I know why we’re in Altoona. I even appreciate it. I like the new friends we’ve made. But I miss the comfort and convenience of old friends. Even some colleagues from Kesmai. There are enough stocky people with dark hair that every now and again I think I see Stuart Holme in the distance. I miss his uncomplicated appreciation of life. I miss my friend Nancy (not a Charlottesvillian) with whom I seem to often have an understanding that exists outside of spoken communication. Of course I miss my Casagatan crew — those who are always there for me. I don’t know exactly why, but it’s particularly poignant today. I suspect Wal*Mart.
I find it much easier to love my fellow man when I’m not in Wal*Mart. When I go to Wal*Mart, it seems like I’m surrounded by ugly, mean, fat, pushy people. Are these the sort of people who are attracted to Wal*Mart? Or does Wal*Mart some how create these people? I certainly get cranky in that environment, I’m sure it wouldn’t take too extended a stay for me to get mean and pushy there. I’m sure mean AC is much uglier than peaceful AC. And fat? Well, there’s always a preponderance of cheap, bulk sugars and corn syrups.
So, why do I go? The same reason all of the other mean pushy people are there. The low, low prices of course. The cat food we feed Camus there is 9 cents/can cheaper than the local grocery store. He eats about 3 cans a day. Balance bars are as much as 25 cents cheaper – I eat one of those a day for breakfast.
I’m a free market advocate and generally a believer in the efficiency of markets. I understand why Wal*Mart displaced mom and pop stores. People value 9 cents per can of cat food more than they value the friendly smile of the neighborhood butcher. But what is the real price to humanity of 9 cents of cat food? What’s the price to my soul? I don’t know. Except that it makes me miss my friends.