Every Sunday, between 9 am and noon, I go to the Walmart on 82nd avenue. It’s a Walmart with a reputation. That might seem like a redundant thing to say about Walmart, but for this one it’s particularly true. It’s not very far away from where we live, just three miles, but in true Portland fashion & I think like most cities, the neighborhoods can shift with just a stop sign. This Walmart is in the beginning section of a not-so-nice part of town. It’s always an adventure, I always go looking for excitement, and I’m usually rewarded, but this last Sunday was completely uneventful, or so I thought.
I had a list, I had my coupons and I was there at 9:30 in the morning so I had most of the store to myself. I did a week’s worth of shopping in under thirty minutes, record breaking time. And so, I thought my first chore of the day was done without much fanfare, but I was wrong.
As I was putting my groceries in the trunk, I noticed the sound of running footsteps. I looked up in time to see three teenage boys run past me and my car, two on my right, one on my left. I turned to watch them keep running to the end of the parking lot and when I went back to my groceries I noticed another man standing in the next aisle looking after them. He was clearly some kind of security. Assuming there had been some kind of theft in progress, but knowing the kids were long gone, I went about handling my business by putting my cart in the corral.
As I was walking back to my car another woman came up to me, and said, “Looks like you dropped something.” And she pointed under my car. Confused I said, “Thank you” but I knew I hadn’t dropped anything, and I almost didn’t look myself. But I did because she was watching and there WAS something under my car. I thought back to when I’d pulled into the parking spot and didn’t recall driving over anything. And again, I was 100% sure I hadn’t dropped anything of mine.
But now I had to know, so I got out my heavy duty ice scrapper, it’s at least two feet long and I used it to pull whatever was under my car toward me. It was deodorant: a 2-pack of Old Spice Swagger, to be precise. And then it all clicked into place. As the boys ran away from security they decided to ditch what they’d taken, and of all the cars in the lot, I’d been the lucky one.
I spotted the security guards and handed over the booty. They were talking to a woman, who I gathered was the mother of at least one of the boys. She was exclaiming that she couldn’t believe they’d done something so stupid. Security responded by telling her they’d made it worse by running. There were murmurs and grunts of agreement.
As I walked back to my car, I was struck by what they’d stolen: deodorant. It seemed like the least likely thing a bunch of teenage boys would make such an effort to steal. I would’ve assumed they’d go for DVDs or video games or even beer, but not deodorant. It spoke to me on a visceral level, as someone who has been poor, who is currently not very wealthy. Deodorant is something I take for granted. I don’t skimp or think twice about its cost. And even when we are pinching pennies, it has never applied to our basic needs. I felt bad. I wanted to go back and buy the deodorant. I even got back out of my car to go back to the woman and the security guards but they were gone.