By BOB WIRE
I’ve tried caressing, I’ve tried squeezing, and I’ve tried sweet talking. I’ve coerced, begged, cajoled, made empty threats and promises. No dice.
No matter what I did, my tube of Colgate wouldn’t surrender that last dollop of toothpaste.
Time for a visit to Wal-Mart.
Now, living in progressive, liberal Missoula, I’m aware that Wal-Mart represents all that’s bad about the whole “big box” store, and is evil incarnate. Their city-block-sized retail centers are stuffed to the rafters with shoddy, brightly-colored crapola made almost exclusively in China, by poor oppressed victims of Communism and economic tyranny.
When I hold up a rayon Hawaiian shirt for inspection (price rollback! Was $7.94!), I can almost hear a large factory room full of doo-rag-wearing Chinese women, chattering away while they sew buttons on shirts, as Martina McBride music plays on a cheap radio. But, being a shallow American consumer, I wipe all that from my conscience as I toss the shirt on the growing pile of stuff I don’t need in my shopping cart. Those women seemed to be doing all right, really. And at least the place was air-conditioned.
I have friends who wouldn’t be caught dead within a half mile of Wal-Mart. Being seen at Wal-Mart would be like walking into their house and discovering their sister engaged in a threesome with the Koch brothers. They diligently patronize stores that advertise free trade goods, American-made clothing, organic foods, trying to be all sustainable and shit. I swear to god, I am so sick of hearing that word in conjunction with environmental consumerism. You know what needs to be sustainable? An erection.
Oh, I’m all for protecting the earth and doing my part for the environment, but the green that concerns me most is the stuff in my wallet.
When Rusty and Speaker were babies, we bought all our baby supplies at Wal-Mart, because it was significantly cheaper than elsewhere. Besides, who can afford dolphin-safe hemp diapers? I remember standing in the baby aisle at WM one time, doing swift calculations in my head about how long a particular package of Luvs would last (“Hmm. This one says 15 to 18 lbs. That’s a lot of capacity. Hell, I wouldn’t have to change that diaper for two days.”).
So the joint has everyone beat on price, if only because they can use their buying power to purchase five diaper factories in Beijing, along with a fleet of cargo ships to deliver them to the United States, the doody capital of the Western world. Then we return the diapers to their continent of origin by depositing diaper bombs in the Pacific Ocean, where the Pampers Express current carries them back to China and they wash up on the beach like so many squishy sea shells.
But I don’t go down the baby aisle anymore. Now it’s toiletries, first aid, garden supplies, and fishing lures. This all comes after the initial entry, when I’m greeted by some leering septuagenarian in a blue vest who pushes a shopping cart towards me.
“No thanks,” I say, waving him off. “Just here for toothpaste.”
“Take it,” he says, fixing his Yoda eyes on mine. “Need it you will.”
So I take the cart. Good thing, too, because they always have some unbelievable loss leader right there at the entrance. Two pound bag of Chili Cheese Fritos for 88 cents. Deal! A half-gallon bottle of SPF 70 sunscreen for a buck and a half. Got it! A case of bottled water! A six-pack of Gatorade! A 12-pack of lubricated condoms, ribbed for her pleasure! (Grooming Tip: I wear ‘em inside out because I’m a selfish bastard.) I barely get to the main aisle and my cart’s already halfway full.
I’m making my way to the pharmacy section, when I’m accosted by a tween hawking Girl Scout cookies. I ask her if they’re made in China. She looks confused and retreats. I roll on. A short detour through the electronics department, where I can get blank CD-R’s for about 15 cents each. Printer ink. Batteries. “The Wedding Singer” for $2.94. Not a good movie, but it’s worth it for the soundtrack alone.
Might as well pick up some office supplies. Two dozen Sharpies, all different colors. I only use the red one, but what the hell. A pack of highlighters. (Side Note: I recently found a box of old college textbooks, and discovered that one of the reasons I flunked out of several classes was because I was using a black highlighter.) Rubber cement for making fake boogers. Padded envelopes for mailing out my generation-defining CD, “American Piehole,” to European radio stations. Glitter. Rubber bands. Canned air.
I veer directly from office supplies to laundry supplies. I ponder an 18-pound box of Tide. Do I want my family to smell like Clean Breeze™ or Fresh Gust™? Color-safe bleach or original stain-fighting formula? Jesus, just gimme the cheap-ass Arm & Hammer. I don’t like having to make so many decisions that will haunt me for the next two months.
Band-aids. Shampoo. Lotion. Hair gel. Floss. Hydrogen peroxide. Ace bandage (in case I pull my groin, which I’m planning to do soon as I get home). Vitamin E. Children’s Motrin. Daddy Motrin (contains Librium and enough iron to build a diaper ship). A jug of Sunny D. (I’ve decided my hip-hop name is going to be Sunny B.)
I push my fully-laden cart to an open check stand, and wait to swipe my debit card as the cashier scans everything. (“Hey, Wanda? Can I have a price check? I SAID CAN I HAVE A PRICE CHECK! 12-PACK OF RIBBED CONDOMS! SIZE PETITE!”) She gives me the total.
“A hundred and WHAT?!?” I say, my knees buckling. I’m convinced that we need everything I bought, and I’m probably paying for a couple of new schools in a small Chinese village. I can hear the greeter near the front door, cackling and coughing up phlegmy gobs of Ensure. He knew I’d need the cart.
I get home and unload everything into the kitchen, where I collapse into a chair and just stare at this squadron of white plastic bags, my triumph of consumerism. Barb walks into the room and silently surveys the mountain of goods.
“Did you get toothpaste?”
“Um, I forgot.”
Where’d I put those damn car keys?
Wanna laugh ’til your sides hurt? These ought to do the trick: Parenting Sucks. And I Love It., For Writing Inspiration, Head to Missoula’s Bark Park, and The Guitar That Saved My Soul.
Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.
Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.
Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.