Walmart, the good and the not so good

Recently, my daughter and I experienced Walmart. Two totally different encounters. She and her family traveled three hours to undertake a magical weekend at Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. Home of Walmart. They stayed in the elegant 21C Museum Hotel, walking distance to Crystal Bridges. Sam Walton raised his family on the property that his daughter, Alice, has developed into a magnificent (and free) museum of American art.

I, on the other hand, got a whole different impression of Walmart. My husband and I were driving in our travel trailer from Dallas to Tucson. (follow the weather) It was around 4 in the afternoon and we were ready to call it a day. We assumed that once we got near Midland we could find a spot to camp for the night. I, as spot-on navigator, began my usual search for campgrounds. Starting with the internet. Hmmm… strange. Only one campground listed for Midland. I called, got an answering machine, left a message and we forged onward, assuming, once again, we would find room at the inn. We had no idea we were entering the latest modern-day American Gold Rush.

I think it was the smell that first alerted us to our arrival in the Permian Basin. Not a bad smell, just a different smell. As we approached this Boom Town we threaded our way through a multitude of semis, oil tankers, welders, pipe fitters, drillers, the latter seeming to have kept the pickup truck dealers in business. (follow the money) Eventually, about three miles outside of town we arrived at the RV park. It appeared full as well as the office appearing closed. There was a mailbox labeled “late arrivals”. I opened it and Senor Alvarez in spot 23 was just dern blessed that my husband nixed my attempted pilfering and insisted we continue on to Walmart.

We found the nearest, and in fact, the only Walmart in Midland. The parking lot was packed to overflowing! As we entered the driveway we noticed a sign that said NO TRUCK PARKING. Strange. My husband immediately observed that unlike most Walmarts no RV’s were parked in the outskirts of the parking lot. (For those new to camping, just know that most Walmarts allow overnights for RV’s.)

I, not to be deterred so easily, marched up to the entrance, (avoiding a multitude of semis, oil tankers, welders, pipe fitters and drillers) asked for a manager and then proceeded to wheedle, beg and prostrate myself in a successful attempt to be allowed to park overnight.

I then felt compelled to buy something so ended up with a piping hot roasted chicken, no, make that boiling hot. I telephoned my husband and told him we could park there that night and to please move to the far end of the parking lot. Meanwhile, I negotiated the “automatic” checkout line, which I found surprisingly easy with only one item. I then proceeded to walk the three miles to the far side of parking lot, again avoiding a multitude of semis, oil tankers, welders, pipe fitters and drillers and now also people with their shopping carts overflowing, intending to find my travel trailer along with my husband. After surveying the parking lot and seeing no sign of our trailer, again, I called him. “Where are you?  He obviously had not followed my meticulous directions and was still parked where I had left him. Men!

A night of firsts! First time to spend the night at a Walmart, first time to effortlessly navigate the automatic checkout line, first time to refrain from stealing Senor Alvarez’s rv site reservation.