I hate shopping at Walmart. I am a Meijer shopper. Everywhere I have lived, I have found a Meijer, learned the layout, based my grocery store list off of the layout, and met my needs and later my family's needs at Meijer. However, sometimes Meijer is out of what I need. And Walmart is around the corner from Meijer. Even though I know I'll have to search around the store, wait in a long line, or deal with a malfunction at the self checkout, sometimes I go to Walmart.
This summer, my daughters and I had been to the beach. My daughter wanted some cool pool floaties for our next beach trip. Since it was July, I figured we'd hit Meijer and see what discounted pool/swim items they had. It was already nearing 8:00PM, and we'd had a long day at the beach, but the girls were behaving well, so we stopped at Meijer.
Meijer had discounted squirters, the kind the girls had used and loved at Jesse's party. Meijer also had discounted life jackets, and Chelsea needed a bigger one. But Meijer was out of floaties. So after finding everything where we would expect it to be and after a successful trip through the self-checkout, I said, "Do you girls want to make a quick stop by Walmart and see if they have any floaties?" The girls agreed, and we drove around the corner.
Katie's five, and she knows parking lot rules, but she often wanders. So as we were walking in to the store, my eyes were less on my surroundings and more on her. I think Chelsea was on one side of me, and Katie was on the other. As we walked through the first set of a doors, a group of three or four men were standing around a cart. A Walmart greeter asked, "Do you got a receipt?"
I heard, "Don't do it!" One of the men charged the greeter and I saw the greeter fall against the far wall. I grabbed both of my children and walked into the store.
As we reached the Self Checkout, I loudly told a women I believed to be an employee that a man had just slammed the greeter into the wall. Her blank stare told me she wasn't an employee. So I yelled louder to a woman in Walmart vest. "Ma'me, a man just pushed one of your workers into a wall over by the door." She looked confused, and I probably sounded hysterical, so I repeated myself louder. When she looked over and saw the greeter, I pulled both of the girls along with me farther into the store.
"My heart is beating really fast," said Chelsea in a voice that seemed way to calm to me.
"Mine, too," whimpered Katie.
"That was really scary," I said. "I wanted to get you away from there. At least we found someone who could..."
"Help," interrupted Chelsea. I was so relieved to hear her finish my sentence. I'm not sure what I would have done, had I been alone. The men around the cart were bigger and stronger than I, and my actions had not been driven by any conscious thought. I wanted to get my kids to safety, and I wanted to help. Had I been alone, perhaps I would have stayed in the entryway, screamed from there, or fished for my phone to call for help. Who knows? But I wasn't alone. I had two small people I'm supposed to keep safe walking with me.
We quickly passed through the grocery section, the clothing section, and reached the toys/sports section. Since it wasn't Meijer, I didn't exactly know where to find what we needed. We walked through several aisles and ended up with two tire floaties.
As we headed towards the checkout, Katie started whimpering. She didn't want to go back through the door. "The police will be here by now. The door will be safe, and I'll go through first and walk right by you," I reassured her. I hoped I sounded braver and less worried than I felt.
I didn't have enough patience for the trials of the self-checkout. Besides, the self-checkout had a view of the door. So we got in an Express Lane. The lane didn't live up to it's name because the customers in front of us insisted they were told the Disney bike helmet they wanted to buy cost only $2.00. While a man ran back to do a price check, we waited. The customers in the line next to us also waited, because a woman wanted ten percent off the price of a bike with some scratches on the paint on the handlebars. Normally, I would have been impatient about the wait and reminded myself why I hate Walmart, but at that moment, I was thankful for some extra time for the situation at the door to be handled.
When we finally walked out of the store, there was a police officer talking with the greeter, and there were two police cruisers parked at the front of the store. As we walked to the car, I told my children that the police were here to help and keep everyone at Walmart safe. Once we were locked in the car, I asked the girls if they could describe any of the men we had seen. Chelsea said, "I can see one man in my head, but it's really hard for me to tell you what he looks like." I slowly began driving out of the large parking lot. I saw a women talking to the police officers by the cruisers.
"Do you think you could tell the police anything about him?"
"Not, not really. Why are you asking, Mom?"
I hesitated. I wanted to go home. "Because if we could describe any of the men, that would help the police find them, and I would drive over the police cruiser, so we could talk to them. That would be another way to help. But it won't help them if we can't remember. I didn't get a good look at them. Did you?"
"I don't think I can describe him," Chelsea answered.
"Okay, let's go home."
The girls had been pretty brave in the store, but when we pulled into our driveway, they were suddenly terrified. Since we'd been at the beach, I had to make three trips in to the house with all of our stuff. The first time I walked in, they jumped and screamed. So we made a deal that I'd take my keys, lock the door when I was outside, and unlock the door and say who I was when I came in. Our detached garage is probably twenty feet away from our front door, but this didn't seem silly. To them, it seemed safe. They had to have their baths together that evening. And we all had a giant slumber party on the sleeper coach in our tv room. Chelsea needed a heating pad and loud music playing to fall asleep.
Katie said she's never going to Walmart again. I told her to remember all the times we have been to Walmart when no bad things happened. And to remember that people were around to help everyone try to stay safe. I told her when we go back again, another bad thing probably won't happen.
I hate shopping at Walmart. But what I really hate is the realization that no matter how much I love my kids, they are growing up. And they are growing up in an imperfect world where sometimes bad things happen. I hate that as much as I would like to keep them safe, sometimes the best that I can do is to teach them by example to stay safe and help as much as they can in a bad situation. And I also hate that teaching them to face their fears means I might just have to take them shopping a Walmart again, sometime. But I can always hope that maybe, my Meijer's won't be out of what we want or need for a while.