Irmageddon, Wal-Mart and Hoarding

This is my second attempt to put words to paper, as it were.  This idea began to gel as I was driving home from Wal-Mart earlier.  I have friends that thoroughly detest Wal-Mart, not just the store itself, but the injustice they perceive that Sam Walton and his heirs has visited on America.

But for me, Wal-Mart is an adventure every time I go for a visit.  I don’t look at it as going shopping, nope, its a visit with a few hundred strangers all doing the same thing, preparing for the next few days.  I use the term strangers because I moved three years ago and outside of work, my family and my customers, I don’t really know anyone.  My neighbor is simply “Porkchop” and I usually see him to talk about every other week.

But the people I see at Wal-Mart, well, they are special and today was no different, it was a treat that I really hadn’t expected.  As I sit here sharing with you, Irma has been wreaking havoc on Florida for several hours now and totally dominating the news cycle.  Like everyone else, I think I have seen my lifetime quotient of rain gear clad reporters standing in running water, commenting on fallen palm fronds and pounding surf all the while pointing out the painfully obvious, its not safe to be were they are reporting from.

There is no relief from these weather warriors on social media either.  Every local TV meteorologist is busy tweeting and posting on Facebook your local likelihood of wind and rain, even though you may be 600 miles from Irma’s eye.  Well that’s me today, about 600 miles away but not entirely safe from 40 MPH winds and 3 to 6 inches of rain

One of the things that I can’t seem to escape on social media is the video of how to charge your phone when the power goes out.  We’ve all seen it.  You know, the 9 volt battery, your car charger and the spring out of an ink pen.  Followed by the comments & testimonials from your friends and followers who all swear that it works.

Since today is my day off and Irmageddon is now just under 24 hours away for the Upstate of my beloved state, I decided to make an appropriate shopping list and venture out to my nearest Wal-Mart Supercenter.  I must mention that since Harvey dropped a few feet of water on Houston and the Texas gulf coast in general, I’ve been visiting the grocery store every couple of days.

I’ve done this to protect myself from shortages and price gouging.  During Harvey it was everywhere I looked that pipelines carrying gasoline from Houston to the east coast were being shut down and there would be no gas.  In just a few days the price of gasoline went from under $2.00 a gallon to $2.49 a gallon and I responded accordingly by topping off my gas tank every three or four days.

Normally, I can drive for nearly two weeks on a tank since I only drive about 15 miles a day.  This brings me to hoarding, which was genetically passed on to me by my Mom.  My Mom, like my Dad, was born during the depression and lived an early life of doing without or having basic necessities rationed during World War II.  My Dad was the oldest of five, my Mom was the youngest of four and like my Dad, both of her parents were employed in the textile mills.

Being an only child, in the post World War II baby boomer era, things were better for me growing up.  My Dad worked for the textile company, but he had a good job, managed his money well and that allowed my Mom to stop working when I was young.  We didn’t live an extravagant life, Mom and Dad managed their money well, but we ate well, lived in a comfortable home and enjoyed a yearly vacation to the beach in late spring .

However, my Mom, did have a tendency to accumulate things.  Not everything, but things like towels.  If they were on sale, Mom bought towels.  I mean you take bath everyday, right?  So what if there are only three people in the house and one washing machine always present?  Something could happen to the washing machine, so why not have 24 sets of towels and washcloths?  Eight days is an eternity, if the washing machine goes out.

Mom’s tendency accelerated when my first daughter was born.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was showing tendencies of early onset of Alzheimer’s.  The purchases were now for the benefit of her granddaughter, not herself or my Dad.  If Crayola sidewalk chalk was on sale, you can’t have too many packs in the closet where the towels were stored, right?

If Kraft macaroni and cheese box dinners were buy one get one free, why buy four when eight will just fit into the kitchen cabinet if you work at it.  Which brings me to my trip to Wal-Mart today.  I had a short list, beer, 9 volt batteries to recharge my phone when the power went out and light bulbs.  If the power goes out, you don’t need light bulbs, and I had no pressing need for light bulbs, but they were part of my justification to go to Wal-Mart.

