My neighbor found a dead body at Wal-Mart.
It’s a strange tale and one that I’ve repeated only three times before. Wal-Mart is now such an important icon in our social fabric; it would be a great shame if this story were to get lost in time. Life is so fickle these days that I couldn’t rely on my own survival to keep this story alive…I just had to write it down. There was also the distinct possibility that this story might start taking on a life of its own and slowly turn into an urban myth that only small children, confirmed drunks and people from Iowa would believe.
My mind slips to a future scene: The story gets written, but somehow I get distracted and forget to post it. I’m driving home and get into a terrible accident. As fate would have it, I’m thrown from the car and lying in a ditch somewhere, clutching to my USB drive with the story safety stored. I hear the sirens getting louder. Someone is trying to sooth me, telling me “…everything’s going to be alright” and “…try to hang on.”
I look up, but my mind is too groggy to focus on anything. I muster what little strength I have and try to speak, but it comes out as barely a whisper: “…dead…body…”, “…Wal-Mart…”,
I can only imagine the confused looks from everyone.
“What did he say?”
“He’s delirious. He doesn’t know what he’s saying.”
I lose consciousness and my USB drive slips from my hand and falls among the leaves and other debris to be lost forever.
(Fast forward to the funeral.)
I fast forward to the funeral. I see my mother taking a few stolen moments with a complete sense of personal satisfaction knowing that she was, ONCE AGAIN proven right: I was found dead, lying in a ditch.
Anyway, back to the story.
(Fade in to a pleasant summer evening on a nice upscale suburban community.)
The story begins on a pleasant summer evening in a nice upscale suburban community. My wife and I were sitting in our neighbor’s (Mike and Kathy’s) backyard having a beer, talking about golf, the weekend, and whatever else we could think of. Everything was laidback and very casual, when suddenly Kathy leans forward and exclaims: “Did I tell you I found a dead body at Wal-Mart?!!!!”
(Insert sudden organ music here. My wife and I exchange quick glances.)
My wife and I exchange quick glances.
“No.” I answer. I put on my ‘perplexed’ face and slowly begin looking around. “Did anyone else just hear some organ music?”
Kathy ignores me, takes a drink of her beer and then places it on the patio table. She’s obviously getting ready to launch into the story and wants to savor the attention. In the meantime, I’ll fill you in on some details.
(Pan out to a map of the greater Detroit area.)
We live about 40 minutes north of Detroit. It’s a fast growing area and obviously caught the attention of those marketing geniuses at Wal-Mart, because they decided to open another mega-store here about 2 years ago. (Never-mind the fact that there’s three other Wal-Mart’s and one Sam’s Club within walking distance.) For those of you familiar to this area, it’s the one on 23 Mile Road, next to Highway 53.
(Pan in to the backyard.)
“Well…” she begins. “Mike and I were out shopping last Friday night and as we were walking up to the registers, I noticed one of the employees ‘sleeping’ on a piece of furniture. You know that section in the middle of the store, where they have that cheap furniture on display?”
My wife and I nod in complete understanding.
“Anyway, we walk right past this person, not thinking too much about it. Well…it did look a little weird…you know…an employee sleeping in the store. But I know that Wal-Mart always hires a few of those people…who are mentally incapac..handicap…what do you call them?”
“You mean mentally challenged?” I ask.
“Noooo!!! You’re not supposed to call them that anymore.” my wife says.
“What are you supposed to call them?”
“I don’t know, but I’m sure that isn’t it.”
I look over at Kathy. “Okay. You thought they were asleep. Then what happened?”
“Well, you know how things linger in your brain after you’ve stopped looking at something? That’s what it was like. I didn’t realize it at first, but these person’s eyes were half opened. We were about 15 steps away, when I turned to Mike and said something about the employee we just passed.”
(Kathy continues her story.)
Kathy continues. “So we walk back to the retard and I started staring at her chest. I didn’t want to touch her or anything…you know? After about 30 seconds, it looks to me like she’s not breathing! I look at Mike and I say, ‘Mike…. it looks like she’s not breathing!’ And he says something about calling the manager.”
Mike finally pipes up, “No. I said we should call an ambulance.”
Kathy looks over at Mike. “Whatever. Well anyway, we walk over to the Jewelry department and I tell the woman there that she needs to call an ambulance, because an employee needs help. So, you know how at first, I thought that the dead person was a retard? Well…the real retard was working the Jewelry desk, because this person didn’t believe us! She wouldn’t call anyone, until we practically insisted that someone was dying, and even then she called the Store Manager instead of dialing 911 or something.”
“Didn’t you have a cell phone?” I ask.
“Yes, but I didn’t realize it until later.”
“How long have you had a cell phone?”
“About five years.”
“And you always have it with you?”
“But you forgot you had it when you saw the dead retard?”
