Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wally World Revisited

I wrote this on April 17th 2008. One month before my cochlear activation and sound re entering my life after 230 days in my deafness.

I am reprinting it because Mary did not read it, and I happened to have it saved.

I also liked it, and reminisced fondly of my first trip to a Wal-Mart superstore.

Deaf as a stump, no balance, wandering through my first Superstore.

I hope you enjoy it.

I needed to buy batteries today. I tried to change channels last night and the remote was not in a very cooperative mood. Seems it needed AA's. "Didn't I just buy a bulk pack of those"? I naively asked my wife. "Talk to the 13 year old that lives in the first room on your right" she replies.

I went into to see where all my batteries were, and I discovered the source of the supply drain The "X-Box remote controllers" , it was explained to me. "Eat them like candy" Dan complained.

Regardless, I needed some or else I would be stuck watching "The Price Is Right" marathon for the next 3 nights.
So this morning I had to make a decision on where the purchase would be made. I knew that Costco would be the cheapest, but one item in a line for 3 days is just silly. The other end of the spectrum is the corner store, but I was not paying $37.89 for 4 AA batteries even if I was the only person shopping.
I went for the middle ground and picked Walmart.
So Janet and I head out this morning and she is traveling in a direction of which I am not familiar with.
"Where are you going" I asked.
"There is a new Walmart that opened in the South Oshawa area" she tells me.
Two things here: I was surprised that any retail opening would miss my consumer radar, and…..
2) I don't like South Oshawa!

I guess while I was "sleeping" for 90 some days in a hospital ward, Wally World slipped one in on me.
Not only did he build a store unbeknown to me, but he built the "Super Wally World Store" concept.
It was the size of O'Hare and I swear I saw an air traffic control tower and a few DC 10's in the lot.
Now I'm no country bumpkin, nor have I just fallen off the rutabaga mobile, but I have never been in one of these behemoth of store.
We park, and in we go.
"You get the batteries and I will grab some fabric softener". announces Janet.
So off goes deaf as an Acorn Squash guy into the wilds of Wally's Frontier.
I leave the cozy confines of the 73 year old store greeter, and venture past the fruit and vegetables. After around 3 or 4 Kilometers I am still in some sort of produce section. Yes it is different from where I started out with the familiar Oranges and Ruby Grapefruit, but I am still in an area of "foods that grow in the warmer climes".
I cross into a deli section that takes in about 14 Acres where a nice lady in blue jacket stamps my passport and smiles at me. I am cruising now.
As I cross the Prairies, I note the vastness of the ryes and flax breads. The flatland's seem to go for miles, and one looses perspective of distance once the sourdoughs are stumbled upon.
The whole wheat flutter on skids as far as the eye can see.
I catch of glimpse of what I suspect is a Prairie dog, but quickly discount it as scurries back into the Pet aisle.
A stray gerbil I suspect.
I have always had a soft spot for the prairies. I admire the hardiness of the workers who toil amongst the dangers of falling prices. The amber waves of grain and the ski high stacks of Wonder Bread are a joy for the eye to behold.
"Oh beautiful for spacious skies.." I sing proudly, as grab a dozen Frosted Ho Ho's.

I sense a sudden chill now as I enter into the land of milk and cheese. I must some how have wandered off course and ended up in Wisconsin. I look for the” Go Packers" signs amongst the Cheddar wheels. I want to be a cheese head!
I hurry back to the pet food isle, and grab Speeder some Bickies, and a fresh kong to go with the wheel of Cheddar I just picked up in the dairy regions.
I pass a mountain of cola neatly staked beside the biggest pile of denim jeans I have ever seen. The blue jeans scream a $10 price tag.
I wonder how much the seamstress makes on this.

About 2 or 3 hours into my venture I ask a bird watcher that I pass, if I could borrow his binoculars to see if there is sign to point me in the right direction. He obliges, and I spot "Electronics" just east of the first watering hole. (The pools are now out on display even though the snow continues to fall today) I thank him and get back on my journey.

