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K-Mart: A contemporary Depression-era experience

March 12, 2009

Dear Lord, Can’t there be one store, that isn’t utterly dispiriting, where I can get the best price locally on the one true cat food, paper products, and a Martha Stewart compote dish to replace the one providentially broken in the dishwasher due either to impact with a neighboring vessel or poor glass annealing physics? Dear Lauren, No.

The presenting problem was one of our four glass fruit/ice cream/pistachio shells dishes. From K-Mart it came, and only from K-Mart could its replacement be procured. Part of my compulsive nature is that if something breaks, it needs to be fixed or replaced–immediately–before life as normal can be considered restored. And life as normal is very important.

K-Mart is the commercial nadir of Tacoma. The good thing is that everyone knows this, and there is lots of room to park and to navigate around the large, dingy, depressing store. The outside of the store as you drive up from the side road to the east is filthy. Pigeons roost and coo from the roof overhanging the front doors.

Some of the people who work in the store are actually helpful and pleasant. I don’t know how they stand it. But I wasn’t up to going to K-Mart plus another energy-devouring store to get a few things. I could tough this out.

The grumpy greeter turned on his worn-down heel and looked at the floor when I walked in. Oh well. I struggled to extract a cart from the crammed-together group of carts, and noticed the folding front shelf did not unfold. I use the folding shelf for everything because it hurts my back to bend over to set things down inside the cavernous basket. I yanked loose another cart. The grumpy greeter took up the cart I rejected and examined the jammed folding shelf. He appeared employed to full capacity.

Notwithstanding the filthy exterior and the grumpy greeter, the errand proceeded efficiently. As I headed to the check-out, the grumpy greeter was still staring at the jammed folding shelf of the cart I rejected.

The cashier appeared to have missed her calling as an automatic dishwasher. She tossed my glass compote bowl into a plastic bag without wrapping it. One of the items I purchased rang up a dollar more than the price displayed on the shelf. I inquired about this, and the cashier silently whipped out an advertising supplement, smacked it down on the counter, and pointed to the item and its price. My mistake; trifocals, you know…She was not to be humored. I thought of the construction workers and other hard workers, now out of work, suddenly thrust into life in Sacramento’s tent city, who would be happy to work at K-Mart, who would pressure-wash the store, greet customers civilly, perhaps even acknowledge the possibility of a price display error.

I had been too terrified to examine the glass bowl in the cashier’s presence, but the bowl was ingeniously designed to survive K-Mart cashiers, just not automatic dishwashers. I washed it by hand, put it away, and began a list of things we need that K-Mart does not sell.

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2 Comments
  1. March 13, 2009 9:58 am

    It has all the pathos of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, and it’s funnier :-)

  2. March 13, 2009 10:54 am

    Maybe some depression-era entrepreneur could film a re-make at K-Mart! We could bring you out for a cameo role. We could play ourselves shopping for a recovering America. Oh, this is heady stuff. Maybe it would even gladden the grumpy greeter.

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