Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My not-so-royal shopping experience June 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:11 AM
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DID YOU REALIZE that Walmart has a wedding department? I didn’t…until last night.

While my husband shops for weed killer, I am several aisles away browsing the mish mash of merchandise in the bargain aisle. I am prowling for items that will make suitable game prizes for a family reunion. (Bear with me here; I’m getting to that matrimonial merchandise.) Think humorous here, not necessarily wonderful, prizes.

I finger placemats, examine drinking glasses, grab a small bag of plastic compasses. “Do you think these really work?” I ask my husband, who by this time has found the weed killer, walked half way across the store for an ink cartridge and returned to the discount section.

“Well, if there weren’t so many, I could probably tell,” he says, flipping the compass package in his palm. He tosses the bag back onto the shelf.

I can see he’s getting a bit impatient with me, although I explain that my shopping was stalled by my visit with friends Michelle and Eric, who are also scanning this section.

Half-way down the aisle, I spot a jeweled tiara. I pick up the crown which, except for a tiny, missing center “diamond,” will make the perfect pretty prize for the woman who brings the most beautiful bridesmaid’s dress to the reunion.

We’re going with a wedding theme at the family gathering. Long story on that, but suffice to say that we are celebrating the 20th wedding anniversary of my cousin Jeff and his fictional northwoods bride, Janet. Jeff’s “marriage,” primarily the announcement of said event on April Fool’s Day 1990, is the stuff of family legends. But I digress.

This hefty tiara, which is no cheaply-made, plastic version for some princess’ birthday party, seems quite appropriate for the planned theme. But, as delighted as I am with this find, I encounter one problem. The tiara is unmarked—no bar code, no discount price sticker, no nothing—and there are no other crowns on the shelves.

This spells Cinderella-type trouble. I know that upon reaching the cash register, I will have to wait and wait and wait until someone does a price check. If I’m lucky, that someone will not possess the personality of a wicked step sister.

I am not lucky.

“Did you get this in the wedding department?” asks the clipboard-carrying supervisor who has taken her sweet old time responding to the cashier’s call for assistance.

“Uh, no, I got it in the bargain aisle. I didn’t know you have a wedding section,” I reply.

“Did you know it’s missing a jewel?” she asks, seeming hopeful that I will vanish.

“Yeah, but I don’t care,” I say. “I want it.”

“Were there any others back there like this?” she questions.

I want to say, but don’t, “How stupid do you think I am?” Rather I simply reply, “No.”

Behind me, the line of customers grows. “You might want to go to another check-out lane,” I tell the woman behind me. “This could take awhile.”

“That’s OK. I’m waiting for my husband,” she smiles.

Beside me, my husband fidgets. “Let’s just go,” he states, his voice edged with impatience. He’s not smiling.

“No, I really want this. Don’t be so crabby,” I say, foregoing an explanation of why I need this tiara. He’s tired and not in the mood for an explanation.

My fear now is that the treasured crown, since it originated in the wedding department, will cost more than I am willing to pay.

“Can’t I just have it for a dollar?” I ask the clipboard-carrying supervisor.

“I can’t do that,” she glares.

OK then, sorry I asked, I think to myself.

Eventually, she gives me a price of $3.50. It’s more than I want to pay. But since I’ve made my husband and all those Walmart customers wait, I buy the tiara.

Just for good measure, when we arrive home, I place the crown upon my head and wave a slow, lazy princess wave, first with my right arm and then with my left, turning from side to side as if greeting my subjects.

“I’m Miss Vesta,” I say, referring to my hometown, site of the upcoming family reunion.

“You don’t live in Vesta any more,” my husband notes.

He’s right. But for one night, this night, I deserve this moment. I have, after all, overcome so many obstacles to acquire this crown.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling