There was a time not long ago, a glorious time, when we took for granted unlimited toilet paper and 85-year-old Walmart security guards. For now, both of these have all but disappeared.

We may never get back to “normal” again, but in the meantime, please read my cautionary tale below, involving my “favorite” store and my guilty conscience.

Busted!

It seemed a typical day at Walmart. I was behind schedule as usual as I raced against the clock, muttering obscenities under my breath as I scanned my bananas at one of the self-checkout registers. Something was amiss– the monotone robot voice didn’t ask me to weigh any of my produce, instead charging me the unit price. So my 5 pounds of bananas cost a whopping 44 cents.

I sneaked a sideways scan for any blue-vested workers and decided to take this opportunity to even the score.

I was furious at Walmart for their new “self-checkout” registers, a change which no doubt resulted in laid-off cashiers. I fancied myself the voice of the under-appreciated and disposable “working class”; I appointed myself their leader, standing up to the corporate bigwigs. I was their Norma Rae and I would not disappoint my brothers-in-arms.

I paid my bill and strolled to the exit, my cart filled with mostly-paid-for groceries. Almost there. My heart jack-hammered in my chest as I felt an adrenaline rush, the suburban mom’s version of “The Fast and the Furious.” My jaw dropped as I saw the 80-year old “anti-theft sentry” posted near the exits. My hand shook as I handed him my crumpled receipt.

Please don’t scan my produce, please don’t scan my produce, please don’t scan my produce…

He shot his scanning gun at my monstrous multi-pack of toilet paper and mumbled, “You didn’t pay for this.”

I forgot to scan the toilet paper! Actually FORGOT. Busted. I was ready for the handcuffs, alarms and SWAT officers (in full riot gear and accompanied by their attack dogs) to arrest me. How to explain to my kids that their mother would be doing hard time? I was terrified.

The sentry glanced at his watch and yawned his next question with the excitement of someone coming out of sedation. “Do you want to pay for it, or should I just take it out of the cart?”

Frazzled and embarrassed, I stared at my feet.
“No, just take it out. I think I paid for everything else.”

A highly-trained security officer would have noticed my bizarre comment; but this was Walmart, so I merrily went on my way.
When I reached my car, I immediately cracked under the non-existent pressure, my conscience getting the better of me. I slunk back into the store, and explained the situation to the manager.

He glanced at the receipt on the counter. “And you’re just now noticing it?” he asked.

I sighed, the weight lifted, and strolled back to the paper goods aisle. The uprising would have to wait for another day. I had toilet paper to buy.