is my cousin Jessica.”
On the eve of entering the retail battlefield, my kids decided it was time to play pretend time and change their names.
“Miranda. Jessica. Let’s go.”
We bolted past the Salvation Army volunteer. I even looked down as I passed by him (I’m not proud of this but dammit I had a mission to complete). The kids stayed on my heels.
The store was a sensory overload and a grand mal seizure waiting to happen. Christmas music was blaring over loud speakers, a thousand conversations going on all at once, the familiar sound of parents yelling at screaming kids, husbands sighing, and motorized scooters scooting added to the din. People wandered aimlessly all around us holding on to full bags and shopping carts. It was like a busy day at the markets in Calcutta (I’m pretty sure I saw baby pigs skinned and hanging from large rusty hooks by the deli department).
“Hannah, Emma, stay close.”
“Daddy, we’re Miranda and Jessica.” I had to give them credit, they didn’t break character.
“Whoever you are, let’s go so we can get the cards and go home!”
We darted. We ducked. We side stepped. We slid. We turned left. We turned right. We detoured through the lingerie section (I giggled at the granny panties). I used my arm like a machete to chop past bulging racks of clothing and empty carts obstructing our way. When we emerged we were right in front of where we needed to be.
I breathed a sigh of relief that no violence was necessary. Thanks to my detours we barely brushed shoulders with anyone, and the cards had been prepaid so when it was our turn, it took all of 37 seconds to get what we came for.
We made our way out of Walmart faster than the Continental Army left New York in 1776. I had the girls with me and more importantly I had those Christmas cards. The Walmart Campaign of 2011 had been a success.
“That wasn’t too bad. Miranda. Jessica. You did really well. I’m proud of both of you.”
“We’re Hannah and Emma again.”
“Of course you are. Let’s go home.”