I went to my neighbourhood Walmart yesterday. You know the one, I’ve written about it before. It’s small, it’s crowded, the aisles are so narrow two carts can barely pass. It’s a place that would curdle the cream in the coffee of the White supremacist. Maybe one face in eight is your identifiably “White” European. The majority of shoppers are Arab, East Indian, Latino, Asian or African, and many wear clothing which reflects their culture.
People, complete strangers, stop and talk to each other in the aisles. The last time I went I fell into a 20 minute conversation in the cat food aisle with a man who cares for the feral cat population in his neighbourhood. He feeds them, provides clean, fresh water and warm housing, and keeps an eye on them. And one-by-one he has trapped them, and with a local cat rescue society, has had them neutered or spayed, vaccinated, treated for any medical problems, microchipped, accessed for suitability for adoption, and if they are too wild, they are returned to their feral colony. Bless him, he moves the old and infirm inside, where they aren’t exposed to our brutal winters.
He told me of one 11-year-old he’s cared for since he was a kitten. He now suffers from kidney failure, has been moved inside and lives on their dining room table. “We never eat on it anyway,” he said. “I just did paperwork on it, and he feels safest there.” He was buying the same food we bought for Patches when his kidneys were failing. So this lovely man was buying the most expensive cat food for an old feral cat who won’t even tolerate being touched.
In the dairy aisle someone might hold up a packet of paneer and ask a woman wearing a sari, “What’s this? How do you use it?”, and learn how to make spinach paneer. Or the reverse, new immigrants are helped to find familiar products in unfamiliar packaging. The beauty of newborns of all colours and ethnicities are admired. The world comes to “my” Walmart and I love the place.
So yesterday while I was buying cat food for my mob of two I had an unusual experience. A youngish woman, mid-late 30s, joined me in the aisle. I will call her Jix. I was straining to reach the flavour of food Smokey has decided he likes best. It was on the top shelf, which is just above my reach. Jix saw me struggling to reach the cans and asked how many I wanted. I told her I needed ten, which she pulled off the shelf and dropped into my cart. I thanked her, and joked that no matter what flavour I needed it always seemed to be on the top shelf.
At this Jix went into a tirade about how much she hated this Walmart, saying it was an evil, foul, stinking hell-hole and she could barely bring herself to set foot in the door. And she had to take two buses to get here! And the people! They were horrible! Rude and nasty, she’d had so many terrible experiences with the awful people in this store you’d have to listen half a day to hear about them all. “I hate people!” she said, “After I leave this store I just want to go home, lock my door, draw the curtains and go to bed, I HATE people!”
At this point a young woman clerk arrived with two very large boxes of cat litter in a cart. These were larger than any on the shelves, so presumably had been ordered on-line and held for her pickup. The clerk smiled and called Jix by (her real) name and asked if she would need help putting them into her car. Jix replied angrily she was going home by cab, which was going to cost her $15 and the &%$ driver could ^%$#*&^ well put them into the cab.
I asked, rather tentatively, which direction was “home” for her? I told her I had just started my shopping but I didn’t have a long list, and I’d be happy to take her home on my way. There are benches in the mezzanine outside the store, where she could have waited comfortably.
“I don’t have the patience for that!” she replied. “I don’t want to be in this dump a minute longer than I have to be.”
So I went on my way, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Stopped in the Micky D’s for a snack when my legs started shaking, took my meds and struck up a conversation with a group of three ladies about my age at the next table who were having an “organ recital” - you know, talking about their health problems among other things. I’d popped a wrist bone out of place during the night and was wearing a wrist brace, so questions were asked.
When it came time to check out in the line next to me was a young mother with boys of seven, five and a newborn. I am a sucker for wee babies, so I had to have a good look at this lovely new human, who was being held by his grandmother. Although Mama was dressed like a modern Canadian business woman, Grandmama was wearing the black burka of her homeland. She spoke excellent English, so we were able to talk about the beauty of the new baby and the exhaustion that caring for a newborn brings. I wished them health and joy with their lovely family and pushed on with my cart. When I glanced back over my shoulder to give Grandmama a wave I was surprised to see she was wiping away tears.
“My” Walmart, evil, foul, hell-hole? I think not. And the people there? Horrible, rude, nasty? Not from my perspective. But then I think of a quote I read, don’t know who it came from but it fits:
ATTITUDE: The difference between ordeal and adventure.