Cory Farley, voted "Best of Reno" 26 times in 27 years by readers of his column in the Reno Gazette-Journal, takes an unconventional look at topics from presidential elections to the best way to cook Brussels sprouts.

Location: Verdi, Nev, United States

Sunday, December 09, 2007

And a merry Christmas to all but three of you...

Out to the Leviathan of retailers this morning, and I wasn't 20 feet inside the door before I recalled the long-ago words of a friend.
"I don't go to W**m**t," she said, "because every time I do I see children being abused."
To be fair, that was back before the W-store was accepted by soccer moms and latte dads. You might go there, but you didn't want anybody you knew to see you there.
I still feel a little like that, to tell the truth, mostly because of the Arkansas company's alleged abuses of employees. But it does seem to be making efforts, and as the public consciousness has begun to green up, Walmart has made motions in that direction, too. I've begun to look upon it as the Arnold Schwarzenegger of retail stores: I suspect they're both motivated more by polls than by ideology, but if they're doing what I want them to, do I have the luxury of caring that it's for the wrong reasons?
So I walk in the door, and as I pick up some coffee at the in-house McDonalds, I overhear a couple with two pre-school children.
"Finish your Coke," the woman said, "or I'll smack your ass."
This is the kind of thing that makes me think you ought to have to pass a test before you can become pregnant.
I'm not a McDonalds-hater. I can enjoy a Quarter Pounder any time of the day or night, and the only french fries I like better than the clown's came from my mother's kitchen.
What logic, though, what sort of thinking, lies behind a statement like this?
First, there's the Coke. McDonalds has orange juice and milk, which have their nutritional drawbacks but at least aren't sugar water. Why would you order Cokes for two toddlers, and if you did it as a treat, why would you do it at 7:30 in the morning? And if you did that, why would you insist that they finish the Cokes? And if you did insist for some reason (maybe it really does help the starving children in India), why would you threaten to beat them if they didn't comply?
So that was one. Here's two: In the grocery section, where a woman was filling her cart with crap like Lunchables, ranch-flavored chips and Pop Tarts, I saw one of her kids swat at the other one, presumably for some offense I missed.
"Don't hit!" she snapped, slapping at the miscreant. "Do you want another spanking?"
So that was two. Here's three: As I loaded my car, a woman in the next space left her cart on the incline and opened the back of her SUV. As she passed sacks into the back of it, her son, maybe 2 years old, rocked back and forth in his seat. The motion started the cart rolling toward me, and I reached out and stopped it.
"Runaway baby," I said when she approached. "He nearly escaped."
"Runaway baby" is a stock phrase at my house, from a game I played with my kids 20 years ago. I didn't expect her to know that, but I did sort of anticipate a smile or some other acknowledgment of my hero status.
"You take care of your kid, a**wipe, and I'll take care of mine."
I bit back my first response, which ended in "you," and my second, which began "Kiss my." I considered saying "Merry Christmas," but discarded it as too wimpy, and probably too subtle.
"I'm sure you will," I said finally. "And it's a shame."
I should have gone with the first one.


Blogger Justin said...

lrkSo sad. I once witnessed a mother basically calling her 6-7 year old daughter a slut while looking at clothes at Target. Everytime the girl would pick out something she liked, her mother would say something to the effect that only sluts and whores wear clothes like that and she didn't raise her to be Britney Spears. It was a bit like watching a modern day, real life reenactment of Carrie. I finally lashed out at the mother telling her that maybe she should consider her words more carefully and take into consideration her daughters age. What do you really say in a situation like that? One time I also witnessed a woman in WalMart with her baby who was wearing nothing more than a diaper and looking like he hadn't been bathed in days.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Atani said...

Like you - I would have been tempted to go with either your first or second choice . But we're both of an age that precludes insulting remarks to women . Pity . I think all one can do in a situation like that is walk away . Unless your wife is with you - then she can make a remark . That avoids the sexism charge .

6:59 PM  
Blogger Atani said...

Like you - I would have been tempted to go with either your first or second choice . But we're both of an age that precludes insulting remarks to women . Pity . I think all one can do in a situation like that is walk away . Unless your wife is with you - then she can make a remark . That avoids the sexism charge .

6:59 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:33 PM  
Blogger ReconRanger said...

There's a great quote from Dean Koontz "Strange Highways" that comes to mind here:

"You don't have to learn to be peaceful. Peace is the natural state. You just have to learn not to disrupt."

That's not a reference to what you did with the "runaway baby." Threatening violence to a child for not finishing a soda smacks of irony and a threat to disrupt the peace. Threatening to hit a child for hitting his sibling is Kafkaesque as well a threat to the peace. Mom's response to you checking the cart indicates a personality whose initial response is disruption.

The question is where did all these people come from?

9:08 PM  
Blogger tuzoner said...


Welcome to the future of America.

This is a natural outcome of the dumbing-down of each successive generation by letting the breeding cycles free from social norms or government interference.

