Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Morning Stampede

It was the kind of chilly morning that keeps an unsuspecting gazelle's ears twitching alertly as it stands in unfamiliar pastures. In spite of the chill, the sun was bright and warm and the air, fresh.

A single ox grazed stupidly beside me, grunting occasionally. It was 7:15 this morning. The Wal Mart opened at 8.

My son had warned me the release of MW3 would bring unprecedented crowds and likely break all previous sales records. I dared doubt.

By 7:45, I was surrounded.

Customers wait for store to open
The oxen jostled and pawed restlessly. Their big, beefy, bovine butts stank of fresh bursts of methane. I hadn’t been in the store since its expansion. It was now the premiere watering hole of the vast savannah, attracting greedy, oblivious oxen from continents away! Susan had been inside since the renovations and had emphatically warned me to avoid the place! With its new grocery empire, ignorant, inconsiderate oxen now stood crammed in aisles, amid fresh plops of dung, like gigantic, dumb sardines, severely amplifying the danger to polite humans, of being inadvertently trampled or stupefied.

These were unfamiliar pastures, indeed!

Two oxen were exchanging snorts, discussing which route would provide the quickest way to the electronics department. By the time the corral door had been unlocked, I had been firmly planted at the front of the herd for forty-five minutes. Idiot.

Though slightly uncertain about the trajectory ahead, I had lulled myself into a false sense of security. That false sense exploded into smithereens as the doors slid open. Instinctively, I cowered.


I had been sent by my son before to pick-up new video games on their release dates, but for a mostly civilized man, this was entirely new territory! At once and with impressive resolve, the oxen surged forward, trotting at first, between the trees and rocks and then, mere instants later, breaking into full gallops! In the midst of the thundering hooves and clouds of dust blinding my vision and choking my windpipe, my first impulse was to curl into a ball behind a tree stump. Instead, for my offspring, I switched into full gazelle mode, bounding, springing, dancing and prancing, fleet of foot, between the massive frames. I was fifth in line, with huge oxen, muzzles sweating, panting loudly in front and behind me.

I deliberatly nudged the ox in front of me; he had arrived five minutes before the door opened and managed to get in line ahead of me. Oh, to be an ox, free to toss all shreds of deceny to the wind! A clerk opened a second cash and I dashed over to her counter. Now, I was first in line! When in Rome, baby! I paid for the game and stepped aside, catching my breath, astounded by the sheer spectacle.

The person behind me requested the special edition. The clerk came out from behind the counter and began going through unopened cardboad boxes while lines of oxen waited. There were three cashes going, each one with line-ups of fifteen to twenty people as more oxen steadily trudged into the department. It was bedlam! I could imagine Darwin observing from a nearby rock, excitedly scratching out the rudimentary principles of natural selection.

Home now, I continue to do inventory of my limbs. The new video game has been placed on Tristan’s desk, waiting for him to get home from school. How ironic. In video games, Tristan's character may struggle to survive, win and complete missions. It's child's play; in the real world, there’s no respawn. It’s you and the oxen, poised on the ruthless pastures of bargain-dom, playing for keeps.

The nightmares of today's mission will be mine to bear.

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