Through the Cracked Windshield of My Life


Who needs a muse, when you’ve got Walmart?

The dogs and I went to run errands this afternoon. I needed a lint roller to get rid of the dog hair on my coat, from taking the dogs with me to run errands. I also needed a trash can with a lid to keep said dogs from digging chicken carcasses out of the trash. 

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Back when I was a starving writer, two weeks ago, I had purchased some light bulbs at Walmart. They didn’t fit the socket. Lint roller, trash can and exchanging the light bulbs at said Walmart made for  quite a combo of found sound and visuals of bacterial producing proportions — a petri dish of American life, as only Walmart can deliver.

The line at the return counter, nine customers deep, was like a scene from Curb Your Enthusiasm, yet somehow, I managed to not pull a Larry David. Just about the time I was thinking my life is too short to wait in line for $4.99,  it was my turn, after the clerk cleared a stack of returned merchandise (I use the term loosely) in one fell swoop, by throwing it on top of a shopping cart overflowing with what my mother affectionately referred to as “job lot junk.” I was, I’ll admit it, almost tapping my foot by this time, hoping the dogs hadn’t broken out of the car and taken off with a family in a conversion van. I didn’t have a receipt. They gave me a Walmart gift card. Okay, fine. 

The store aisles were packed with shoppers,  giving me ample time to weave together the audio track of this tale.

“I like to get the box wine ’cause I can keep it next to the TV.”

“We need all associates to the electronics department. “

“Stop it, you’re pissing off my nerves.”

“Customer needs assistance at the ammo desk.”

I could have been a contender. It could have been me. Because just about the time I heard that page, blaring over the P.A. system, the gal who’d just issued my gift card at the customer service desk was making the rounds with all the cashiers filling up the return baskets again. “Anybody got any returns?” she hollered as she trolled for buyer’s remorse.  By now I’m in the check out line, populated with beef jerky, Hot Fries, Cosmo selling “the sex move to bring you closer, (it’s been my experience that the act alone necessitates proximity, call me old fashioned) and US magazine sporting Kourtney Kardashian’s tips on how to have it all.  The checker at my cattle chute had chicken. Raw chicken, which she offered up, in a scene reminiscent of the scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, “bring out your dead” as the cut up fryer was added to overflowing pile of return merchandise.

“Customer needs assistance at the ammo desk.”  It wasn’t me. Should have been me. I could have broken in to the rifle case, loaded that baby up and marched the return associate out to the dumpster, where 99% of all that crap will wind up anyway and demanded that she discard the chicken, instead of simply leaving it in the cart, which she rolled back over to the salmonella service counter, I’m sure for just a quick second, as she hopped back on her register to deal with the burgeoning line of people waiting to return crap. I could have,  but my dogs were in the car.

I’ve reluctantly conceded to shop at Walmart recently, despite my sociopolitical angst over their labor practices, because coffee beans are a dollar cheaper, dog food is two bucks cheaper and so are step-on trash cans with the pop-up lids.  I’ve rationalized shopping there because it’s actually closer to my house than the grocery store and my cousin Shirley is a Walmart greeter in Mineral Wells, Texas and I don’t want to do anything to topple the company store which has put bread on her table for some twelve years. But I ain’t going back there. No mo’, no mo’, no mo’, no more!


I got in the car, dogs were fine. I pulled out of the parking lot, stopped at the light. A white panel van passes by with a sign, “St. Louis Blues Tour.” I don’t need no stinkin’ blues tour, I just took one.


About Jean Ellen Whatley

Writer. Dreamer. Sometimes schemer. Journalist/memoirist/observer and sometimes constructive irritant. Prisoner of demon muses. Mother to four humans and two dogs. In my spare time, I delete phone numbers of former boyfriends.

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  1. It is always an event at Wal-Mart, sometimes it’s mine and most times it’s someone else’s. How are you doing, Cosmo girl?

    • I am doing so GREAT it should be against the law. Long time since I could be considered Cosmo material, if ever. Never had the cleavage. That said, I must say I’ve picked up one from time to time to brush up on those “tips.” One has to work with what they’ve got.

  2. Kathleen says:

    Funny and gross! I recently went to a Walmart near Blacksburg, Va. To stock up my grad school son’s larder and was blown away by what I saw… More men in camo, greying ponytails (on the men!) and so much more. Look forward to more stories!

    • Reminds me of when my friend Lynn and I took our 13-year-old sons to the Crossroads guitar festival in Dallas several years ago. In one instant, I realized where all my friends from high school had migrated to.

  3. At least when you go there in person, you don’t have to check out the “People of Walmart” site, since you’re seein’ the real deal. ;)