Walmart: Hell’s Vestibule

Every Sunday, like Dian Fossey, I spend time in observation of my closest relatives in the animal kingdom. I feel as though I’ve been sent by National Geographic to observe the native population and their social habits. Only instead of watching chimps fashion tools from twigs and share bananas, I see huge women on motorized carts loading up on Ramen Noodles, and double size family packs of Nacho Cheese Doritos. That’s right, I’m talking about the weekly trip to Walmart.

I struggle to find the right words to express how much I hate going to Walmart. Just thinking about it makes me want to curl up on the floor and go to sleep. There are always so many people, and they’re always right where I need to be. Even in the produce section. I can tell by looking at them that these people don’t eat vegetables, but there they are hogging the space.
This is a true story. One week Lisa was working on Sunday so I went without her. I went late in the day and during a Cowboys game in hopes of avoiding the crowds. Even though the aisles were less crowded, there was someone standing in front of every item on my list. This is true. I wanted bacon, but there was a couple arguing in front of the bacon. I wanted soup, but there was guy on his cell phone leaning against the soup. I needed toilet paper, but there was a lady standing indecisively in front of the toilet paper I wanted. It felt like a set up for a hidden camera show.

If we’re going to make this recession work, we need some ground rules for Walmart shopping.

  1. Crowd Control. Each family can only send one delegate to do their shopping. It doesn’t require the whole family, and the entire process will go more smoothly if there are fewer people involved.
  2. Freak Factor. When choosing your family’s shopping delegate, pick the least freaky person.
  3. Dress Code. If your family’s least freaky person is still side-show worthy, here are a few dress code tips:
    • Underwear goes on the inside of your pants.
    • Just because you can tuck your boobs into your pants doesn’t mean you don’t have to wear a shirt.
    • A skirt and heels is never an option for a man.
  4. Courtesy. If your shopping needs fill two carts or if you are an extreme couponer, you’ll need to shop on a weekday while the rest of us are at work.
  5. Self Control. Those motorized carts are for the handicapped. Lazy is not a handicap. If your too fat to walk through Walmart, it may be time to switch to Whole Foods. I’m just sayin’.

Together we can get through this. We’re going to have to share this world until one of you rednecks pisses me off for the last time. So lets pull together and make the best of a bad situation. Ah, forget it. I’m going to Kroger.


The Third Place

Here’s a qucik one.

A wise man once said your life is out of balance if your time isn’t spent in at least three places. After that he was no longer called the wise man. Presumable two of the three places are home and work. The challenge is finding your third place. The third place has to be equally important to your story, like Arnold’s, Central Perk or Cheers.

I spend my time at home and work, but I don’t have a third place. Can a book be considered a place? What about a video game, movie or TV show? What about “in traffic”? Can that be considered a place? If so, my third place sucks.

I suppose church could be. You’d have to spend a significant amount of time there, otherwise it’s just a place you go once a week, like the grocery store. Maybe if you have a close friend and spend a lot of time at their house. Maybe this is why continuing education is such a draw. College, combined with work and home is clearly a proper division of your time and resources. Some people go to the gym for an hour or more three or more times a week. That would count.

The changing way we interact with the world brings this concept into a new light. Is Facebook a place? What about the combined social network; Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, etc.? What if you spend most of your day with your head up your butt? Can you count your butt as your third place. We all work with people like that. But then, they can no longer count work as a place. Anyway, that’s more like having an alternate state of being than an alternate location.

My Testimony

Religion. Here’s a topic guaranteed to piss off anyone. If you don’t believe me, take a minute to turn to the person on your right and say, “I’d like to talk to you about Jesus.” Believe me now?
I don’t consider myself to be a religious person. I go to church most Sundays, more for my family than myself. I believe in the organized church and all the good that can be done in a church community. Unfortunately, a lot of bad can also be done by church communities. It’s possible to convince a person to do almost anything if they can be made to believe they are doing it for religious reasons, and groups of people are more suggestable than individuals. It’s my opinion that religious faith is a delicate balance of hope, ignorance, and suppressed disbelief. As long as the latter makes up less than half of your faith triangle, you probably consider yourself a religious person. If a big enough piece of that pie is made up of ignorance, you could probably be incited to blow up yourself or your neighbor if the request was preceded with “God says”. If your triangle is made up only of hope and ignorance, you should probably let someone else hold your wallet.

As a child my religion was built solely on ignorance. I believed because I was told to. The same is true of a child’s belief in Santa Claus. As I matured, hope moved in. My hope was informed by my burgeoning fear of death. I hoped there was a heaven, and I hoped to go there if I died. As my experience grew, I began to find there were many religions that were different from my own, some even disagreed with the most fundamental things I believed in. Some have a hell and a devil to stand in contrast to their god and heaven, and some don’t. Some have a messiah and some don’t. Some don’t have a heaven at all, but instead believe in reincarnation. Some have no heaven and no reincarnation. Some religions once dominated the earth, and are now laughable and quaint. Some have many gods, and some just one. Some have demi-gods and some don’t. Which one is right?

Let’s check the evidence. Uh oh, there is no evidence. None at all. Well, there are a bunch of scientific studies showing that prayer has absolutely no impact on results. There are also a bunch of studies attempting and failing to prove the existence of the human soul. This is where disbelief was born, and immediately suppressed. As Christians, we are taught that the only unforgivable sin is to deny the Holy Spirit, and God knows what we’re thinking. So I had to work hard to suppress the doubt and the denial that would surely follow. Because if we doubt, and then deny we’ll go to Hell (assuming, of course that all the other stuff isn’t bullshit).

Once doubt met logic, the scales began to tip. As hope and ignorance fell away, the triangle of faith became a circle of reason. Now here I am with only my experience to trust and only myself to believe in. I have only myself to blame for my failures and no where existential to look for support in times of crisis. I am the master of my own destiny. And you know what? It’s pretty sweet. There is great relief in rising from the attitude of penitence. There is liberation in knowing the laws of man are sufficient, and that progress, both social and scientific, is a good thing. There is great motivation in knowing I have only one lifetime in which to accomplish and experience everything I desire to.
I am not writing this as a condemnation of anyone else’s faith. It is not an argument for atheism. This is just my testimony. As for who is right and who is wrong, only the dead have seen the ending.