Here in Tucson, Arizona, W**m**t's are known as popular gathering spots for Trailer Trash - that's a pejorative term - it's not a requirement to live in a trailer to be identified as such.

When the three main pillars of American society become access to cable TV, personal transportation beyond reason, and the ability to gorge ourselves on cheap food, that's when the "GAME OVER" sign will be flashing on our blighted national identity.

Oh... and God Bless America.

4:57 AM  
Blogger sanasazi said...

Oh it is so wonderful to read your stuff again. While I miss your comments in the paper, this venue certainly offers so many more opportunities to express the real world out there.
Thanks again for your perspective on Reno and its inhabitants.

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a shame what our world is coming to. Though W**M**t attracts some of the worst cases, I have seen the same in Meadow W**d Mall, etc. I think Paris, Britney, etc. proves that ill manners and poor child raising knows no economic or social bounds.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

What drives me nuts is when I go into the evil store at 2am or so after work, there are multiple people with their kids shopping like it is normal. Do they not let their children sleep?

10:03 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I always get my best covert pictures of mullets at the W.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm waiting for Sara Robinson to post part four of her summary of Albion's Seed. That will give a broad historical answer to where these folks come from, but maybe the question was posed in hopes of eliciting a smaller answer. I don't know. They're just here. (There used to be a review of Albion's Seed on line from a Ball State University professor named McDonald but it's gone--here is the only BSU professor named McDonald I can find: 1).

1:26 PM  
Blogger Norby said...

I can't even count the reasons I wont step into a Wallymart, but your blog made me add a couple to the list.
The prices aren't low ENOUGH to make me sell my soul.

7:26 PM  
Blogger stevex said...

For all of those who use WalMart shoppers to advance their own superiority, rest assured that there are many examples of jackass parenting seen daily at the Summit Sierra Mall.

8:32 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Don't restrict yourself to the big box stores & malls. Try out what used to be Albertsons on Keystone or Plumb & Lakeside. My wife is afraid to get out of the car there but has no problems going to the other places mentioned in these comments.

10:11 PM  
Blogger pandagirl said...

I understand your unhappiness with child maltreatment, but why blame Walmart? Everywhere you go these days you can witness some form of abuse or neglect, from the soccer mom screaming at her kid to perform better on the field, to the parent who rewards his kid's bullying behavior as evidence the kid is "tough." It's not Walmart's fault obese parents load up their carts with junk for their equally obese children. I could afford to spend my entire paycheck on one week's worth of food at Raley's but choose not to do so. I love saving money at Walmart. Besides, I love their customer service; they are basically invisible until you need them, and then they always answer questions in a satisfactory manner.

10:05 AM  
Blogger tuzoner said...

Am I the only one that thinks Wal-Mart doesn't have low prices (except for the well known W-M loss leader items to get you in the store as reported by CBS 60 Minutes) nor do they have quality products?

As for Wal-Mart customer service: They don't have any.

I was confused by the pandagirl post.

10:34 AM  
Blogger pandagirl said...

Dear Tuzoner: My idea of "customer service" is to be left the hell alone until I have a question. Nothing worse than those Raleys employees who greet you in every aisle like you are their best friend. I hope you are no longer confused.

2:18 PM  
Blogger tuzoner said...

Fair enough - although I wish we had a Raleys here in Tucson - and not for their customer service.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Kelly O'Keefe said...

All of the incidents of near and real child abuse witnessed at the malls of America and super stores cited by the commentators reflect the pervasive dysfunction so prevalent in the families of present day America. Questions are posed, From where do "they" come? Is it the affect created by our mass culture imposed on a population that cares little for the examined life? Why do so many parents have no idea how to nurture their children? Were they similarly abused as children?

As uncomfortable and confrontive and yes, disruptive as it may be, ethical and moral people speak up when they see abuse in its myriad forms. The main goal being the protection of both the child's physical and emotional health, one has to choose one's words and actions with great care; if you don't speak up, who will?

1:33 PM  
Blogger sleet10 said...

Great article. Disfunction breeds disfunction. Since about 85% of society is disfunctional look at where this is leading to. Great comments on a society that is heading into the toilet, I thought there was hope, but as many commenters have mentioned, look at what one sees during the daily routine.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

What can you do when you see children being amused? Do you have a cell phone? Do you know the number of the local Child Protection Office? Do you have the time to stay until a worker gets there - I'm not talking hours, but a reasonable time - and/or perhaps call a security guard and ask them to hold the parents until a worker gets there? Or do you have the local police/sheriff number. Perhaps you could call them.

You,as an observer, do have options.

As for "where do these people come from: - could be an abusive background and that's where they learned to treat children in an abusive way; could be they grew up in the streets and that's where they learned how people treated people; could be the mother is now in an abusive situation and has learned to pass it down to the children. And there are many, many, many other reasons. I would urge all of us not to be judgemental when we see these actions, but move to help the children, which often brings help to the adults which can break the cycle.

Happy One

8:38 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

TYPO on the comment I just entered - in the first line, please substitute ABUSED for amused. Guess I really do need to preview before I submit!

8:42 PM  

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