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blind rage

Social comment time. My topic is the irritability of the poor. I'm not good at class distinctions, usually, believing in the essential sameness of people, rather than their differentness. I figure, for instance, that just about everyone would want to have a time-travelling castle, and a cannon that fires alligators at people. The only difference between rich and poor is that the rich are more likely to be able to afford stuff like this.

But I went with my daughter to Wal-Mart this morning, and was struck -- hard, like a fish in the face -- by how grumpy everyone was. Outside it was sunny and bright, a great day in late spring. Inside, all was gloom and anger. Kids were bratty. Grandparents were vinegary. Parents -- peanut butter in the generational sandwich -- all seemed to act like Ralph Kramden. I was quite distressed.

That was my first trip to Wal-Mart today. By the third trip, late in the afternoon, I found myself feeling and behaving like everyone else, pushing, frowning, whining, threatening. I blended in. A 1984-type moment, really, as I joined the Big-Brother crowd.

Thea wants new blinds for her room. Simple pull-down blinds that screw into the window frame. You've probably got some yourself. Blinds shopping did not go well today. No, not well at all. Three sets of blinds have not worked, due to missing or malfunctioning parts. Which means that Thea and I have spent a great deal of time in return-merchandise lines, telling our tale to puzzled blue-vested store clerks, having our receipts processed and stamped and written up. When I dropped the third set of non-functioning blinds on the counter, the jolly middle-aged woman behind the counter said, You again? You guys practically live in the store! You should buy a tent and camp out!

Earlier, I might have laughed lightly at her drollery, or perhaps made a cutting but witty commment about the likelihood of a Wal-Mart tent's staying together long enough for us to be able to camp out. But I was tired, and irritated. I leaned over the counter, and raised my fist. One of these days, Alice, I said. I don't know if her name was Alice, but she gave me back my money with no questions at all. I took it -- all 21.94 of it -- and drove downtown to the store that sells window treatments to the upper middle classes. And on the other side of the aged wooden door with the wrought iron hinges was a totally different experience. Don't have time to go into it now, but it was night and day. We got the saleslady without the lorgnette.


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