Friday, July 02, 2004

Falling Down

So I went to Wal-Mart today, on a mission for one thing, and one thing only.

Colored Pencils.

I know, it doesn't sound like much, and trust me it should not have taken 40 minutes to find these little colored writing utensils, but I got sidetracked.

So I barge straight into Wal-Mart, dodging the Watermelon display and accusing stares of employee's trying to hound people into buying one. I walk straight, eager to get out of here as soon as possible and for some reason slightly nervous I might buy something I never even came here for.

Wal-Mart can do that to people, ya' know.

I turn right, eyes glazed over as they scan across the women's wear section, trying to ignore the compulsive hunger pains as I pass the candy aisle and...Oh crap.

The Fourth of July Fireworks Display.

Eager as a schoolchild, I hurry forward, arms outstretched towards the neatly wrapped packages of fireworks, with their fire hazard warnings all over them and...


I tripped, over...something. I regain composure, heart racing as I had almost fell head-on into the magnificent display. I quickly turn around to see who or what had made me peal my eyes away from the fireworks, possibly even to thank him or her.

But no one was there.

Instead, I look down, only to see a very small rubber bump, blending in perfectly with the linoleum floor. I could see it now for the shadow it was creating from the light overhead.

Scolding myself for tripping over something not even an inch tall, I quickly move around to the other side of the display, eager to see what other Fourth of July goodies were there. I pick up a particularly dazzling package of Sparklers when I hear the same noise I had made a few moments ago, followed by a loud grunt.

I peer around the display, only to find another disgruntled customer (Go figure) who had tripped over the exact same 1/2-inch tall rubber bump. Smiling precariously, I take my package of Sparklers and head into the women's section.

While pretending to be viewing a nice pair of Khakis, I steal a glance at the display, twinkling serenely as people bustled by.

In the 10-minute time span I stood there looking at various states of shorts, I saw no more than 14 people trip over that annoying little bump on the floor.

Was this some sort of cruel joke for Wal-Mart employees?

Were people really that blind?

After this last thought crossed my mind, I frowned, telling myself that I had also done the exact same thing.

I also found it oddly entertaining to watch all of those people trip over that 1/2 inch-tall bump, only to get back up, face blazing like the setting sun at the realization of what they just tripped over.

As I watched, I noticed how people fell. Some people tripped gracefully, stumbling only slightly before quickly regaining composure. Most, unlike myself, were too excited about the Fireworks display to actually notice that they had just tripped over something.

Very few went into a full-fledged "trip": Arms flailing like windmills, legs suddenly turning to rubber, and the like. And then there was an even less percentage, like myself, who turned curiously at what had caused the stumble, trying to locate the source.

Clutching my Sparklers more defiantly, I strolled out of the women's section and past the display again. I looked very carefully at the floor, keeping an eye on that little bump, and just when I passed in front of it...It disappeared!


I doubled back to see it again, and sure enough, there was about a 3 foot span where you couldn't see that little annoyance at all since the light hit the ground at just the right spot, causing a glare off the abnormally white floor.

Finding this odd that the Wal-Mart employees would not have wondered why a certain display of fireworks is causing sparklers to end up in odd places like the detergent aisle, I dart down the school supplies aisles, snatch up my colored pencils, and find a register that is open. Waiting in line in a carefully chosen register, I now have a great view of the vicious fireworks display.

I get up to the counter, and point this out to the young man behind it. He squints his eyes for a second, watching 2 more people trip, sending a bottle of glue and a package of marshmallows flying into the air. His eyes wide, he looks back at me, wondering the exact same thing as I did:

How much is the lip balm?

Well, I'm sure he didn't think that, but I had just noticed a small display of 99-cent lip balm, and I was getting excited again.

Next thing I know, I turn back and a bunch of employees are crowded around the fireworks display, now moving it so that it sits on top of the little bump rather than 2 feet from it, causing a serious hazard.

I look back at my cashier, only to find him replaced, and unfortunately this new soul only knows one word:
I still tried to communicate to him by telling him thanks, and finally I was home free.

And that, my friends, is what retail will do to you.

Doing stupid things like putting a shiny display in front of a tiny bump, just to get entertainment by watching customers trip every 3 seconds!

Be safe this Fourth of July Weekend, and have fun! :-)