Now, as I said earlier, a trip to Wal-Mart is a visit with America.  At work, I’m somewhat insulated as I sell Subarus.  Not every walk of America wants or needs a Subaru, and those that do, can easily afford them and thus they are actually an easy sell.  When I have sold more mainstream cars, I’ve been in contact with folks that either direly needed a new car, could barely afford a car, or came out to shop for cars when their power had been disconnected for non-payment, and decided to get out of the house because the air conditioning wasn’t working.

Those are the people of Wal-Mart.  Not all of them, but the folks I don’t see every day.  But today was special.  The place was packed for an early Sunday afternoon, remember Irma?  As I walked in the door, I checked for a buggy with four wheels that tracked straight and didn’t make an embarrassing noise and wobble and off I went.

My first stop was the battery carousel behind the express checkout stations.  There they were 9-volt batteries and since I was there, why not an 8 pack of Double A batteries?  They fit my TV remote, the mouse for my computer and all the clocks in my house, never mind that the TV and my computer will probably not work if Irma denies me power for a few days.

Down to the household aisle and I found a 4 pack of LED light bulbs for only $22.22, what a bargain!  Then for only another $3.96 I scored an LED tap on light(that only needs 3 AA batteries, well I’m set.  And I’m only down about $39 at this point and have found an immediate use for 3 of my 8 new AA batteries.

By the time I get to the grocery section, I’m confronted with a new type of customer that I’m not used to seeing in Wal-Mart.  It’s the husband doing reconnaissance by smart phone with his wife.  You see it occasionally, the guy on the phone talking to his superior, describing in detail the product he was sent in search of, only to be told, that its the wrong brand, size or doesn’t have the proper seasoning.  It’s somehow emasculating to watch.

I was in search of a simple 18 pack of beer, but no, the only option was 12 packs.  OK, what to do, buy the 12 pack and get back out in the remnants of Irma in a few days and purchase more mid-week, or get two 12 packs now.  Obvious answer.

Well the rest of my trip was shot, except for the lady in her mid 40’s in the spandex pants and heavy eye liner that met me head on about every aisle, no I didn’t do it on purpose, but we did wind up in the check out line together.  So after setting out for a visit with America at Wal-Mart this afternoon and donating an extra $5 to the Red Cross, my total was $116.13.

The basic list was beer, batteries and light bulbs and I spent $116, WTF?  I didn’t mention the two pork loins now simmering in the crockpot.  And the best part of the visit was the pass I made through the meat department.  There was an older gentleman on his knees busily restocking the prepackaged meat section which looked as though everything had been “buy one get one free all weekend”.

I said hello and engaged him in a short conversation about his labor.  He told me, “honestly, you’d think the forecast was for 15 inches of snow and it’s been like that since Thursday”.  I smiled as I added a 2 lb pack of sliced turkey, which should last me to Thanksgiving, to my shopping cart along with 2 lbs of sliced cheese.

As I was driving home, it dawned on me that I had forgotten to buy ink pens, you know the click type with the spring I could remove to charge my cell phone.  I use a pen that has a removable top and have for the last 40 years.  Incidentally, I have an unopened three pack of those in my computer bag.  Thanks Mom.

When I get home and am getting my $116.13 of purchases out of the plastic bags, I take the unneeded light bulbs to the closet where they shall reside until the next one burns out, I found my jump box for my car.  I bought it about two years ago specifically because it has a USB port to charge a phone or a laptop in the event of power loss.

So here I sit, with the smell of two pork loins simmering in the crock pot filling my apartment.  My jump box is on the floor charging, my Mophie is plugged into my laptop, I have charged my old cell phone and turned it off knowing that if worse comes to worse, I can switch my SIM card back to my old phone and still communicate with my daughters and the outside world while I am 600 miles away from Irmageddon, 5 miles away from Wal-Mart and never more than a smile away from my Mom.

Thanks Mom.  You’ve been gone for a little more than 10 years and I just want you to know, I miss you, but especially want you to know that you live on through your son.

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