The Most Unsettling Place in the United States

(or Where To Take Me If I Say I’m Done Traveling)

shopping cart

My mom grabs an industrial-sized shopping cart out of the line and swings it around, making for the entrance. A woman dressed to the nines in pajama pants enters before us. My mom shows her membership ID card to the semi-retired employee and we push forward.

The sheer size of the warehouse is what overwhelms me. That, and the grayness. There are no windows here, just dim lights that hang off the ceiling several feet above us.

Our first stop is electronics. The only reason I have entered this suburban inferno (otherwise known as Sam’s) is to replace my MP3 player. We pass rows of flat screens and cameras, but no music players.

A woman in a bright blue t-shirt and perma-grin plastered on her face greets us. “Can I help you folks find something?”

My mom chimes in. “Yes, we’re looking for MP3 players.”

“Oh gosh, I actually don’t work here. I’m with DirectTV. Have you heard about our special?”

I cringe and walk away. We make another loop around the electronics section, but to no avail. A man approaches us this time, dressed in the same bright blue shirt and false smile. “Have you heard about the Direct TV special that we’re running?”

Eek. My mom is aware of my aversion to places like this and so tries to make it a quick trip. The first stop is a Tupperware aisle, where a middle-aged woman and her mother are staring at plastic containers in boxes. They hold a lengthy discussion about which set seems to offer the best value and the special features each one has. They weigh the pros and cons of each brand. Then they walk away with an empty cart.

Further down, rows of super-sized condiments stare back at me. The powdered creamer is large enough for a cat to hide inside. The tubs of peanut butter hold enough goo to make PB&Js for all of the kindergarten classes in the county.

Next are the fruits and vegetables. The selection of non-frozen and non-canned options is small. What is available is almost identical. The peppers are of the same shape and same color. The same is true of the strawberries, and the apples. There are no obvious discolorations or bruises. Not the kind that you’d find in a natural setting anyway.

The chip aisle is offering a discount if you buy two bags. A plastic bag is provided for the customer to place their two giant bags of chips into. So you can put two bags into another bag.

I’m certain my mom has detected the glaze forming over my eyes, so she heads to the check-out counter. It is here that I’m forced to stare at the Sam’s customers who have chosen to take their shopping experience to the next level and dine here. They snack on hot dogs and french fries while they perch on plastic benches next to their overflowing shopping carts.

The cashier hands us the receipt and we push our cart outside. The light is blinding – a stark contrast to the grayness inside. My mom pops the trunk and loads the groceries inside.

I lean against the car, look at her, and say, “If you ever hear me say that I’m done traveling, please bring me back to Sam’s.”

Photo by Wiedmaier

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