The other day I was at Walmart. My favorite item at Walmart is the 18 washcloths bundled together for 3.99. My favorite thing to do at Walmart is to look in other shoppers’ baskets to see what America is buying. These customers keep General Mills and Kraft and Bristol Myers in business and maybe by being the oddball I’m missing a lifestyle that is far more comforting and reliable than my cotton/scent-free/brown rice/juicing/ way of east coast elitist life. Spiro Agnew called us nattering nabobs of negativism. Agnew was indicted and had to resign but that doesn’t take away from his alliteration skills.
The Walmart drug and cosmetics department is huge and cheap. Their house brands are called “Equate.” Right next to the Neutrogena shampoo is Equate shampoo for about half the price. I added toothpaste to my basket along with the unbleached coffee filters, The Ricola honey/lemon cough drops, the Fiskers pruning shears, the corn bristle broom, and the 100% cotton bundled washcloths. Two elderly women in front of me were cruising the “remedy” aisle, talking amiably.
“What do you take for arthritis?” I ask one of the women. I don’t have arthritis but in case I get it, I want to take what these women take.
She grabbed a package off the shelf. “This. Tylenol Arthritis.”
“Does it help?”
“Oh, yes. Here, this is a good buy 380 tablets for 11.95.”
I waited until they left and put back the 380 Tylenol arthritis tablets. This aisle was a real eye opener because they have differentiated Tylenol for everything. Tylenol for Back, Tylenol Migraine. Tylenol Pain in the Ass (kidding). What about Tylenol Migraine? Does it knock you out for three days and you wake up all disoriented but feeling good and minus three pounds? I’d take that.
At the check out, the woman in front of me had every item I would never buy and yet I wished I knew her.
What kind of person buys this at Walmart: individual packets of Whiskas, Shout Out, Pringles, Devil Dogs and miniature-sized lemon-scented S.O.S. pads. If you’re picturing overweight and slovenly, forget it. She was thin as a rail and neat as a pin. I knew this much about her: she doted on her cat, she could tolerate fake scents, she took her snacks seriously and she didn’t need Real Simple Magazine to give her any bs ‘aha’ ways to get stains out. This woman had chosen everything in her basket with a purpose and knew exactly what she was going to do with each item whereas my purchases were random and impulse driven. I wanted to ask her what was the worst stain she had dissolved with Shout Out and if the miniature S.O.S. pads were a better value. What came to mind as I waited for her to pay was how appropriate it was for Spiro Agnew to have called us “an effete corps of impudent snobs” to characterize the East Coast intellectual voting block. This woman (who might be a Harvard-educated neuroscientist for all I know) was exactly why people like my friend Delores seldom got their candidate elected. She represented the whole big other section of American life and it’s their America, too.