I'm not sure if there is a hell but if there is, you can be sure that it will be one long never ending K-Mart. The long corridors will be filled with many things. Useless items filling every shelf while the things you desperately need will be on eternal back order. "You want a drink of water? I'm sorry, it won't be in until the next shipment and that's been delayed. Would you care for some lighter fluid?"
It's been many years since I last entered a K-Mart but the other day I was looking for boxes. I wanted plastic storage containers and for some reason none of the local places had them at the right price.
When Rob and I used to live in the country, you couldn't swing a Redneck without hitting a Dollar Store. There were four in our local town. Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree and Bottom Dollar (not sure about that last one). I've never been a fan of Dollar Stores but they do come in handy when there is nowhere else to shop.
Now that we live in the city I thought that finding storage boxes would be easy. I googled "General Dollar" only to find out there was not one in our entire city. It was ironic that the thing that I had once made fun of was now of value to me. "How can they not have a Dollar Store?" I said to Rob.
Target and Wal-Mart had containers of course but they were overpriced. I wasn't interested in paying an extra ten dollars each to get a ‘flamingo pink or ‘Caribbean sunrise blue' storage box. As I was driving back feeling deflated I saw the K-Mart sign and resigned myself and pulled into the parking lot.
We all know that K-Mart has been going downhill for a long time. Gone are the days when Rosie O'Donnell danced and sang the little K-Mart tune. In fact, since the rumor that they were going bankrupt had circulated I hadn't seen a single ad for K-Mart. If I hadn't seen the garish out of date red and blue sign I would never have known they were even still in business.
As I blipped the alarm on my car I looked up to see a large askew plastic sign that read "we now carry major appliances". It was sagging on one side and you had to turn your head to read it. When I walked through the apparently broken automatic door I was temporarily blinded by the flickering strobe like fluorescent lights. The place looked bare, stocked with only the essentials to keep people coming through the door. I saw some flaccid Mylar balloons in the corner and some potted plants, their undernourished, under watered petals languishing in the cold dead light.
An amazing thing happened; I found what I was looking for right away which was fortunate as there were no sales people to be seen. The price was 3.99 each and was by far the cheapest plastic boxes I have ever seen. The dull beige color didn't deter me. I wasn't planning to decorate my living room with them. The buzzing of the lights was making it hard to think so I acted as quickly as possible. I stacked up six of the containers, grabbed six lids and headed straight for the checkout.
In my car driving back I thought, maybe I've been too harsh on K-Mart. For that one, brief moment I even felt a little sorry for K-Mart. My next experience with the chain of evil would completely change my mind about them and also, unfortunately make me question the existence of a higher power for a little while.
I needed more containers. We are moving and I needed to keep up the momentum and try not to feel overwhelmed with the task.
I told Rob that I was just going to "nip" up to k-Mart. "I'll be right back" I said.
I was hopeful when I pulled into the parking lot. It was half empty like the other day so I thought I would be able to quickly get in and out without too much hassle. I went to the place where the boxes were the other day only to see a giant sumo wrestler sized version of the same container. You could have stored livestock in that thing. I tried to stop a K-Mart employee as she walked past but she ignored my cries. I said "MISS!" and she turned around and looked at me like I had called her ‘K-Mart Ho' or something.
"Miss, can you help me please, I was here a couple of days ago and I'm trying to find the small version of this container" I said pointing at the huge monolith standing before me.
She gave me a disinterested look and started walking again and called out over her shoulder "it's not my department; you will have to find someone else."
On a normal day this would really make me angry but today I just wanted to get the boxes and go. I spent about ten minutes walking down isle after isle of useless garbage. When I reached the appliances I saw two men standing around. I grabbed one of them and told them my story. "I'm sorry but we only have one left" he said. I saw the lonely box sitting there on the empty shelf and my heart sank.
"Can you please check in the back?" He shuffled past the neon trash cans and plastic palm trees and diaper bins and diapered behind a set of double doors. I waited another five minutes feeling as though I was going to be there forever, lost in limbo, in a land of cheap linens, plywood office furniture and off brand washing machines.
The man came out shaking his head no. "Sorry, none back there but we have a huge shipment coming in tomorrow and I have every hope that there are going to be more on the truck. They are on sale right now and that's why they are sold out".
"Thanks anyway" I said and I picked up the lone box and made the long and lonely trek to the front of the store. There seemed to be no one at the helm and I wandered aimlessly until I came upon an employee hiding behind a register.
