Friday, January 19, 2007

where can i get a toilet brush, socks, hamster food, and dinner?

My best friend is really lucky. To begin with, I have not called anyone my 'best friend' (without sarcasm) since high school, which was long ago in a galaxy far, far away. Secondly, she is taller than me and can wear dark lipstick unselfconsciously, with glamour - usually two big strikes against best friend status. Moreover, she's from Southern California, pooh-poohs my processed food warnings, and...she shops at that place. I know I should be Harry Potter-brave and just say the name of the wicked and evil thing to take away its power, but I am weak [okay; sounds like 'tall fart']. I'm a little afraid they might sue me or send their poor slave workers after me with pitchforks and torches. Okay, I'm being silly - they would never bother to sue me.

So you know, I'm not a 21st century Norma Rae vigilantly fighting to unionize downtrodden laborers (although I do believe that to be an issue with you-know-who) - the words 'vigilant' and 'fight' make me tired just typing them, frankly. And I can't spout the numbers for comparing how THEY help vs. hurt the US economy, though I have a strong suspicion which way the balance leans in the long run. No, these very important problems are icing on the rancid cake that is my intense dislike of the overall atmosphere of desperation and deceitful manipulation. I have set foot in you-know-where 3 times - once dragged by my mom, another time to spend a gift card on PTA supplies, and once more as a Secret Shopper for which I was paid $5, which I seriously consider blood money. Each visit left me feeling like doing two things: 1) Apologize to every employee for whatever I did or didn't do as an American to help them find a better job and 2) Burn the place down. Then dance on the ashes. Okay, three things.

These strong, bitter (violent?) feelings about a store give me pause. I think it's because I'm frustrated, feeling powerless to stop the madness that is blind support of a company that obviously exploits its workers and cruelly undercuts other establishments. I get Capitalism and the economic reality of competition and I don't begrudge anyone doing business. However, doing it viciously at the expense of others and pretending to be an asset to the community - that is despicable. I am perfectly okay with someone hating me (this is just hypothetical of course) and saying so to my face. Fine. But sniping about me to others, hitting on my husband and insulting my kids before cheerfully greeting me and inviting me to a Tupperware party - that is insidious and intolerable. That place is the one inviting me to a party while deriding me behind my back. Not cool.

So what's a best friend to do? We have occasional thoughtful, reasonable discussions about American consumerism and our role as responsible citizens. Then she sneaks off to the devil store for a few things before the kids get home. But apparently my silent contempt is a great guilt-inducer, and sometimes that's all we need to change. Yes, sir, she's lucky to have me.