The Walmart Syndrome and kitchen anthropology ~

Today I went to Bed Bath & Beyond to buy an apple corer. I left with seventy-two dollars’ worth of stuff. After doing a double-take at the checkout counter, I finally accepted something I knew all along was true: Part 2 of The Walmart Syndrome applies to more than just Walmart.

The Walmart Syndrome comprises (1) enervation and (2) mission creep. Enervation, in my case, is a simple equation. Upon walking through the doors of a Walmart, I feel a slight malaise take hold. By minute 10, my feet hurt. By minute 20, my legs hurt. By minute 30, if not before, profound fatigue sets in, as well as an encroaching feeling of hopelessness at the state of humanity. And at minute 45 (god forbid, but Walmart trips can last this long if you must venture into the women’s clothing section), my blood sugar plummets. If screaming children are involved at any point in this journey, add a headache caused by my neuronal pathways twisting into aberrant shapes.

I expect enervation, but mission creep is more pernicious because I persist in believing I can avoid it, at least this one time. This belief flies in the face of all evidence. Last week, for instance, I discovered that I simply could not avoid a Walmart trip for four items not available at my local Walgreens. When I checked out, I couldn’t use the 20-item express lane because my cart was too full. (This is embarrassing to admit, but when I began this blog my life became an open book.)

For many people (and believe me, I’ve asked), mission creep appears to be inevitable. I’m sure Walmart counts on this. As I wrestle my cart through the too-narrow aisles, I can’t help but notice things that I need to stock up on but failed to put on my list. So mission creep has some value, because it helps reduce the frequency of Walmart trips and thus adds a token amount to what little peace and harmony remains in the world. I rejoice that I can usually get by with one Walmart trip a month. Still, the sheer scale of mission creep always shocks me. In that connection, I’ve learned to accept certain purchasing oddities. For example, I always think I’m almost out of business-size envelopes, so now I have three boxes in my desk; and I can’t explain why I have several bottles of Motrin. Well, maybe I can: Reaching for painkillers may simply be a natural reaction to being inside a Walmart.

Other aspects of mission creep distress me more; somehow I just end up with stuff, no matter how much I try to guard against it. In my case a lot of this stuff gets returned. There’s a rationale for all of it (new pillows for my new couch, although I wasn’t sure they’d be quite right, and they weren’t; leggings for physical therapy that I knew perfectly well would not fit, but I had to try). The next day, back went the pillows and the leggings.

Today, in Bed Bath & Beyond (aka B3), I was happy to finally find a comfortable reacher (I’ve been looking for one for months). I also recently discovered that I have a distressingly pressing need for some kind of vacuum attachment to clean out my dryer duct, which is lined with an entrenched, thickly matted layer of dog hair and lint. I found such an attachment at B3, and I figure that purchase was justifiable since it may keep my house from burning down. A little black wedge halfway between the texture of sponge and pumice promised to pick up dog hair, so I gambled on that, a foolish mistake since it will probably be uncleanable.

Finally, I bought a small vegetable chopper. Despite the condition of my wrists, which are permanently weakened from years of tendinitis, I can’t justify this at all. I mean, you first have to cut the vegetables in chunks to put them in the chopper for finer cutting, and then afterward you have to clean the chopper, a device with (presumably) sharp blades. Why not just do all the cutting with a knife and throw away the chopper? This purchase will probably be returned along with the apple corer, which I have no actual expectation of working.

As I was perusing B3’s kitchen section, I became aware of a whole utensil world most of which was heretofore unknown to me. Exploring the racks made me feel like an anthropologist parsing a tribe to which I did not belong. If a person bought all of these specialized utensils, it would take longer to find the one you wanted than to simply hack away randomly with a dull knife at your fruits, vegetables, cheeses, etc., which is the way I deal with most non-boxed-food for my own personal consumption.

After noticing the abundance of these utensils, I got out my iPhone and made a voice memo so I’d remember all of them for this post. Then I decided: Instead of transcribing the memo, which would lose something thereby, I’d just post it here. I thought this would be easy. This assumption goes under the burgeoning category “I Never Learn.” I apologize for this sound clip being three minutes long, but I haven’t yet figured out how to edit voice memos. In the past hour, however, I have learned how to get a voice memo onto my computer, convert it into an mp3 file, and open a SoundCloud account to post the damn thing, which requires a URL in WordPress. That was more than enough agony for one night, so if you listen to the end I’ll be your friend forever, like it or not.

This is the first time my voice has made an appearance (yes, a deliberately inappropriate word choice! revel in it!) on the Internet. Send me enough money and I promise it’ll be the last time.

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