A few months ago I happened to be working in a small city in the middle of nowhere. Work (for me) means you go places and do stuff where situations arise beyond your control. If you roll with the punches perhaps fate will reward you with a paycheck. If you can’t hack it, you’re better off sitting on the couch clutching your Obamaphone and whimpering about “unfairness”. Your choice.
In a comedy of errors I wound up staying in “ad hock” housing instead of a hotel. No worries, I fancy myself enough of a road warrior that I’m not going to whine when I can’t stay at the Hilton. This time “ad hock” meant a monkish room with a tiny little bed, a pillow like a brick, and a wispy sheet and blanket that felt like I was sleeping under a paper towel. I felt less like myself and more like a refugee.
After a long and uncomfortable night I was pleased to have a productive day (despite being a bit tired). Even so, I was not looking forward to another night in the little room. I tried to maintain a good attitude. After all there wasn’t much to complain about. The room was Spartan but clean. It was tiny but adequate. The door locked securely. The roof wasn’t leaking. The lights worked. A safe, clean, heated, lit, room (no matter how humble) is better than what most humans had for millenia. A week in a tent would make the room feel like a castle. (I have often lived weeks at a time in a tent. You should try it. You’ll never bitch about your mortgage payment again.)
Then my cell phone rang. Ten minutes later I was booked to head into the forest the next day at dawn. I checked the weather report. (No television but ample WiFi, what a country!) Snow turning to rain with plenty of wind. Damn. I was minimally equipped. Tomorrow was shaping up to be a long, cold, wet, miserable, slog.
Wait! Am I not Adaptive? Am I not an American? I’ve got resources!
I’m not sure if my calibration of “rural” and “urban” matches the average but the town felt like a city to me. It had maybe 10,000 residents. It was also relatively isolated; at least two hour’s drive to somewhere bigger.
So I hopped in my truck and drove to Wal Mart. Note that I didn’t wonder whether the town had a Wal Mart. During Wal Mart’s subsidized expansion I hated the situation but now that it’s ensconced in the nation and paying its own way I’ve made peace with (and grudgingly appreciate) the behemoth. I simply assumed the town would have one because Wal Mart corporate headquarters isn’t likely to miss a mid sized city in relative isolation. Where there is money to be harvested, Wal Mart has planted seeds and will serve.
Within minutes I’d found the inevitable Wal Mart. Halfway toward the shoe section I practically stumbled over a massive display of pillows. $2.50. What a bargain! Where there are pillows there are blankets. Sure enough 20′ away I found a comforter. $24! I could have gone as low as $17 but picked a “nicer” one that would fit on the bed back at Curmudgeon Compound.
The boots were probably a fool’s errand. I’m a boot snob. I’ll happily drop $250 on a good pair of work boots and wear them a decade. They’re worth it. However, it was time for cheap Chinese shit instead of high quality long term investments. It was already late at night and I was in a hurry. I grumbled knowing I’d never find precisely what I’d like. I wanted leather, waterproof, heavy tread boots without insulation (summer is coming) and no steel toe. I have wide feet that don’t readily fit boots too.
Ten minutes later I was holding leather, waterproof, lug soled, wide width, boots in exactly my size. $34.
On short notice in late evening at the middle of nowhere I got exactly what I wanted for a pittance. How cool is that?
With a decent pillow and fluffy new comforter my monkish little cell seemed much homier. I slept like a baby! The following morning my cheap “un-broken in” boots did the job admirably.
Lets hear it for the massive purveyor of cheap consumerist crap! In general I avoid Wal Mart. I rarely shop there because most of the stuff sold there is disposable shit and I prefer to spend more for quality and keep my stuff in use as long as I can. Yet, regardless of my disdain, Wal Mart was ready, waiting, stocked, and open in my time of need. A custom fit $350 set of boots and a hand stitched quit would have been a long term investment but lost sleep and cold toes impose costs of their own. There’s no doubt about it, cheap shit from Wal Mart improved my quality of life!
Nothing I can conceive could have served me better. Suppose I were a bazillionare. Could a million dollar contract with Haliburton, an on call helicopter, a staff of servants, and a fully stocked warehouse served me better? Could it have delivered a pair of boots to my hand in the middle of nowhere in a half hour?
Our modern world has plentiful high end good stuff that can be ordered from the Internet and delivered to a mail box on a dirt road. It has a continent spanning network of cheap (but useful) shit warehoused in a box store that’s ope late on Sundays. Rejoice! You just can’t beat capitalism.