Warehouse K

Store People

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Two Odd Encounters

By James Donahue

I was experimenting with personal light energy while waiting for my wife, seated on one of the long “widower’s” benches at the front of the local Wal-Mart. I noticed that a number of people seemed to be responding with pleasant smiles and good-will greetings.

Out of nowhere a big bearded man sat down beside me. He was a jolly fellow with a shopping cart containing two cases of Root Beer and a black box. After a friendly greeting, he wasted no time grabbing the box and began reading the information on the side.

Just to strike up a conversation I asked him what he had in the box. He explained it was a satellite radio receiver that he intended to install in his pickup. I noticed that he was not shy about telling me how much he was about to pay for the radio, and it was not going to be cheap.

This man had the appearance of someone that worked hard for his living. His hands were calloused. His hair projecting from out of his duck-billed cap was uncut. He sported a full beard. His clothes were clean but casual. It struck me that he must yet feel secure on his job to be willing to shell out the kind of money he planned to spend on that truck radio.

As we talked, this man explained that he had just purchased a new sports car that had a satellite radio in it and he liked the radio programming so much he wanted one for his truck. He then began boasting about the car he purchased, which was obviously more costly than most common laborers in our area could afford. I looked more closely at him, and found nothing about him that suggested he was living in wealth. Thus he became an enigma of sorts. At this point I wondered if he was wearing blinders; plunging deep in debt and refusing to see the social, economic and environmental chaos building all around him.

I joked about all of the men seated on the “widower’s benches” in the store, all of us waiting for our wives to finish shopping. He made the classic “guy” comment about how men shop compared to their wives. He noted that we usually know what we want, come into the store, go directly to the item we want to buy, pay for it, and that is it. Our wives, however, enjoy looking at many items, comparing prices, trying on clothes, and spending sometimes an hour or longer working their way through the same store.

We laughed about that, and both concluded that we were probably both in for a long wait, possibly up to an hour, so we had lots of time to chat. But then, behold, his wife appeared. She was a middle-aged woman, dressed in somewhat stylish clothes. She also was wearing a broad rimmed hat. Her cart had only about three things in it. Because they were well wrapped it was hard to determine just what those things were. Her husband greeted her with a question . . .”Is that all?”

“Well it’s expensive,” she answered. “It is $160 worth.” They left me again wondering about their strange life style. He told me they lived in a small community several miles from us and didn’t have big stores like Wal-Mart. But how could people be living as he described in these hard economic times unless their appearance belied their personal wealth, or perhaps they had just won the lottery. Whatever their situation, I noted that they were both caught up in materialism and more than willing to boast about it.

My wife and I moved on to yet a second store that also had a waiting bench by the front door. While seated there I met an elderly couple that had just finished paying for their purchases. They became involved in a somewhat heated debate as to just what they were to do next. She wanted to use the restroom while he brought the car up to the door. She wanted assurances that she could meet him at the door. That should not have been anything to argue about, but for them, it developed into a heated discussion.

I couldn’t help smiling while watching them and the old man noticed this. As he walked past me on his way to the door he tapped me on the shoulder and said: “That’s what comes of sixty years with the wrong woman.”

I answered that if he was still with her after sixty years, she was not the wrong woman. His answer: “She is the war department. Everybody in the family calls her the war department. She has to have a fight about everything.”

When she walked past, I noticed that she had a smile on her face. She gave the appearance of a very pleasant person that was looking forward to joining her husband in front of the store. Was the old man joking or was he serious?

A lady seated on the bench nearby, who had witnessed the strange exchange, looked at me and said quietly: “He should not be treating her like that.”

She expressed my sentiment perfectly. Where is the love? This world has become such a dark, gloomy and materialistic place.