Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Cultural Concerns

Pop or Soda?

When you want a carbonated soft drink do you ask for a soda or a pop? There’s really no right or wrong answer but don’t tell that to the soda people. People who say soda give people who say pop a hard time, even to the point of ignoring the pop person altogether. Meanwhile soda people can travel deep into the heart of pop country and order a soda without getting so much as a cross stare. Soda people say it’s because pop people are stupid but it’s really because we wiped boogers on the rims of the cans.

The sheer variety of carbonated soft drinks makes ordering one by a generic moniker a risky proposition. Most sane people don’t like Dr. Pepper or his ne’er do well cousin, Mr. Pibb. Mountain Dew is not the same thing as Fresca and there are people who still insist that there is a difference between Coke and Pepsi even though a recent Mythbusters episode proved that they are the exact same product. With so many options, be they real or imagined, one must be specific. Even if you don’t care what you get, the person retrieving the product needs to know which ball park to reach in.

So the debate is moot except for when a person is explaining where they’re off to.

There is another debate that seems to be raging and this one has serious implications:

Wal-Mart vs. Target

I’m a Target person and I say that with pride. Not because I actually think that Target is better or simply less evil that Wal-Mart. They’re both soulless retailers who offer low prices at the expense of exploited foreign workers. I get that. I do believe Wal-Mart is slightly more unscrupulous than Target but only slightly. And I believe Target does offer nicer stuff but that’s only because of demand.

Shoppers make the difference and that’s why I firmly plant myself in the Target camp. Wal-Mart shoppers are just creepy. I don’t know if it’s the inbreeding, bad water or a combination of both but the pale, morbidly obese rednecks who shop at Wal-Mart make me feel like a black panther at a NASCAR event. Actually, I just feel like a moderately intelligent white guy at a NASCAR event which is about as out of place as a person can feel.

I really wish I could stomach the experience of shopping at Wal-Mart because I love having my ego stroked. It’s nice to be the smartest guy for two square kilometers but the sense of superiority is always overwhelmed by the sickening feeling that there’s a collective mind conspiring to undermine me, like something out of a bad science fiction movie.

What I like about Target is the fact that the brand doesn’t imprint itself on me. Wal-Mart people always stand out even in weird places. On a recent camping trip I was able to pick out the Wal-Martians by the gargantuan Ozark Trail tents they were setting up. My suspicions were confirmed when everybody with the hideous Ozark Trail tent turned on their radios in unison to follow that weekend’s NASCAR race. As the frantic cadence of the announcer repetitively washed over me I could feel brain cells wither and die. I remain convinced that my brain physically smoothed over just a bit and that some of my higher cerebral functions, such as completing this phrase with something witty, were permanently incapacitated. It’s interesting because on the few occasions I’ve been to Wal-Mart I actually felt myself getting dumber.

Maybe Wal-Mart and NASCAR are using the same device. Both organizations rely heavily on’s their number one demographic. I bet Wal-Mart probably stumbled upon the benefits of stupid customers when they were experimenting with ways to dumb down their employees. How else do you explain those big idiotic grins on the faces of the greeters? Welcome to Walmart. Do you suppose the real them is trapped behind the facade or are they just dead inside? Anyway, the mind-numbing had an impact on customers and Wal-Mart quickly realized that if they put a smiley face next to a price people would buy it. If you track the trends you'll notice that NASCAR's popularity has grown with Wal-Mart's increasing market share. People go into Wal-Mart for low prices, but they come out race fans.

As for NASCAR, you’re talking about a bunch of cars driving in a circle for three hours. A race is one thing but a bunch of yahoos turning left for 500 miles is painful. Unless you’re the kind of person who can end up missing the exit to work because the car in front of you had one of those crystals hanging from the review mirror, NASCAR is something you lose interest in after about 30 seconds. That’s why NASCAR needs stupid. It's also why NASCAR is so popular in the South.

You know, that's an interesting point to make in the whole dry heat argument. The next time somebody from Arizona gets upset because you dismiss their triple digit temps as dry, mention the strange correlation between humidity and stupidity as witnessed in the Deep South. It might not have any scientific merit but I bet it ends the argument. I guarantee it ends the argument.

Cracker Barrel is another place that seems to attract that crowd and it’s the sort of place where stupid hangs in the air like cheap perfume. You might even be able to smell it if not for the cloying scent of cheap perfume. Cracker Barrel is where Wal-Martians go after Tony Stewart flips whoever won the race off. People say it exudes Southern charm. I think it looks like the clubhouse at a fancy trailer park. Look, Maude, they made a wind jingly thing out of forks and spoons.


John said...

NEVER make eye contact with the wal-mart greeter. their eyes emit a walmartification ray that causes the hapless victim to replace valuable information in their brains with the alphabetical listing of all the sponsors on jeff gordon's race car. it's true!

Anonymous said...

I once had a friend who said she only shopped at Wal-Mart to feel thin and smart.

Ozark Trail Tents said...

Isn't shopping at Walmart a great way to boost your selfesteem? So easy to feel superior while shopping there.