Saturday, 21 September 2013

Of Pickles and Crossbows - Variety and American Superstores

You’ve got to understand: we don’t have anything like Walmart in the UK. We have superstores and supermarkets, sure - huge, square slabs of buildings where you can pick up some food or pencils or toothpaste or whatever else - but we don’t have anything like the sort of variety that you can find a five minutes’ drive away from Utica College. 
I made my first pilgrimage to the store of stores about a day or so after arriving in the US on exchange. Jetlagged, disorientated and in dire need of some coat-hangers, I picked a cart from the entrance and rattled it on inside and, immediately, was distracted by a colorful BACK TO SCHOOL sign that was looming overhead. I started rummagine through all kinds of flashy but entirely unnecessary products. Where, by the way, have rainbow colored pencils been all my life? 

After a few minutes stationary with the stationery my eye was caught by some other aisle, then another, then another - before I knew it, I’d been sucked up in the irresistible materialistic pull of all the weird, wonderful, and often pretty nasty items on display. Craving a quick snack? Ty one of our pickles, sealed in with its juices in a handy ziplock bag! Take a look at out new range of ‘wildlife’ bathmats - step out the shower and onto the stinking beast of your choice today! Feel your firearms are missing the mark? Set your sights on one of our new crossbows, available online!

I couldn’t really buy much of anything, of course. Student budgets don’t usually tend to accommodate croquet mallets or inflatable bounce houses. Even so, it’s not so much my wallet I’ve been fearing for. My wallet has a picture of Batman on it anyway and can probably take care of itself. No, what I’m all too conscious of every time I rumble my cart through the doors of Walmart (and other stores like it) is how much time I could spend exploring in one trip. Truth is, every time I go in I can’t help but get sidetracked and go off exploring. It’s not safe, really - there’s a real danger that one of these days I’ll pop in for some cereal and emerge fifty years later, blinking at the sun, waving a box of fruit loops and apologetically mumbling something about “getting a bit distracted”.

Moral of the story, then. If you ever see me half-submerged in the box of discount DVDs, spending half an hour contemplating what kind of thickness my pillow should be or something else entirely unproductive, do me a favor and drag me out of the store. I pay in pickles and crossbows.
Since my last post I've been reading:
Last of the Mohicans - James Cooper
Moby Dick - Herman Melville
Memories of Ice - Steven Erikson

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