1. There was nothing else open and I needed coffee, without which getting up in the morning is not possible, and I wasn’t keen on spending the rest of my days in bed.
2. I thought, No one will be there. They’ll all be home unable to move because they gorged themselves, and are now picking at the leftovers and stuffing more slices of pie down their gullets with a plunger while watching soppy Christmas movies.
Walmart had Black Friday on Thursday! I couldn’t find a parking spot for at least 20 minutes, while I circled in queue with a zillion other would-be shoppers cursing at each other to get out of the way. All I could think was, Wait a minute! I’m a legitimate shopper looking for sustenance, and all you bozos are here to fight in the aisles over TVs the size of billboards and plastic toys made in China.
It seemed fair, on so many levels, that I deserved to park in a spot reserved for the handicapped, but I couldn’t find one of those either. Finally I came upon an amped-up couple unloading cartloads of Christmas booty into their already maxed-out trunk. So I waited with my blinker on as they strained to close the trunk with the rear end of their car sagging dangerously. As soon as they started the process of backing out—which was taking god-awful centuries—I saw cars lined up facing me with blinkers on, too, and cars careening around the corner behind me because they’d seen a parked car move. They were all revving their engines aggressively—it was now a showdown. I used every ounce of wishful thinking I had in me, lips clamped and brows knitted (exactly the facial expression associated with constipation) to make that couple back out in my favor so I could slip in.
They started to turn, and…YES! They backed out toward me and pulled away (after throwing the anchor out in order to complete the agonizingly slow gear shift to drive) and I popped the clutch, squealed the tires, hit the brakes, and claimed the parking spot triumphantly (and not a little spitefully). Ha! you greedy parking space stealers. Take that! There IS justice in the world.
I could barely move when I got out of my car (incidentally, feeling superior and a cut above because I was no longer in the pathetic queue circling the parking lot, and now breathing fresh air with the wind in my hair). My muscles were so stiff from the accumulated tension of parking it took me several spastic steps before the rhythm of walking returned.
And I hadn’t even made it into the store yet.
The first thing I noticed as I entered Walmart was the noise. I stood gaping, in awe, as I suddenly knew what it must feel like to be in a maximum-security prison during a mass mutiny breakout. The din was epic.
The second thing I noticed was that there were no carts. A Walmart greeter at least a hundred years old suggested I find one in the parking lot. I headed back outside. I realized it was going to be a long night. Good thing I was getting coffee. I decided then and there to add various sugar-laden substances to my shopping list as a consolation prize for getting through this—if I got through this.
Now armed with a cart I had chased down, which had been rolling at break-neck speed on its own accord through the parking lot, I entered the fray. But I was faced with roped-off aisles at every turn. Would I be forced to reconnoiter the entire perimeter to find the inroads necessary to access coffee?
Did I mention the crowded aisles? Did I mention that the aisles were so crowded I had to literally bulldoze my way through? Did I mention all the oblivious shoppers I bulldozed past standing in the aisles talking on cell phones with crazed or vacant looks in their eyes? I’m coming through you idiots! my expression screamed. I’m here to get FOOD you greedy Christmas whores!
No one so much as glanced my way. Even if I slammed into their carts with enough force to achieve escape velocity.
The aisles were so jammed, I had to stop a moment in order to concoct an attack strategy. I knew approximately where the coffee was. I debated whether or not it was worth mapping out a route to the cakes and pies. Cakes were in the deli. So were pies. But I liked Marie Calendar’s banana cream pie in the freezer. Dare I try both areas? I may be able to access one and not the other. I bit my bottom lip (which, by the way, looked fetching in pale pink lip gloss) and my eyes popped out my head in alarm as I took in the insanity around me.
I simply could not give up and leave. I had to get coffee. Without coffee, life was not worth living. Suddenly, I thought I heard a chorus of angels singing, “All things are possible, if you believe” amongst the mob madness. Beatific tears pricked my eyes. I reminded myself that I was The Divorce Diva! I could do this! No amount of Walmart Christmas whores was going to prevent me from getting what I wanted!
With angels backing me for support, I turned into The Terminator. My nicely groomed brows leveled over my slits-for-eyes like a shelf. I began scanning the environment with maximum efficiency. I observed weak points in the locked shopping grid. Complex math equations appeared on my corneas. Nothing would stop me now.
