An early start was required today as we were to take two of my partner’s aunts to Kelowna International Airport for their flights back home out East. Suitcases duly loaded, we were whistling through the early morning work traffic before 7am for a drop-off and goodbye to those dear ladies.
A welcome cup of coffee in the Skyview Lounge and a fond farewell, we were on our way back home before 8am, having picked up a rental Kia Rio for the journey and the coming week. Then came the call of Walmart before reaching home…
I’m always interested in inspecting stores in Canada, (albeit as we know Walmart is a very American company). They’re so different to British stores for many reasons. As we entered the huge hangar-like premises a meeting of sorts was being held on the shop floor. A convivial gathering of some fifty people was going in, something in the way of a staff meeting, a rabble-rousing pep-talk for the day’s duties ahead. I’d heard of these corporate Walmart customs before but had never witnessed one in the flesh so to speak.
The speaker must have been a great orator (or have the job positions of many of his junior staff in his hands) as the gathering was eliciting a huge belly laugh here and there. ‘way too cheerful for this time of day’ I considered in my regulation British manner. Phooey.
For the uninitiated, Walmart is a heck of a store. They sell just about everything – in twenty different ways. You can actually marvel amongst the aisles in these places. They’re great for people watching too. My first port of call was in the area showing dental supplies. Like a modern day chamber of horrors, they had a brush/tool/implement for practically every part of your pie-hole, probably powered at a rush by batteries too for the less-than-nervous.
I’d a lot of ground to cover here so I ignored my curiosity and strode purposely past the animal toys and boutique aisles. Another day they will be mine though. You know what I really like? There’s a certain male-oriented scent found in many hardware stores. It’s that satisfying yet cloying smell of rubber, I call it Eau de Canadian Tire. The men reading this will understand exactly what I mean.
Walmart assistants tend be of quite a different breed I’ve noticed. Mostly kindly, endearing and helpful certainly but there seems to be a hint of hard bitten, raging against the corporate machine going off inside them. Maybe those Walmart!, Walmart! Ra! Ra! Ra! sessions in the morning don’t work that well after all. Just like in British supermarkets these days, there are many more senior men and women stocking the shelves and smiling benignly at the customers. I have mixed feelings about this as I always try to imagine them in their proud former working lives and careers. Having said that one always recognises the dignity in work and labour.
Sesame Street comes to Walmart
The pricing in Walmart is of course what everyone is really interested in and here they stand comparison with most. Often enough, there is a matching lack of quality but by no means always. It’s always occurred to me that Canada, the country, is the big boots capital of the world. It’s probably something to do with the weather to be honest but what really can beat a good ‘ol pair of Kodiaks for a winter spent shovelling snow around. Nothing like that here though – just row upon row of work boots that look a lot like walking boots. Tough, sturdy and masculine and starting at around twenty-five dollars. In Canada you can wear this sort of footwear anywhere – even at…no especially at weddings.
A few slightly incongruous items of clothing are available on the shelves too. Today’s ‘spot’ were tee-shirts displaying the logos of the Juventus Football Club of Italy and Football Club Barcelona, the Catalan giants of the beautiful game.
The sports section of any large store in Canada is always an eye-opener. By comparison UK contemporaries are bland clothes shops with rack after rack of ‘leisure wear’ exploding with corporate logos. Not here. After passing the counter with lethal-looking firearms safely under glass, I pondered on a formidable-ooking archery bow with attendant arrows. Maybe I should acquire one, along with one of the menacing-looking camouflage jackets and matching hats. A new-era British Columbian Robin Hood indeed.
After what seemed like half a lifetime I managed to locate my partner (yes, that’s another problem) and sneak out of the door without buying anything. That surely has to be some kind of record.