A couple of weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon, Cameron and I drove over to Clarksville to visit Walmart. He had wanted to go there for a since-forgotten non-essential item. Kind of a non-descript and usual afternoon father and son sojourn.
I am the kind of guy who feels like I am in my element in a public shopping place such as Walmart. I like to be in a people friendly environment. I am one of those people who when I make eye contact with strangers in public, I usually greet them or somehow have verbal interaction. I find most people usually smile and say something back to me. However, there are some for whom it seems a bit unnatural and they might just smile and quickly stride away. People are different. Some are like me and others just seem to want to mind their own little world and prefer others like me simply mind mine.
When he was young, Cameron would often get a bit annoyed when we would go into a public shopping place. “Dad, you will be there all day. You like to talk to everyone,” he would complain. I guess, in all candor, I will admit that he had a valid point.
In any public setting like a Walmart or in a restaurant, if I have someone wait on me or a cashier checking me out, I converse with them. I could almost win a bet that, in a very short cash register conversation with a total stranger, when I get to the car, I could tell you three things about him. Drives my son crazy.
Anyway, on that Saturday, as is customary when he and I go to a place like Walmart, we easily find the one or two items we specifically came to purchase. After that, we typically go on a casual walkabout throughout the store, looking for nothing in general. It’s just that there are so many aisles to casually browse and almost every time we can see a little something or other that catches our fancy and in addition to the things we came to get, we end up getting far more than we came for in the first place. That’s kind of how the Walton family made a fortune — on those three or four items we purchased, but never intended to buy.
As we reached our buying capacity in Walmart on that very unplanned but very enjoyable afternoon, our shopping excursion came to an end. As we were checking out at the register, I struck up my customary conversation with the clerk. I almost always look for the expression on Cameron’s face and kind of get a reading on his mood that day. On a rare occasion, he might join in the superficial babbling. Other days, I can sense a mental eye roll at the shopping partner who, even when he is annoyed by me, he has come to accept. Like so many other afternoons together, we had a very unhurried but pleasant time just hanging out at the local Walmart.
I kind of treasure those uneventful yet fulfilling family times out on a weekend afternoon.
There are 22 people who could have written this week’s column in El Paso, Texas, just a few days ago. There are nine more in Dayton, Ohio, who if you change the setting from a Walmart to another public location in their town, could have written something very similar. Simply a nice casual account of an uneventful time out with family and friends in a non-descript location we can refer to as Anywhere, USA.
None of those 31 people who were living this week’s column will ever read this week’s column.
I can only hope their families and friends find some relief, eventually, from their extreme pain and grieving while being as confused and disbelieving as all of us. I can only wish for those 31 people who just a few days ago were just like you and me, doing very normal but benign activities, somehow be able to rest in peace.
In unusual fashion, I end instead of beginning this week’s column with a quote:
“In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”
— British journalist Dan Hodges
— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at email@example.com.