Target is where I go to buy my big plastic tubs to store my big plastic stuff.
That’s why since we came back from several years living overseas, I’ve gotten pretty queasy in Target aisles.
Target stirs up a sense of mourning over the lack of community in shopping experiences today, when I drive across a suburb far from my own home to the bright red megastore. Meanwhile little guilt-inducing messages sing to me: “Bring home more of this sale-priced landfill fodder. It’s just so convenient. It’s totally awesome. Jen had one of these and it was just so cute.”
The mourning, guilt, anger, and confusion catalyze explosive chemical reactions. In this confluence of variables, I become the Angry Target Lady (as you can read about in This Ordinary Adventure: Settling Down Without Settling). The stacks of stuff-holding-stuff squeeze my brain like tourniquet to the forehead, and pity the child or cashier in my path.
It’s not Target’s fault. In fact of all the super stores, Target is the one I choose as the least disturbing of my options when I need to get mouthwash, laundry detergent, a lamp shade, and a bag of onions all in one afternoon.
A couple days ago, after spending the better part of an hour checking off just five items on our Target shopping list, my dear sweet seven-year-old son started shaking a bottle of mouthwash.
“Don’t shake the mouth wash,” I told him.
“Why?” A question every kid asks.
“Because it’s just bad. It makes it bubble.”
That, I immediately realized, stated the wonderful fact that was precisely his reason for shaking the mouthwash—the bubbles. I added with a tone of mouthwash expertise: “It wrecks it.”
So in addition to a crank, Target had made a liar of me. It would not, however, be a lie to say that shaking that mouthwash might wreck me.
So I’m trying to get over that.
I concede that we can not jump back into the time when people sat drinking sodas at the corner pharmacy, or gossiped in barber chairs getting their beards shaved, or bought a month of groceries out of barrels at the general store. We’ve got to start with what we have. What I have is Target.
I’ve started with this.
First, I like that Target doesn’t put up advertising TV screens. Whenever we pass those in other super stores, my kids shake their fists at the screen and shout at the ladies in the TVs who are demonstrating their antibacterial wipes and frozen cardboard box foods, “Stop telling us what to buy!” I’m glad they tell the TV lady how we feel, but it does make it hard to get my shopping done.
And while at Target, I make sure I exchange real sentences with humans. Not just “Have a nice day, thank you.” But like today in the checkout line, we talked with the cashier about my mouthwash-shaker-boy who was holding a red pepper over his head like the statue of liberty. The cashier told me about another little kid whose mom had to lift her out of the car seat to put her whole body across the scanner because she wouldn’t let go of the box of fish sticks she had emotionally glued to herself. With a noticeable stutter, the cashier let it slip that he had only been cashiering for a week. He took time to set every bag in my cart. We laughed, and he was a real person in a real world that we both lived in.
On our way out of the store, my 9-year-old daughter asked to see the receipt. “Mom,” she said, “if we tell Target about how our visit was today, we could win a $5,000 gift card.”
“Ok.” I tried to remember where on earth we’d left our car. I spotted our telltale bike rack hanging off the trunk and felt safe.
“But what would we do with a $5,000 gift card?” She scrunched up her face and looked up at me.
“We’d have to buy everything we ever needed at Target.” I told her.
That thought hit me, and I think her also, not so much like the prize it was intended as, but more like a prison sentence.
So instead of filling out the survey, we drove home and wrote this blog post.
How we can aim for community and healthy shopping habits in our Target world? Leave your comment below.