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February 08, 2017 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017 // The Statement






ast Sunday, my friends dropped me off at a
Wal-Mart in Saline and said, “See you in 12
hours,” which is a strange thing to say, but

in this case, it was exactly the right thing to say — I
was going to be at Wal-Mart for 12 hours.

I was going to be at Wal-Mart for such an absurd

amount of time for three main reasons. The first: I am
a man of my word. The second: I came in last place
in my fantasy football league, and the punishment
for the person who came in last was to spend 12
hours in a Wal-Mart. The third and maybe the most
important (also definitely the most misguided):
Some part of me thought it would be good for me.

As I walked through the extra-large revolving

doors at approximately 12:34 p.m., I started
thinking about a set of different books. This organic
recollection of literature made me feel pretty good
about myself because any time I think about a book
— rather than force myself to think about a book
— I feel intelligent and cultured. Five minutes into
Wal-Mart and I’m already thinking about books.
My hypothesis about the positive side-effects of
extended Wal-Mart exposure were playing out just
as I imagined.

The two books I thought of were “A Supposedly Fun

Thing I’ll Never Do Again” by David Foster Wallace
and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter
S. Thompson. After realizing these two books are
about as stereotypical-pseudo-intellectual-college-
student-starter-pack as it could get, I felt less good
about myself — but still a little good about myself.

“Fear and Clothing, at Wal-Mart … get it?”
As I began to stroll through the kitchen appliances,

I imagined myself walking with Dr. Thompson,
taking mescaline and dancing from department to
department, extracting truths about Wal-Mart, our
broken political system and the human condition.
I imagined the dystopian adventure I’d chronicle,
going from aisle to aisle, in search of coffee filters
and the American dream.

As I turned down the chilled aisle lined with

sodas, I imagined myself with Wallace, scribbling a
mixture of observations and my own idiosyncrasies
into some witty transcendent truth. What does a
30-rack of Mountain Dew do? How does a 30-rack
of Mountain Dew make me feel, say, about my own
latent elitism?

I had more humble visions too, as I walked through

consumer electronics. Somewhere in this Wal-Mart,
I felt, was an essay that could strike through partisan
politics and hate and baggage and the 24-hour news
cycle that makes people really really, really actually


1:35 p.m. Alas, reality sets in.
There are two Wal-Marts within a six-mile radius

of my house in Ann Arbor. One of them, the one
in Saline, is a Wal-Mart Supercenter, whereas the
Wal-Mart in Ypsilanti is a regular non-super Wal-
Mart. I decided to go with the supercenter because I
figured that would marginally increase the number
of potential things I could do to occupy time.

I should have done more research because, while

supercenters might be better than regular Wal-

Marts when it comes to shopping, they are far worse
for maintaining sanity. The sensory overload you
might expect to set in at hour five is scaled up in a
supercenter. Each aisle of Wal-Mart smells, looks
and feels distinctly different. The quilted fragrance
palate bounces from Yankee candles to burnt plastic
to lavender Febreeze and bleach, to slightly stale
Subway, to WD-40 and on and on and on as you walk
from aisle to aisle. The more “super” the Wal-Mart,
the more smells, the more florescent lights, the more
man-made microclimates.

There was no cafe attached to this Wal-Mart, only

a Subway. So I left Wal-Mart and walked across the
parking lot to a Bruegger’s Bagels. I ordered a coffee
and some gross, bite-sized donuts and sat down to

play Candy Crush on my phone. I thought about
which was worse for my development as a human: an
hour of binge drinking, or an hour of playing Candy
Crush. Certainly the conventional answer is Candy

Crush, but Hunter S. Thompson was an alcoholic

and David Foster Wallace would have hated Candy


1:55 p.m. I returned to Wal-Mart, again in search

of profundity and inspiration. No luck. I spent about

an hour walking around aimlessly, listening to

political podcasts.

The only thing I discovered was how many

variations of some food types there are. There were

like 11 different kinds of Oreos, and overly specific
snacks I’d never imagined, such as Dunkin’ Donuts

Vanilla Latte Pop-Tarts or low-fat honey-infused

Pillsbury biscuits.

2:35 p.m. Defeated, I set up camp in the back-left

corner of Subway. Wal-Mart has complimentary

free Wi-Fi, obviously, so I was able to halfheartedly

do my homework. It was here where I witnessed my

only Wal-Mart magic.

Excerpt from my Wal-Mart notes:

3:45 to 4:05. Nobody is running the Subway attached

to Wal-Mart. Long line of polite Midwesterners

confused but unperturbed by the lack of employees

at a Subway. One guy investigating. Unsuccessful.

Employee comes out, line starts moving. No audible

complaints. Might have just seen a unicorn.

Unfortunately, my only conclusion is that people

from the Midwest, or at least the people in line at

that Subway, are nicer than me.

5:00 p.m. I spend the better chunk of the rest of my

time in Wal-Mart sitting on my computer in Subway.

Sporadically, I remember Hunter and David and feel

guilty for not taking advantage of my opportunity to
explore Wal-Mart. I’d get up and go for a stroll that
would last five to 10 minutes, before I remembered
that exploring Wal-Mart the same way someone
explores a national park makes me a really specific
type of asshole.

8:30 p.m. I caved. I begged my friends to let me

come home and they obliged. It was snowing a lot and
nobody was on the road. We listened to Soulection
and almost skidded off the road and it’s very, very
quiet at night in Saline in the snow and that was
profound. I typed up my notes and wrote this piece,
which, for better or for worse, might make me that
really specific type of asshole.

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