Wally World! The one day off I get in three months and I end up at Wally World. I detest the place. You know the place I mean. That mega-store that tells you the lie that the way you’ll live better is if you save money. What they really mean is that they’ll live better if you’ll spend more money there…but wait…If I go off on that tangent this early in the discussion, I’ll never talk about anything important. Come to think of it, what I write may not be so important anyway, but I’m at least going to give it a shot.
The Lovely Lady and I had attempted to visit a new antique store, but today being a holiday, were met with locked doors and darkened windows. Since we were already close and knew we needed dog food for the little monsters in the back yard, the evil-empire seemed a reasonable secondary destination. It wasn’t. It seems that thinking about how much money we need to save to live better makes all of us more than a little self-centered. I lost count of the times people pushed their way from the end of a side aisle into the main one, without ever looking and never even muttering an “excuse me” or “sorry” as I had to stop for them or be run over. Hands reached in front of my face as I waited for the Lovely Lady to find a grocery item and other carts bumped mine in the narrow aisles, but there was no sign of concern, not even a head nod to indicate a mea culpa from any of the guilty parties. We all ignored everyone else as, for the duration, our focus narrowed in on our own needs and desires.
Mere moments into our little excursion, I was in much the same condition as most of them, angry and self-absorbed, intent on getting what I came for and getting out. Then I saw her. THE Wally World Shopper. The young lady (she was indeed an adult) was dressed in the consummate costume for shopping in this zoo. Below her mussed-up mop of brown hair, her obese body was stuffed into a too small spaghetti-strap tank-top covered with vertical stripes and a pair of colorfully clashing shorts (also too small). From her shoulder hung a huge handbag adorned with brightly colored polka-dots. Positioned as it was, beside the striped top, the picture was already ridiculous. The brown leather cowboy boots which came up to just below her calves were the last straw. I was momentarily powerless to stop what happened next.
I took a picture of her with my cell-phone. She didn’t know it, since I had the phone in my hand already. It was a good photo, showing the “ugly” shopper in all of her splendor. As I wandered on down the aisle, I clicked over to my Facebook page and tapped the “photo” button. The picture was moved to the appropriate screen, ready to be uploaded for all the world to see. I even typed the words below it, “Can you tell where I am?” Laughing at my own wit, I reached my index finger over to click on “upload”, but something stopped me. I just couldn’t tap the screen.
I left the post on my phone without uploading it and caught up with the Lovely Lady as we checked out. Happy to leave the madhouse, we escaped into the triple-digit heat and headed home. As we drove, I showed her the photo and mentioned that I was going to post it. She said just one sentence, “She’s somebody’s daughter or niece, you know.” Nothing more. It was enough.
When I got home, I sat and looked at the picture and at my words. My thumb touched the “cancel” button. The question flashed on my screen, “Are you sure you want to cancel this post?” Almost angrily, I mashed the screen where the “yes” button appeared, again and again.
I remember now why I hate television programs such as “What Not To Wear”, where fashion snobs shame people into becoming what those snobs think is acceptable. I hate them because they reinforce the idea that we are better than people who are different than we are. I hate them because they legitimize the laughter at someone else’s expense, simply because we believe that we are smarter, or better looking, or stronger. I say I hate the programs like this, and yet I do the same thing. Regardless of whether I made the right decision today, I think that way in my heart, in the depths of my soul. Why else would I have taken the picture, or written the words?
Now who’s ugly? In my mind, I see the Teacher, sitting and drawing in the dirt with a stick, as the intelligent ones, the arrogant ones, slink away one by one, confronted with their own sin, their own ugliness. “Let him who is without fault begin the punishment.” I am one of those accusers, now faced with who I really am. What will I do about it?
I don’t have the answer. I know that the journey to any destination starts with just one step in the right direction. Tonight, I take that step. Tomorrow…I’ll try to keep going. It won’t be a short journey.
I’d like to have some company as I make the trek. Do you see any reason you might be going my way? Two are always better than one alone.
I trust you won’t mind being seen with an ugly person. Hopefully, it will only be a temporary condition.
“When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love.”
(Martin Luther King Jr.~American minister and civil rights leader~1929-1968)
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
“My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said, ‘I want a second opinion.’ He said, ‘Okay, you’re ugly, too.”
(Rodney Dangerfield~American comic~1921-2004)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.