Around noon I get hungry and follow my nose to one of many local McDonald's that services weary travelers like myself. I see the natives in blue smocks dine here as well. Although I have always found it safe to eat where the indigenous dine, I take a pass on this spot and decide that I can't eat this today, I need to stay healthy.
I ask for directions from another blue jacketed lady. I hope I can speech read her.
I can't.
I ask her again to point me in the direction of batteries.
She starts into some long winded question, pointing at my feet. My God I think, are the natives interested in trading footwear?
I think she is trying to ask me why I have price tags dangling from the runners I have on.
I explain to her that the soles of my own shoes gave out about 7 kilometers away, back in house wares, so I borrowed the Wally beige shoes to get me a little further into the store.

About hour 5 or 6 hours into my journey, I make note of some falling prices that I could conceivably injure myself on. Lucky for me, I happen to be the bicycle helmet section. I put one on to secure my melon from any further falling prices.
I stop at the camping section and notice a family is resting by a fake campfire and eating giant packages of Mike and Ike's. I ask if I could join them until my throbbing stops in my legs.
They of course notice my limp and my cane, and motion me to sit a spell and rest up.
"Where ya headed" asks the woman.
I read her lips nicely.
"Batteries. In Electronics I presume" I tell them
"Ohhhh, you got a long way to go my friend" advises the man in the group.
"Better head out before you get locked in the store like us. We've been here since just after Valentines day clear out" he warns
I spring up and carry on.
By the time I reach Consumer Electronics, I notice my shopping cart is full.
I suspect while on my journey I have been subconsciously shopping up a storm.
If, and only if, I proceed to the cash at this moment, I might get out under a hundred bucks.
But I still have no batteries.

I do, however have one roast turkey, some stuffing in a box,a 15 pack of tube socks, gum that explodes when you chew it, a 12 pack of peanut butter chocolate cups, some Disney DVD with girl called Hanna something in it, a ginger ale/ ice tea combination and several empty cans of energy drinks that I have consumed since my journey began.
I asks a clerk if there is bus stop or a taxi stand to take me back. Even a rope tow would do me fine.
I am spent, done, fatigued.
I need to cash out before I have to sell my collectible footballs.
I can see the 45 cash registers just east of the horizon and very close to a mountain of Easter Bunnies that scare the hell out of me the way they teeter on a skid. With all the "watch for falling prices" warnings, one would think a "watch for falling chocolate bunnies" sign would be posted in the interest in public safety.
I follow a caravan of buggies back to the cash and meet Janet.

The batteries are neatly sold on racks on every cash.


I make a note that no treadmill workout will be needed, and we go out into the wilds of the parking lot.

I hope it is not too dark to find our car.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I Scream, You Scream....

I had been noticing the "Like" signs posted on friends Facebook pages. The "Like" was for an ice cream shop that opened not far from our little humble abode. The "Like's" were posted by friends across US and Canada, so clearly this was a franchise that was known.

More and more the "so and so is a fan of" were popping up like cherry chips on facebook pages for this new ice cream place so I thought I would treat Mary and take her to try.

Thus, our first, and last (although we did not know it yet) visit to the Marble Slab Creamery, took place.

At first glance it seemed kinda cool. It looked from the parking lot like an old fashioned country looking store. Not realizing that this is a huge franchise, and has literally hundreds of locations across Canada, United States, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Lebanon, Bahrain, Singapore, and many many other locations. This is a serious business.

The line up was out the door and pouring onto the parking lot. Kids were everywhere in soccer uniforms, baseball caps with parents in tow. I should of known right away by the Porche Cayenne's and BMW X5's in the lot, that this was not your Grandmothers ice cream store.

Confusion started once we eventually got into the store. There were a few different lines to get in. Once we realized that one of the three lines was for those who required financing, we settled into the "We think we can afford a baby size" version of this new marble slab concoction.

I jumped the line so I could preview what was ahead. I thought if I saw the flavours it would help speed things up. My confusion got pushed into deep confusion when I saw only a few options: Vanilla, Chocolate, and a darker chocolate.
"Wonder what the big deal is" I asked to no one in particular, but directed at the staff of 20 or so 16 year old working furiously away on the famous marble slab.
They were working with vigour, violence and determination and pounding and prodding "stuff: into the customers ice cream.

