Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Year of the Rat

Before anyone corrects me and points out that we are approaching the Year of the Rabbit and not the Year of the Rat, this post has nothing to do with the Chinese Zodiac (although my son was born in the Year of the Rat).

I took a vacation day yesterday to wrap up some errands and appointments. And since it is a new year and all of the holiday crap is 50 to 75 percent off at most stores, I decided to take my family on a road trip to a Walmart to check out the artificial trees.

I realize that checking out the artificial trees on sale at Walmart after Christmas is a major white trash thing to do, but when I took the Elvis tree down and packed it up over the weekend, I noticed it was getting a bit ragged and shedding more needles than a real tree that's been up for a month. And since I bought the white artificial tree that would be transformed into the Elvis tree at a K-Mart back in 2001 or so, I figured Walmart would be a suitable place to look for its replacement in 2011.

I will be very upfront here. I do not like Walmart. I feel a strong need to shower just driving by one, let alone walking inside.Let's face it, the stores appeal to the shallow end of the gene pool. But standards or not, I wanted to replace the Elvis tree without spending a great deal of money. And disgusting as Walmart and its corporate policies are, I'm not above trying to save some cash.

The nearest Walmart to us is only about six miles away, but it seemed like we were driving to the Arctic Circle to get there. It has been pretty cold lately and there was still snow on the ground from a brief storm that passed through parts of the Puget Sound region a week or so ago. One thing I noted was that the parking stalls nearest the store entrance were dry and ice free (although packed with cars), but the fringes of the parking lot were icy and relatively vacant. This was due in a large part to the reluctance on the part of most Walmart customers to park anywhere that will require them to walk more than 10 feet to get to the store entrance. There was a line of cars in the parking lot idling their engines waiting for spaces to come open that would minimize their need to walk.

I parked our car in one of the icy stalls on the fringes of the lot and we gingerly made our way to the Walmart entrance. Inside we steered our kids past the McDonald's and dodged walkers and motorized scooters to make our way to a large sign marked "Holiday Clearance."

I left my wife and kids rummaging through bargain ornament bins and rounded a corner to an aisle where boxed trees were arranged haphazardly on large warehouse shelves. I had a glimmer of hope when I saw a white artificial tree on display. As I got closer, my hope was crushed. The tree had a Charlie Brown quality that made my old Elvis tree seem upscale in comparison. Plus, it came prelit with white lights. The Elvis tree can only have blue lights. I am pretty easygoing about most things, but not the Elvis tree.

As I shook my head in disgust at the poor quality of the artificial white tree I caught sight of what I first thought was some one's pet Chihuahua scooting across the aisle floor. Then I realized in horror that it was a rat scuttling out from underneath some pallets supporting cartons of artificial trees.

I went back around the corner and told my wife about the rat and suggested we move the kids towards the other end of the store. Unfortunately this sent them through the toy section. After a half hour or so of saying no to toys my kids had to have and glancing nervously about the floor for more vermin, we eventually herded them towards the checkstands with one cheap toy apiece and then out the door to our car. We passed several people jumpstarting dead engines while other cars waited patiently for their parking spaces.

As we strapped the kids into their car seats, I vowed never to go into a Walmart again.

Well, unless they have some sale that is just to good to pass up.

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