Catch yourself in the middle of one of those analytical moods, where you delve a little bit too deeply into everything you typically wouldn’t. Where nothing is concrete, and all of existence is in flux. You feel aimless, uncertain of motive and unconfident in any assertion you would normally have without a second thought. For a short period, you’re densely aware of everything you typically wouldn’t be, right before you chemically balance again.
You’ll think for five minutes about how your dog can’t comprehend the concept of unwrapping food while you eat a Baby Bell cheese in front of him. He hears scrunching, but to him, it’s a magical part of an inexplicable process, something intermittent required before you can eat the snack. He doesn’t understand what you’re doing, but he knows you’re doing it. It’s like a baby that can’t grasp object permanence.
If you were to stumble across a Walmart parking lot in such a state, it wouldn’t take long for it to become an oddity. That insightful Baby Bell cheese perception would make you quickly aware of a number of contradictions and incongruences in what you see. After an elated scan of the lay of the land, you might feel perplexed by the strangeness of it all. You’ll begin to assure yourself that such a place cannot exist.
You’ll notice how Walmart parking lots are a massive expanse, the suburban version of how you’d imagine deserts as big. They stretch further in every direction than anything else in the immediate surroundings. Endless flat ground, like the panoramic plains of Saskatchewan, not quite as far as the eye can see. A few football fields of concrete tucked into the back pocket of what is usually a busy metropolitan clusterfuck, it can make the epicentre of anywhere feel like the middle of nowhere. Even more so, it feels like a place disconnected from our familiar world as we know it, a separate entity all together. Perhaps a place you enter, through a rift in the fabric of reality; where the conventional confines of reasonably sized institutions and residential gridlock hold no sway. A place where farmers fields are attached homes, and Marriott hotels build poolside villas around the Caspian Sea.
There must be a thousand parking spots, and the building itself is something Atlas could perform wrist curls with. Yet, it never seems as if they have even close to the traffic necessary to be profitable business. I’d attribute half the reason the parking lots seem so large to the fact that they are always pessimistically half empty. Get inside, and you’ll find most of those people parked so they can sit in McDonalds; save the two kids browsing the bikes they aren’t going to buy, and the stay at home mom carrying a bedspread and a garden hose nozzle that she doesn’t need to checkout. It really begs the question, how such a foundation can stand upright, from a monetary standpoint? Does Walmart outsource to a nigh omniscient mass of alchemist energy that puppeteer’s lesser beings from a chasm in deep space for corporate funding? Or, is Walmart an illusory location on an astral plane, free from the physical boundaries and governmental taxation of the common world? I’m not outright saying that it’s either of those things, but there’s no way they’re keeping place afloat selling a few frozen pizzas, a box of Capri Sun pouches, and a twelve-dollar Fruit of the Loom t-shirt pack every second hour.
And there’s more.
The outskirts of the parking lot are a graveyard for dying vehicles. The arcane corpses of trailer’s, RV’s, and semi-trucks lie scattered in the back ranks, becoming dilapidated and rust covered with every day that they can’t find a loving home. It’s never clear whether or not anyone is in these mobile domiciles, or whether or not anyone owns them. Maybe they appeared in the night amidst the construction process, with nobody bothering to move them. Perhaps they are a totem of a disillusioned sense of adventure, abandoned in this burial ground for the owner to pursue a stationary life of book clubs and evening casseroles. I doubt anyone could say for certain.
Not even the people seem real, employees included. All of these badger looking folks, barely pushing carts towards the objective of discount movies from 2004 and tubs of chocolate covered almonds seem like more a dystopian epidemic than legitimate people. One accompanied by a prevalent outbreak of cankles. The employees are all elderly, or skinny stoics, and their lone modus operandi is to never be found in the areas you actually need them. These aren’t humans, they’re characters. Characters with colourful motives, and grotesque figures, who shout random obscenities, and go on crazy tirades. Some linger just beyond reach, constantly moving quickly away from your field of view, like a Rabbit late for a brunch with friends. Even the path to get in is guarded by a Tweedledee or a Tweedledum in a blue vest. Is it too far-fetched to suggest that Walmart is a shared daydream, the demented brainchild of Lewis Carol passed down through generations? Yes? Ok, but worth mentioning nonetheless.
We’re talking about a place that feels like a hazy trading ground outside of Jerusalem during the day, and a floating, motionless black quadrant of space at night. Every unsure step taken through the parking lot, or deep within the aisles has an ethereal feel. There’s a constant notion that something is happening somewhere that you’re unsure of, in a place you have to crane your neck to find. Each person or thing in this place, is a blurred apparition that lies distant from wherever you stand. They’re ghostly figures, that sit in the periphery of your field of view during a fever dream, and will remain on the outskirts no matter how close you try to get seeing them entirely.
These are crazy thoughts to be sure, but it’s important to remember that they are the result of a strange mood, coupled with a strange place. It takes a certain amount of queerness to have the open mindedness you need to see Walmart for what it really is, I don’t imagine getting many readers that fit the bill. If you do happen to be feeling a Baby Bell cheese kind of weird as you read, excellent. I’m probably preaching to the choir, and I don’t need to tell you to get to work on buying a Costco membership as soon as possible. However, to those of you reading with a level head, remember what I’ve shared here as best you can. Hide it on the back burner of your subconscious, let it simmer on low. As the next time that you find your musings drifting into obscurity, or pass by a Walmart during your travels, I need you to ask yourself a very important question. Is this really, a colossal building, which is part of a multi-billion dollar empire, with no tap payment, a parking lot like the Skydome, a ceiling high enough to play baseball under, a wonky assortment of various products, a machine that duplicates keys, and a clientele that necessitates multiple motorized shopping carts at any given time?…
… Or are you taking a trip down the rabbit hole, to peer through the looking glass, every time that you waltz up to the sliding doors of a Walmart?