The darkness seemed to envelope me as I stood outside the Haunted House. The poignant silence was punctuated only by sudden shrill shrieks of excited terror…which sounds like prepubescent girls during both happiness and total fear. I didn’t want to go in, but peer pressure got the best of me. I was 13, after all. Despite my protests, we had to go inside in pairs and without me, a girl would be stranded. Being in the dark, surrounded by people waiting to jump out and scare me is not my idea of fun. Arm in arm, we crept in. Half of the fear is the anticipation—knowing that something horrible is coming and just waiting for the other shoe to drop.In this particular haunted house the scarers were allowed to run up to the victims, provided that they not physically touch them. After making only two turns, a college aged skeleton jumped out to do his minimum wage duty. I saw an opening toward the hall into the next section, so I opted to bob and weave around the ghoul. Despite the darkness and having my arm intertwined with a girl a full foot shorter than me, I pictured a graceful move worthy of a Superbowl. Unfortunately, my execution rivaled a marionette in a hurricane. I tripped, fell backward into a wooden coffin, and smacked my head.
A few minutes later the Grim Reaper was offering to carry me through the haunted house very concerned about my head injury, but I wanted to maintain a little dignity. I could just picture Death emerging carrying me lifeless in his arms coming out of a B- rated Halloween attraction. In hindsight, that would have been amazing. I claim 13 years old on that one. Instead I walked out, my arm on his dark robes and emerging to being fully laughed at by everyone present. Not fun.
To this day I have not entered a haunted house and I maintain this important rule: If it is dark and the place you have to go is known to be scary, don’t go in. DO NOT.
This mantra has been fairly easy to uphold until last night. I had just finished a 13 hour drive across the nation with this for 12 hours:
Once arriving home and unloading, I had to get food, groceries, and household items, lest we starve. I put in a to-go order and headed to the Wal-Mart across the street. This was the fastest way to get everything accomplished and get home to get the boys to bed, or I would have taken longer to go to other establishments. I’m not the biggest fan of Wal-Mart, particularly Scary Wal-Mart. As I sat in the car outside, I felt like I was outside a haunted house again.
This particular Wal-Mart is no longer open 24 hours, due to the amount of crime that takes place during the ‘up to no good’ hours. I pulled in and realized that it was Saturday night- and not just any Saturday night. It was Pay Day Saturday in a military town. The place was packed. Under the glowing “Wal*Mart” sign should have read, “Abandon hope, ye who enter”.
I found a parking place and dashed in, thankful that my father had offered to stay with the children while I braved the wild to forage. I put on my best “I’m focused. Leave me alone” face over my “LONGEST road trip ever” face.
Things were going swimmingly. My speed was somewhere between mad-dash and Supermarket Sweep.
I grabbed the cheese and was turning toward eggs when a somewhat plump man around 35 stood in my way, a little bit stunned. I tried to navigate around him, trying to ignore his awkward stare. Then a voice came over my shoulder…
“Texas A&M, huh?”
No. NO. NOT having it. Every adult I had encountered that day had either ignored me or been horribly rude, thanks to my driving through hostile territory in a Texas A&M sweatshirt. One woman in particular had ganged up on me outside of Tuscaloosa. Surrounded by a large family all washed in Roll Tide attire, she began to pick at me. “Hey, Aggie fan!” There are no Aggie fans, Ma’am. Unless you are a fair-weather Heisman winner following fan, most people do not haphazardly root for A&M. I offered her congratulations of the titles and said how nice the Bama fans had been at Kyle Field. She brushed it off. “Yeah. Your defense sucks.” So does your attitude, Ma’am. She continued on while I took steps toward the playscape with my 2 year old. Her tone, posture, and the way her teenage boys stood and came close let me know this was a woman who loves conflict and would relish the opportunity to call the police. BLESS HER HEART. I was too excited to ask something like, “When did you graduate from Alabama? Did YOU play football?” or to start rattling off the stats when she went in after Johnny. I‘ve taken it on the chin for being an Aggie many times since 2003, but this was a new low. I was already wrestling a 2 year old back into a car for another 7 hours. I was not about to pick a worthless fight over an opinion with this:
When this man made a comment on my sweatshirt when I was clearly on a mission, I had hit my limit. He was undefended and from the look of him, I could take him in a fight if I smacked him over the head with the Coke bottle. I was ready to be a Fightin’ Texas Aggie.
“Texas A&M, huh?” was still weakly hanging in the air. I wheeled around on my tennis shoes and my eyebrows shot up into the “I’ve just seen a snake in the dryer” position. I made my mommy “I’m going to have to kill you” face at this stranger and my hand flew up into the ninja blade next to my face. My mother’s voice came flying out of my mouth. “You know what?!”
Then he looked at me like this.
He took three quick steps backward behind the fine cheeses display and raised his hands into the natural surrender position. “No, it’s okay! I went to Sam Houston State!” he sputtered.
Sheesh. An ally. I backed down from “I’m going to kill you” to “a light maiming will do” and explained that I had been driving for 2 days and had been heckled by very rude people all day for being an Aggie. We made a little small talk about his degree and his playing band on Kyle Field, the Kyle Field renovation, and then I was off.
I quickly gathered the last of the needed items, picked up our dinner and returned home. That was about the time I should have felt guilty for being rude and abrupt. After all, Aggies are supposed to be friendly and gracious. I usually feel very guilty after situations like these. Not this time.
No one yelled, pushed, or pulled out a weapon (all of which has happened in this Wal-Mart), but I am a bit horrified to realize that I am the scary person at the scary Wal-Mart tonight. That poor man was clearly taken aback, as well he should have been.
One thing is for sure; no matter what happens, on a Saturday night Wal-Mart is one scary place to be.