Last year my son needed school supplies and of course, like most people, I was caught up in the day to day grind of life. You know… groceries, soccer practice, yard work… and not to mention fifty hours a week at the job. Needless to say, I was late getting my sons supplies.
Finally, just days before his first day of school would start I headed out with the list provided by the school in hopes of getting in, and getting out. No problem… right? Wrong! I pulled into the parking lot around six p.m. and ended up having to park at the end of the furthest isle from the store. That should have given me a clue as to what was to come… but, being that this was my first time I just thought people were out and about as usual.
As soon as the automatic doors closed behind me… pardon my language… all hell had already broken loose and I was late to the party. There were what seemed like hundreds of families scurrying around the store, their baskets full of children’s clothes and, you guessed it, school supplies.
I made my way to the stationary section and as I rounded the corner with my squeaking and creaking basket I saw what looked like a religious book burning sitting right in the middle of the isle. There were pencils, staplers, folders, binders, markers, cardboard… You name it, it was there. The shelves and bins lining the isle looked like a tornado had passed through right on top of them. And to make matters worse there were fathers and mothers with looks of concern and sick desperation distorting their faces. Some reached frantically for items on the shelves and peg boards while others were tossing various items all over the place as they searched for the items listed on the now crinkled supply list in their hands.
I took a deep breath and slowly entered, making sure to give everyone space and being as patient as I could be. I scanned over my list and saw right at the top “#2 pencils 10 each.” Easy enough, so I thought. I began rummaging through the bins like a starving raccoon and after a few minutes I was able to find a few packs of #2 pencils. Just as I was about to put them in my basket a small woman a few feet down the isle saw what was in my hand and approached me, her eyes like that of a puppy dog and her tone of voice as sweet as can be. “Excuse me… Hi, I’ve been looking for #2 pencils for about fifteen minutes, did you see any other packs laying around?” I hesitated before answering. “I’m sorry ma’am, these two packs were the only that I saw.” She began to frown and again her eyes went to the pencil packages that were now laying in my basket. “Well, this list here says that I need ten pencils for each child, so I’ll need thirty… Would you mind if I took one of your packs, that would take care of one of them?” Again I hesitated but, my momma taught me that you never leave a woman in distress or you’ll pay for it one way or the other, even if it is months or years down the line. The universe has a funny way of doing that. I had twenty in the basket, but only needed ten so I obliged. She thanked me and began digging through the mess nearest to her. I smiled and went on to the next isle.
Everywhere there were children running and screaming, throwing things, just having a blast. I did my best to prevent them from running into my basket and slowly proceeded down the isle. Just like the other, it was a total unorganized mess. I felt like I was digging for gold as I began to push items to the side and looking through the bins. Aha! Victory! I found a packet of construction paper… and, to my delight, a bottle of glue. Things were looking up. I became overwhelmed with motivation as I discovered more and more items. I was a machine. If there was a world record for picking up supplies and tossing them in the basket surely I would be closing in on it. I began to get comfortable and left my basket in the middle of the isle. For the moment, no one was around so I started hitting jump shots with the items as I came across them. I missed a few times, but when you have no competition you are always the winner. After a few minutes I realized that I was in my thirties and that I looked ridiculous. I could have become the kind of internet star no one wants to be if I wasn’t careful. Everyone has a video camera on their cell phones nowadays.
After about two hours I finally completed my list. I was emotionally exhausted and ready to get away from the big crowd of people. I moved toward the registers as quickly as I could without running the risk of hitting an innocent bystander with my basket. As I was closing in, only about fifty yards to go, a great sense of dread began to overwhelm me. There were hundreds… HUNDREDS of people waiting in line. The line stretched all the way to the back wall of the store. As quietly as I could I groaned, lowered my head in defeat and made my way to the back of the line where I would remain for another two hours.
I stood there awkwardly checking my phone for no reason, trying to find a way to pass the time. Every fifteen minutes or so a passerby would see an item in my basket and offer me cash for it. I didn’t even own the items yet! It seemed like a good hustle but it was simply the wrong thing to do. I had to repeatedly decline as politely as I could.
Finally I made it to the register. Success! I began unloading my items onto the mini conveyer belt and as I did I made eye contact with the poor girl running the register. She looked to be about seventeen or eighteen years old. She looked like a zombie. She must have bagged and checked out a thousand people that day, probably more than that. Her eye lids were drooping down, her back hunched over, and I may have been mistaken, but she looked to have developed a thousand yard stare. I felt bad for her and made sure to be as nice and quick as I could.
On the ride home I told myself “I will never, ever, ever put off school supply shopping again!” I stuck to my word and this year was much more enjoyable. The day after I got the list from the school I woke up at six a.m., had some coffee and breakfast, got in my car and headed straight for the store. They opened at seven a.m. and I was there just after the doors were unlocked. I got every item I needed within fifteen minutes, didn’t have to wait in line at the register, and was back in my recliner watching the highlights from the previous nights game by eight a.m.
I hope my horror story can be of benefit to all school supply buyers out there, especially first timers. If you want to avoid the school supply war zone…. no, the school supply apocalype, being the early bird sure will save you alot of unneeded pain and suffering. God bless all of those who had to endure the horrors that I did and God speed to those first timers out there.