How Walmart caused a mental breakdown (and other annoyances)

I have made it a rule in my life to never visit Walmart before 1 a.m. or after 5 a.m. Why? Customers. Between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., there are none. Or at least, very few. No 8-year-olds running into the pant racks and hiding from their parents, getting that ever-present “sticky kids hand goo” on everything. No teenagers yelling at each other from across the store at a decibel reserved for air craft carriers. No babies crying bloody murder because they can sense the evil that is Walmart and want nothing more than to leave. It’s glorious.

And the cashiers are better, too. During the day, you get the younger workers, the chatty ones who want to know what the weather’s like outside or if you’re looking forward to your weekend. The cashiers who work the wee hours of the morning are like hardened criminals doing time. They give you a quick nod or hello, scan your stuff lightening fast and get you on your way back to the party or Taco Bell or home. They’re badass, and I love them.

But recently, I’ve taken a 9-5 job. It’s turned my entire life upside down, and I’ve had to readjust my priorities and break a few rules. Sleep has always come first for me, and now that I have to be up early, a 3 a.m. Walmart trip in the middle of the week is no longer possible. So a few days ago, I broke my rule. I ventured into a Walmart, boyfriend in tow, at about 7 p.m.

After making our way through the maze of people and overturned clearance items, we played the game of “which line will take the least amount of time?” Do we want to go with the line with fewest people? The line with fewest items on the belt? The line with the fastest cashier? (Fun fact: the game has no winners. Everyone loses.) We made a decision, accepted our fate and waited. After 45 minutes spent watching one woman in front of us pull out dozens of faded coupons for every item in front of her, and another break the register by simply paying with cash (which the register hadn’t processed since 1998 and couldn’t handle) right as we finished unloading our cart (forcing us to move all our crap to another register), the last thing I needed was commentary on my purchases from the cashier. But that’s exactly what I got.

“I bet you have kids!” the young lady squeaked through a smile after scanning my two bottles of Suave Kids 3-in-1.

“Nope, no kids.” I said. “It’s just really cheap, smells good and makes my hair really soft.”

“Oh!” She turned away, unaware of what she’d just done, and went back to scanning my sensitive teeth toothpaste, cran-grape juice and Jell-O pudding snacks. And while I gave no outward indication of any change whatsoever, inside my head, things were a bit different than they were five minutes ago.

Before, I had just been annoyed. Now, I was annoyed and sad.

Nope, no kids, I thought. Thirty-two years old and still “single” on every legal document there is. Still no mini-me to teach about the world and feed and clothe and emotionally scar. People my age are on their second and third kids. All I’ve got are a few fat animals and a hermit crab. 

Before, I had been thinking about extreme-coupon lady and broken registers. Now, I was thinking about high-risk pregnancies, how many eggs I had left and the break-neck speed of time. I was forced into a mental breakdown in front of the candy bars and ChapStick.

Look, I know the cashier was just trying to be friendly. Hell, people probably like that inane register chit-chat. But my advice to cashiers: stick to safe topics, like the weather or weekend plans. You could be launching a mid-life crisis if you aren’t careful.