Sure, Wal-Mart underpays its employees and unfairly burdens the federal and state governments by not providing most of its workers health benefits. Yes, the family behind the mega-chain inspires otherwise apathetic couch potatoes to picket when faced with a Wal-Mart in their neighborhood.
No, I will not financially support a company I don’t believe in. But I admit that, during the long hot summer of 1996, I used to soak up Wal-Mart’s glorious air conditioning, particularly the freon at the 24-hour Wal-Mart on Etiwanda in Rancho Cucamonga.
Because when the IE mercury hits triple digits, even sleeping wears me out. To cut down on the electric bill, my ex-boyfriend and I would hang out at Wal-Mart when we were bored and too hot even to watch the tube, walking the chilly aisles at 2 a.m.—stoned out of our minds, and fucking with the security guards instead of each other.
My ex and I looked like tattooed circus freaks back then (it was long before Travis Barker and Tommy Lee became America’s inked-up darlings), and the Wal-Mart security goons always glared at us, scoffing at the idea that we could actually afford to buy anything. And since we never really did, they followed us relentlessly.
We made a game of it, darting in and out of the aisles, going out of our way to look suspicious but never actually putting anything in our pockets. The suspense was palpable; the frustration in the frazzled fuzz’s faces delighting us more and more every moment. We’d pick things up and put them back. (Two points for getting tracked, five for an actual violation of personal space by an undercover security guard, 10 for actual threatening dialogue!)
Looking back, we must have seemed strange—not because of the swallows on my beau’s neck or his tattooed fingers, but because of our choice of summer sport. It still sounds stupid, yet it made perfect sense at the time, and when it’s 115 degrees in Ontario, rationality subsides. What can you expect from people who chose to live in a town that reeked of cow shit every morning? (Shawn Smith)