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The automatic doors whooshed open.  The awkward-looking gentleman gripping onto his wheeled-podium postured for a few moments too long, his mouth agape, his tongue searching for the right position, before announcing, in much the same volume, manner, and expression I imagine Kenneth from 30 Rock would do, “Welcome to Wal-Mart!”

I averted my eyes, and bore a bee-line to the Returns counter which conveniently also serves for paying utility bills; counting spare change alerting customers to recalled strollers, “play yards”, slings, cribs, and mobiles; issuing cash for tax-refund checks; and selling certified money orders.  While I was grateful not to have to go through the usual interminable cashiers’ lines, I was not heartened to see the stock-still line of disenfranchised customers being waited on by a single Wal-Mart employee who was on the phone. 

As the line edged ever nearer to the counter, I saw a strangely cheerful woman enter the store and approach the greeter.  Wal-Mart 101:  never talk to the greeter.  They are only there to “welcome” you to Wal-Mart.  They don’t have any authority, information, or skill sets outside of “Welcome to Wal-Mart”.  She was trying to explain why the purple bottle of chemicals was inadequate for her cleaning needs.  The greeter feebly pointed to my line.  Sensing danger, I turned away.

“Oh, am I glad to be back in Pennsylvania!” she announced to no one in particular.  “I was in Michigan for 2 years, and I couldn’t even get a job shoveling horse manure, the economy’s so bad out there.”

An African-American woman wearing dark skinny jeans with sequins running down the side-seams, standing two ahead of me took the bait.  “Oh, I know!  I was in South Carolina, and I’m in The Ministry, and I couldn’t find work.  I just had to retire.”  She looked about 43 and a half. 

Michigan continues, “You know I’m just waiting for Judgment Day when they come with the big swords to slay the sinners.  I know who they’ll slay first — it’ll be those people who slay innocent animals.”

Clearly we’re on a tangent she loves, so she continues.  “You know they put the diseased cattle in with the healthy ones?  I tell my husband, ‘You buy as much meat as you want, but I’m not touching any of it!’ But he just says I talk too much.” 


“And on the Judgment Day you go into a scanner and they scan you to see your whole life and so God knows what you’ve done.”

Sequins butts in here.  After all, she is in The Ministry.  ” Oh, the Lord alreadys knows what I done.  He knows my whole life.  He knew me before I was conceived in the womb; he knew me.  I already know where I’m going.”

Michigan, eager to make her point, “I just feel, whatever there is after this life, I just know I’m going.  I tell my husband, if I talk too much, may I be struck dead if I ever speak a lie.  And I’m still here, ain’t I?”

Oh, you are.  You most definitely are. 

Finally it’s Sequins’ turn in line. “You have a blessed day.”

“You, too.”

I returned the envelopes that were the wrong size for my notecards, and noted the bins of returns behind the counter.  “Candy”  “Housewares”  “Jewerly”  It looks almost right, doesn’t it?

So did my Wal-Mart associate’s name:  Candida.  At first blush, it looks cute, like the feminine form of Candide, standing for optimism, philosophy, and satire.  Then I remembered my other association: the Latin name for the most unfortunate infection Mr. Apron developed following his taking some very strong antibiotics to kick a sinus infection.  Also known as thrush.  People who get thrush usually have compromised immune systems, weaked by AIDS, or chemotherapy, or organ transplant treatment.  Ready to see a picture of the girl’s name?  Warning on gross-out picture:  click.

I hate Wal-Mart, with a burning, seething passion.  But sometimes it’s the convenient choice.  And sometimes you get blog material.

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