Walmart: where awkward moments blossom into awkward days

When I was little, the biggest reward imaginable was for my brother and I to both be allowed to go to food shopping with my mom at the same time. Usually we were either brought individually or not at all, because when we joined forces, we always had way more success than my mom would have liked at finding things to laugh at, thinking up loud noises to make, and choosing interesting cans of who knows what to sneak into the cart while she wasn't looking. Neither one of us was much of an annoyance alone, but together we were unstoppable.

Not too much has changed since those days. At 22, I will still occasionally convince myself that I need a can of off-brand tomatoes because of the hilarious drawing of some stupid guy on the wrapper, or that I can't go without some headache-inducing Lisa Frank folder to store the assignments from one of my less favored classes in. I think I get it from my dad. One time he and my mom were taking turns riding a shopping cart in a parking lot, trying to set the world distance record, and he ended up losing control and accidentally smashing out one of her car's tail lights.

A few days ago, I sneezed twice in my first class. I never sneeze unless I'm coming down with something, so I decided I'd preemptively hit up Walmart for some Nyquil and Advil before a sore throat could get its foot in the door. Nobody likes shopping for medicine once you're already sick; it completely takes the fun out of it. Not that buying Advil is all that exciting in the first place, but there's nothing worse than being sick and getting stuck behind some old lady that's taking ages in line because she has to explain to the cashier about how her cat doesn't like the better cat food so she's buying the cheap cat food and not the better cat food, because her cat won't eat that better stuff, he knows better than to spoil his palette before his birthday on March 14th, so I need to get this cheap cat food because my cat is so smart, et cetera to infinity.

So I searched around the store for approximately forever, browsing their crappy Walmart CDs and being amazed at the wide variety of different types of printer ink that can be bought for outrageous prices, before I finally realized that Nyquil would probably be in the pharmacy aisle. I grabbed a bottle of the regular flavored stuff, a pack of Advil, and headed to express checkout.

The checker was a somewhat strange looking youngish woman with cracked lips and wild eyes. She looked like the type that, if not employed at Walmart, might be seen loitering outside of a Dennys or something, flicking cigarettes at birds. I put my cold medicine on the conveyer belt, put my hands in my back pockets, and stepped up to the register.

"Hi," I said.

"Hi," she replied coldly, eyeing the Nyquil. She glanced up at me, back to the Nyquil, back to me, and then slid it slowly across the barcode scanner.

"Date of birth," she stated flatly.

"...Huh?" I asked, caught slightly off guard. I hadn't remembered that Nyquil can be used to make meth or whatever it is that creepy people who flick cigarettes at birds make with it.

"Date of birth," she said again.

"Eleventwentyfoureightysix," I mumbled. She stared at me, chewed the inside of her lower lip for a second, narrowed her eyes and glanced back to the bottle of Nyquil, and then back at me, like she was on the verge of figuring out the exact mathematical reason why I must not be telling the truth.

"I think I'm getting a cold," I offered as I slid my card in the machine.

She didn't say anything as she finally put the Nyquil in a bag with the Advil and then handed me my my recipt. She didn't ask to see my driver's license; apparently to buy Nyquil, you only have to claim to be a certain age and be willing to engage in a staring contest.

I never did end up getting sick. But before I got back in my car, I took a shopping cart from the return lane, located a slightly downhill part of the parking lot, got a running-jumping start, and rode about twenty feet before crashing on some ice.

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