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#0021

I know I can’t be the only one with a gut-wrenching aversion to Kmart. How can anyone not hate that bubbling cauldron of ghetto nastiness? There is nothing good about Kmart. If you can think of one redeeming trait of this terrible, awful, no-good very bad establishment tell me and I’ll recant my opinion and give the place another go-round.

It’s not like I haven’t given Kmart a fair chance. In the last year alone, I’ve risked my life entering the place probably four or five times, just to make sure my opinions were still accurate. Each time I visit, my sitting-up-in-bed-sweating-and-crying nightmares start again, but in the name of being up-to-date and keeping my hate just, I went there today.

*Shudder…* Ugh, it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

I needed some WD-40 for my squeaky bed which I worry will disturb my new housemates, but it was mid-afternoon, and I didn’t want to risk the one remaining bumper on my car by venturing into the Walmart parking lot across from my college, where students operate their vehicles like bumper cars.

I went in and was shocked to be greeted by a suit and tie and a nametag.

“Welcome to Kmart!” the dude’s face said to me.

He must not have realized the irony of his own statement. First, I’m not welcome to Kmart. I don’t belong in Kmart. Sex offenders and convicts belong in Kmart. People who wear clothes they find at the city bus stop belong in Kmart. Kmart is home to people with disheveled couches on their front porches. Kmart and I don’t belong together.

Second, I’m not welcome here. Kmart and I have a very limited, short-term business relationship. Kmart does not welcome me. We tolerate each other for a few mutual benefits, and then we split up and try to forget that the other exists.

I proceeded in my hasty hunt for lubricant. The lighting in the joint didn’t help. The store might as well be filled with cigar smoke. No matter what Kmart you walk into, in any part of the country, the lighting is always as dingy as the stain-coated floors.

The purchase displays scream “CHEAP!” and “I’LL FALL APART WHEN YOU GET ME HOME!” with their tacky colors and overloaded cardboard shelves, like they’re advertising a bad date.

I weaved my way through the aisles and around the grumpy, crusty shoppers. You can tell which ones are regulars. I make eye contact with several people, and the ones who hiss and scurry away like feral cats are Kmart’s faithful family.

When I can’t find the WD-40, I ask a blue-vested fat man with a nametag for assistance. He’s got a shopping cart full of merchandise that he’s reshelving, and instead of just pointing me in the right direction, he declares, “Follow me!” And he’s off.

Down to the end of the car care aisle he sprints, each heavy footstep making the shelves shiver, shopping cart tilting precariously around the corner, he yells out a “Get out of the way!” to an elderly woman in the cleaning supplies aisle, which he spins into and screeches to a halt.

“Big or small cans,” he announces, and before I can say thank you he’s left the aisle and his echoing footsteps can be heard in retreat.

That was weird.

I sift through the greasy cans. Everything in Kmart is greasy. The walls, the floors, the merchandise, the people, the smell… I want to shower after inhaling Kmart air. I finally find an unopened can and head to the check out.

Though the parking lot is almost full, only two registers — the ones furthest from the exit — are open. I get in line at the one with a flickering light. There are only two people ahead of me, but this is Kmart, so I can’t expect the cashier to be quick. Ten minutes later, I am tempted enough by a bag of chocolate covered peanuts to grab them… and a pack of gum and some nail clippers. God help me for bringing the curse home!

When I check out, the lady, who is fat and short and friendly, mutters something.

“I’m sorry?” I ask her.

“Yeah, they’re not going to get me… (mumbling) I hate it when that happens!” And then she laughs.

I chuckle nervously (I really chuckle only when nervous).

“The cold it’s… (mumbling, muttering) And that’s why.” She finishes ringing me up, and I pay with a card. “And then… (muttering) So you have a good Christmas.”

“You too!” I say cheerfully, moving with purpose toward the door.

The Salvation Army guy with the bell outside laughs at me when I get outside and take a big gulp of fresh air.

“Haha, you have a good day now.”

“Thanks.” And I got in my car, feeling like I’d just watched a dirty movie. Now I’m sitting here typing, getting ill from the tainted chocolate peanuts I was dumb enough to actually open and consume. I’m going to contract AIDS.

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