Uncle Tom's Travelin' Salvation Show

A Field Guide to the Apocalypse

Tom King

Tom King
Puyallup, Washington, USA
April 19
Freelance Commercial Writer
The Orion Project
Minor pundit, major pain, conservative community activist, author, Christian and Texan, I believe all we can take with us is our character and that the train is arriving soon. As a conservative activist for seniors, children, people with disabilities and low-income families, my liberal buddies think I should spontaneously combust. Many hope I will do so as soon as possible.


JANUARY 15, 2012 6:13PM

Anthropoloical Studies Down at the Wal-Mart Parking Lot

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(c) 2012 by Tom King

Plenty of people have weighed  in opinions of Wal-Mart and its customers. Comedians, pop psychologists, community organizers and armchair anthropologists have ridiculed and/or looked down their noses at the folk who congregate at the Wal-Mart. You will notice that I myself place the definite article "the" in front of "Wal-Mart" as is the general usage throughout the South. I suppose we do that unconsciously to identify THE Wal-Mart as opposed to would-be Wal-Marts like K-Mart, Target and Gibson's Discount Centers.

Wal-Mart is something of a barometer of local lower middle class culture in any community and since the folk who live below the median 50% of the economic classes tend to be the primary Wal-Mart shoppers, it is fair to say that you could likely find a fairly representative sample of mainstream Americans by observing folk who shop at Wally World.

For instance, this morning I discovered a difference between Wal-Marts in Washington State and Texas that points to a difference in the two cultures or at least how the cultures react to an outside stimulus - in this case snow.

I come from Texas. When it snows in Texas everyone goes to the Wal-Mart and buys enough food and supplies to survive an apocalypse. For some reason we also buy huge packages of toilet paper. The parking lot of the Wal-Mart is inevitably packed with pickups and SUVs the moment more than a handful of snowflakes begin to fall.  Not sure why. Perhaps we're expecting massive power failures and want to have plenty of perishable food on hand if it does. Then, of course, when the power fails, we'll have to eat all the perishable food right quick before it perishes because the refrigerator will go out without power and then we're really going to need plenty of extra toilet paper you can bet on it.

This morning the ground was covered with snow, the roads were icy and, of course, my brother-in-law and I noticed we were low on bread. So, off we went to the Wal-Mart or just plain Wal-Mart as it's known up here in the Seattle area.  I fully expected to see the parking lot jammed, but to my surprise there appeared to be fewer people than usual in the store. Cashiers were standing idle waiting for customers - something I'd never seen at the South Hill Wal-Mart.

When snow starts falling Daisy and I get an urge to play in it. Apparently, people in Washington do not feel the need to go out and drive in the snow if it's not absolutely necessary. The don't really need a lot of toilet paper when it snows either. The few people who were there were buying DVDs and snack food and stuff like that.

They say familiarity breeds contempt. I suppose as often as they get snow around here, the folk don't think they have to get in supplies  every time there is a flurry. 

Me, I'm carrying my trusty Swiss Army knife and a cigarette lighter (I don't smoke) with me at all times while there is snow in the air or on the ground.  I can still build a lean-to and start a fire with wet wood. I'm ready for whatever the Pacific Northwest can throw at me. Except for maybe that volcano over across the valley.

I wonder if the Wal-Mart parking lot would fill up if Mt. Ranier erupted?  I'll go check it out if it does and let you know.

Tom King - Puyallup, WA, late of East Texas

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As a former brother-in-law of mine from very rural Missouri put it, "Real towns have Wal-Marts." Meaning he came from a town so small Wal-Mart wouldn't bother putting one there. Here in Boston the city has reacted to the possibility of a Wal-Mart in a depressed neighborhood that really needs it more or less like the Pope at the gates of the Vatican when the Mongol hordes arrived. A Wal-Mart--in Boston? The horror! Much of anti-Wal-Mart sentiment is just snobbery.
Hey, you got that right. Wal-Mart's $4 generic meds programs did more to make prescriptions affordable than the federal perscription drug program. My doc prescribes from their $4 list instead of the guys-who-will-give-me-a-free-Carribean-vacation-if-I-prescribe-a-lot-of-their-new-expensive-drug list. He knows I don't have insurance and gives me proven medications with a long history of safety instead of the new stuff that will soon be the target of a class action lawsuit. I'm a Wal-Mart fan.
I will attest to your observations. I'm from Dallas and now live in Kirkland, WA. I still do a snowflake freak out - difference is now I head to The Fred Meyer to buy the 20 pack of toilet paper and red velvet cupcakes.
There's a lot you can say about Wal-Marts, but in a lot of small towns or communities, they're the only game in town. And when you see people stocking up for the ice storm, or just routinely shopping, it's not the lower middle class, it's everybody. It's not a barometer. It's where prices are good and everybody goes.
Used to be a full-fledged town in Texas had to have three things: a post office, a Dairy Queen and a Western Auto. Since then, Wal-Mart has become the dividing line between being a town and a full-up city. There's still plenty of room for mom and pop operations, but folk have to change as the markets and competition change. It's one thing that makes capitalism such a tough, flexible economic system.