Kathy starts laughing. “I don’t know. It was all a little confusing. I guess we should have just dialed 911 ourselves. Maybe I’m the retard.”
“You should apply for a job at Wal-Mart. They obviously have an opening.”
“Stop interrupting!” My wife insists.
Kathy looks over at me as if she is somehow vindicated and slowly takes another drink of beer. “So the ambulance shows up…. they check her out. Sure enough, she’s dead. We heard the Manager tell the paramedics that she was complaining of chest pains earlier in the day, so I assume she died of a heart attack.”
“Wow. She complained about chest pains and Wal-Mart wouldn’t let her go home?” I ask. “What kind of company is that?”
“Hey…” Mike responds. “…whatever it takes to make money. That’s what Wal-Mart is all about.”
“I wonder if her family will sue?” Asked my wife.
“Sure.” I answer. “It’s the American way.”
(It’s later that same evening. Pan in on a computer screen.)
Later that same evening I sat down at my computer and decided to do a little research on this whole ‘dead body at Wal-Mart’ business. I surfed onto their site under Company Information; I clicked on ‘Wal-Mart News’. I was going on the hunch that Wal-Mart might have posted something about the dead body. Another page came up with several options. I clicked on the link that said ‘Read what’s been happening at Wal-Mart’. It seemed a likely place to start.
There were press releases about new Board Members, scholarships, a new Wal-Mart credit card…but nothing about a dead body.
(Pan out to the entire room. In deep contemplation, he leans back.)
I lean back. I was in deep contemplation. I thought about flying out to Arizona and standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon so that I could truly reflect on this simple moment in my life…but it’s probably too expensive.
Suddenly I had an idea. It seemed like a long shot, but at this point I had nothing to lose. I zapped over to www.google.com and typed in ‘dead body at Wal-Mart’. Now if there’s one thing in this crazy world that I have absolute confidence in, it’s Google. It’s never let me down.
(Pan in on the search button. The button is huge; it fills the whole screen.)
I click the search button.
(In the background a single violin starts playing.)
“Holy shit!” I mumble to myself. Google reported more than 246,000 hits for ‘dead body at Wal-Mart’. I guess this thing happens more than I thought! The first story was about the woman who was abducted outside of a Wal-Mart store and was later killed. The dude is going on trial in February. I remember hearing about this one.
Another link was a toy sold at Wal-Mart. It’s a transformer that can alternate between a Dodge Viper and an action figure named Dead-End. (Don’t worry, I’ve never heard of it either.)
Another link was about a Florida woman suing Wal-Mart, because she claimed she was knocked down and trampled by frenzied Wal-Mart shoppers who ran over her ‘…almost dead body’ to get to the $30 DVD players. Apparently this woman had conveniently slipped and fallen several times while employed at Wal-Mart.
Then there’s the story of a 65-year old Wal-Mart employee in Iowa. (Of course it had to be Iowa.) This old-timer was handing out naked pictures of himself as people came into the store. Well almost naked. Apparently there was a Wal-Mart bag placed in a strategic position. He was telling customers that Wal-Mart was saving money by cutting down on employee uniforms. It was included in my search because the Manager almost ‘died laughing’ when he first saw the photograph.
(Pan in on the computer screen.)
I quickly zapped up Notepad and started making a list of these items. I wanted to cross-reference these incidents to determine if these were all somehow related. I continued my research.
- Someone drove two days and then left their dead mother in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
- A 57 year-old dude killed himself in his pickup while parked at Wal-Mart.
- Someone found a dead body behind a Wal-Mart store. (This was close, but it wasn’t the incident Kathy and Mike were talking about.)
- Wal-Mart will ‘…build in my town, only over my dead body.’
- Wal-Mart wouldn’t cash someone’s paycheck because her license expired. If she died, the FBI would use her expired license to ID her body…. why isn’t it good enough for Wal-Mart? (Someone needs to tell her about dental records.)
- Wal-Mart clerk developing film calls police; from the pictures it appeared that someone was having sex with a dead body. (Do these clerks have to look at every picture being developed?)
(Pan out to the entire room.)
I decided that there was enough evidence to strongly suggest that ‘death’ and ‘Wal-Mart’ seems to go together more than most people realize. This had all the signs of a classic conspiracy. The situation immediately reminded of The Pelican Brief by John Grisham. In the movie version, no one believed Julia Roberts at first either.
I made a mental note to zip out to the library this coming weekend and try to get some information on government grants for individual research. I remember reading that the University of California recently held a conference on Wal-mart and its social implications. They might help me publish a White Paper that would blow open this entire investigation. Perhaps the library would have the book written by that ‘Riddler-looking-guy’ I see on TV. According to him, there is government money for just about anything.
After an hour or so I decide to halt my research. It was late and I had to get up early the next morning.
(The story’s over. Fade to black.)