"I'm closed she said". I wandered away and finally found an open register. The young girl had thin, straight hair and a pallid complexion. She looked into the distance with flat expressionless eyes.
"That will be 4.89" she said.
I was staring into space myself as the lights had caused my brain to short circuit. It was as if she was talking to me underwater. Suddenly I snapped back to full consciousness and I said, "Sorry, you've made a mistake, they were 3.99 and now I think they are on sale".
"Yeah she said. They are on sale for 4.50."
My dry eyes burned in the soul destroying light and I said "but two days ago they were 3.99."
She shrugged her shoulders and a skeletal blond girl with an eyebrow ring and a stud in her tongue called out to the girl who was supposed to be waiting on me. "Givth me a few dothlar and I'll go geth that dreth." I thought that she was impaired until I saw the tongue stud. My checker pulled some money out of her red and white apron emblazoned with the word "K-mart" on it.
"EXCUSE ME" I said. My checker looked back at me in surprise as though I had just sprouted out of the ground like a mushroom. "Can you please just ring me up" I said feeling my cheeks burn with rage.
My checker looked at the computer like it might try to bite her and she said "Sorry mamn, I don't know how to ring it in any different than what it tells me."
I asked her to get a manager but instead she sent the blond girl to the back of the store to check the price. I was starting to get that feeling, that feeling that I should just walk away before I give myself a coronary. It wasn't worth this for a stupid box, couldn't I see that? My stubbornness had kicked in and I just couldn't walk away now. I was going to buy this box and I was going to pay 3.99. I didn't care if I had to start hitting her over the head with her scanner to make it happen.
After another five minutes the blond girl came back. "I thould you ith 4.50, thath whath the sign sayth."
"Get the manager I said, just get them, get them, get them."
The sickly acne covered girl flicked a button that made the sign above her register start to flash. I wondered if it was a warning sign, a security call but it turned out, it was to let the manager know that someone needed help. I stood there rooted to the spot. I so desperately wanted to go but I had invested too much time now. I wasn't leaving without my 3.99 box and I wasn't going to make it easy.
About five more minutes passed and the two girls resumed their conversation about the dress when a short man approached wearing what looked like a whistle around his neck with the word's K-Mart printed over and over on the ribbon holding it. He looked like a very small referee.
"Can I help you Mamn?" There was a glint in his eye. The kind that said, I can tell you are trouble. How low will I have to stoop to make you go away? The kind that said, I was made for better things than this. What happened to make me sink this low? Why didn't I go to college like my Mama urged, why didn't I at least go to trade school and become a plumber or something, anything.
I know that's a lot to get from a single glint but I'm just telling you what I saw. If I had had the unfortunate opportunity of seeing myself at that moment it wouldn't have been pretty either.
For starters, I was really hot. I had worn a down vest and it was about ninety degrees in this God forsaken torture chamber death trap. Sweat was running down my arms, gathering around my armpits and making me feel damp and uncomfortable. My hair was wild looking from a gust of wind that had almost knocked me off my feet as I was making my way to the building.
I turned to the young man with my hot sweaty face and narrowed scrunched up eyes and said "listen, I was here two days ago and these boxes were 3.99. I came back to get more and they only have one left and it's supposed to be on sale and now it's 4.50?"
"That's right" he said, it's a discontinued item.
"But the sale price is more than the regular price."
"Well, we aren't getting any more of these in; this is the last of them."
This was clearly Satan logic, with the sole purpose of making my head implode.
I gave him a tight lipped smile and said "how can something be more expensive when it's on sale?"
"Uh, well, I guess that price was kinda like a sale price and now it's a different price, but I tell you what, I'll give it to you for 3.99, how's that?"
I hadn't heard him at first because I had been daydreaming about stuffing his lifeless body into one of those refrigerator sized boxes I had seen at the back of the store. No one would ever find him back there I thought. "Sure I said out loud, whatever."
The manager left and the next ten minutes were spent trying to help the young girls try to figure out how to override the sale. The manager had to come back again and after approximately thirty five minutes of my life that I will never see again, I had saved .50 cents.
I grabbed my box, looking savage and wild eyed. The young check out girls had begun talking again about the dress and I just shook my head and started to make the long trek out. "Thorry" was all I heard as I marched towards the broken doors and then to freedom.