One of the "order takers" asked us for our decision, as if we were one of the regulars.
"How does this work" I asked.
A menu was given to us to look over.
Still more confusion.

There were lists and more lists of "stuff" to get thrown at our ice cream, which we read was made fresh daily.

"What is made fresh daily, the ice cream or the sprinkles, bobbles and sparkles that you add?" I ask the young girl with tongue in cheek.
"All our ice cream is made fresh daily" she answers.
"Right here, in this tiny overcrowded room?"
"No, we get it shipped here every second Tuesday."
"Oh, so made fresh daily, then stored for a few weeks, then shipped from India to here"

Kinda like the stores that say open 24 hours......but not in a row....over a three day period.

More confusion when Mary and I see a poster on the wall for what looks like a decent ice cream treat: "peanut crunch bobblicious sucker delight"
"Can we try a small one of those" we ask
"They are only on approved credit. You have to go to the OAC line and meet with the finance people." we are told.

We decide on a less expensive option and order a "Chocolate peanut butter" treat. The plain and unassuming (and quite non-flavorful" vanilla ice cream is scooped from the frozen bottom of freezer wasteland, where it no doubt was made fresh on this morning by Keebler elves in a magical forest. The marshmallows that can be added for a fee might also hail in the same box with the "Pink moons, and yellow stars" that for $3 for 2 of each are yours!

So our "ice cream technician" (is this like the sandwich makers at Subway that are sandwich technicians?) puts a tiny scoop on a technical looking weigh scale. She frowns at us because all we could afford was the "Baby size" and she has difficulty in measuring a "nano-scoop" onto the scale and needs several attempts to remove the excess and deposit the "made fresh" stuff back into the frozen hinterlands.
5 minutes later the procedure moves to the infamous "Marble slab" area, where she places three or four tiny bits of brown crayon into the middle of our ice cream.
I thought at first that they must be chocolate chips, but realized after tasting that they indeed were crayons.
Very old crayons.
Possibly from MY childhood.
Next she pours an amount of Kraft bottled sauce of some type that would not cover the fine print in their posters that tell us that they actual treats are "not exactly as illustrated"
No shit.

Our techie then goes to work on our baby sized treat with tools that would make a blacksmith jealous.
She pounds and pulls the "fresh" experiment in all directions. I of course make a remark that it must be "fresh" since so many sharp tools were required to chop it up.

After 11 minutes our technician goes into the line up for "staff requiring braces for carpal tunnel issues", and is quickly replaced by a fresh faced technician who wants to show of their brute strength and finish our production.

Finally done we wait to pay. There is a bog down in the line up ahead at the check out, as a family scrambles to get out 4 or 5 different cards (Visa, Amex, MC, Dinners Club, and a Suzy Sheer card) to spread out the payments. They mistakenly brought 3 kids, and one insisted on the "Smurfs topping". Once you go with licenced merchandise you pay for it!
So now they are attempting to pay for it!

Once we pool our credit cards and cash on hand we watch the adding go on at the cash.
"Baby sized" is indeed punched in correctly, and I marvel at the nerves of steel as they add the dollars and cents for the each and every bit of brown crayon.

I am in the wrong business, but decide that a franchise would be more expensive than the Porches parked in the lot.
They are clearly in the business of selling franchises and not ice cream.

So out the door we go with a spoon in each hand, shell shocked from paying the price, but still open minded about tasting what our weeks wages have purchased.

Two bites into it (one bite each) I broke a tooth on the crayon, and Mary thought the sauce that was added was a petrolium based derivitive used to assist in mixing the compounds.
I decide that there is more "marble" than "creamery" in my overpriced baby sized bowl, and toss it out.
I get no argument from my lovely partner.

We drive home and reminice about the Pralines and Cream for $3 at Baskin and Bo Bo's.
We consider going thru Mickey Dee drive through and sharing a McFlury that has real Oreo cookies in a soft fresh made ice cream.
We wax nostalgically about Kawartha Dairy cherry chip that was a favorite for the kids on many a camping or cottage trip.
We discuss Reids Dairy and their 99 cent fresh swirl!

Ah, the dollar cone.

We both sigh, then take one last look at our bill from the Marble place.

WE scream.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.