I jerked my cart out of the locked grid and headed east to the pharmacy section, where shoppers were frantically sifting through huge cardboard bins of useless Christmas fodder. Notwithstanding minor crashes, accumulated cart velocity served to hack a negotiable path through the clogged terrain. I turned left heading north.
I stiffened my upper lip. I was plowing into the kill zone: the toy section, followed by a mine field: the electronics section. This is when an Arnie-sized Uzi would have come in handy. The ride was bumpy, littered with various and sundry items torn from shelves and rejected.
I saw women wielding carts piled so high with toy boxes, they could only have been prevented from toppling over by some cartoon force powered by the imagination of Dr. Seuss. I saw their men behind them, imitating Hercules, bent over, thighs bulging, carrying TVs too big to fit in the toy-laden carts. I stuck to the main trajectory heading west, past the aisle wars to my right, where Barbies and printers and ipods could be seen colliding and exploding in mid air above the skirmishes vying for the last sale item.
I stayed on course for the grocery section.
Once I got past the beer and liquor section, it wasn’t too bad. There were fewer collisions. Evidently food was not a priority. I took my first breath in ten minutes. It was shaky, and laced with confetti-like particulates from torn packages, but contained enough oxygen to sustain life until I could exit the Black Thursday war zone that was Walmart.
Without too much trouble, I made it to the coffee aisle. I found my dark Italian espresso bag of sustenance and grabbed it with ecstasy. My hands were trembling with elation and exhaustion. I may have been drooling. I would have kissed the bag, but I luckily remembered there was no telling who could have touched this bag carrying who-knew-what diseases.
I felt heartened. One mission accomplished. One more to go. No, two. I thought I would get a pie, and a cake. I deserved it.
The pie was relatively easy since I was on a high from the coffee success, so I didn’t mind squeezing and bumping my way through the ice cream and frozen dessert section (the one grocery aisle aside from liquor with an appreciable crowd). I got a Marie Calendar’s banana cream pie and a smile almost cracked across my face. Cracked, because it was still hardened into Terminator mode.
I headed south again to the deli and produce section. It was roped off. There was no one in it, except for one small area where the ropes opened to more bins of useless Christmas fodder, such as rounds of fruitcake from Germany that nobody eats.
I didn’t think twice. I pulled the rope up and bolted inside the no-access area with determination. I could outrun the centenarians and outwit the overwhelmed holiday help manning the store if it came to that. I raced to the cakes, donuts, cookies, and other health-risk goodies. I scooped up a decadent double-fudge chocolate cakelet and felt the rush of victory wash over me.
Now, to the checkout.
I saw the formed checkout lines but could not discern a way in. I searched and collided and bumped my way around until I came upon a Walmart employee screaming at the top of her lungs, over and over, that the end of the line was at the back of the store.
I raced to the back of the store, careening around the Dr. Seuss carts which must move more carefully through the mob, manned by parents with cell phones glued to their ears talking to their children at home, telling them to brush their teeth or Santa would not come for Christmas.
My logical mind imagined the checkout lines to be straight. Instead, they were roped off in maze-like fashion the entirety of which was impossible to guess at. As soon as I queued up at the back of a line, thinking I would search for a better one, it was too late. I was locked in with shoppers butted up behind me. I was trapped. There was no way out except to resign myself to spending the rest of my night in the Black Thursday insane asylum of a Walmart checkout line, surrounded by humanity at its absolute worst.
At this point, my mind snapped. I began to laugh. As if the ghost of Albert Einstein had whispered the true meaning of existence in my ear, and it was so simple, and why hadn’t anyone realized this before, and a third grader could have figured it out…I laughed out loud, by myself, having my own little unified field theory party in the midst of madness.
I began smiling at everyone. At odd intervals I burst into guffaws for no reason. I shook my head in mirth, knowing that my broken mind was the answer to happiness on Earth. I hummed little Christmas ditties and thought, Gee willikers, I should have bought a box of Christmas cards so I could address them all now while I wait. Giggle, sigh.
The rest is a vague blur of rambling thoughts about skipping through a spring meadow and decorating lilac bushes with Christmas tree lights. Insanity served me well. I made it through the checkout line with little more than a nervous breakdown.
When I finally made it home, I was too exhausted to eat any pie or cake. The irony of that is disturbing. However, I made myself a much-needed latte the next morning with satisfaction.
I find it to be a cruel, cosmic joke that I had never once shopped on Black Friday, but I was led to the experience on a Thursday.
Am I the only one who thinks the world has gone crazy?