There are certain things I buy at Walmart. One of them is plain old T-shirts, of which Walmart carries an astounding variety of shapes and types for prices that range from about $2.50 to barely $6.00. The other day I braved the Walmart aisles in order to lay in a supply to supplement my decimated stock of them (I use them for blogging and for sleep, in medium for the former and very large for the latter).
Then I wandered around the store for a while; wandering around the vastness of Walmart can be good exercise on a rainy day. In the produce section I noticed some wonderfully large boxes of wonderfully large blackberries for about $3.50, and decided to take a chance on them at that price. I wasn’t expecting much—after all, I’ve found that the blackberries in most groceries usually look good but are sourish. But hope springs, even at Walmart…
And lo and behold, when I got home and ate a few, I discovered them to be the very best blackberries I’ve ever tasted. Sweet and intensely flavorful. The brand is Driscoll’s, for anyone who cares to look for them. I was so taken with them that I went back the next day (yesterday) for more, hoping that I’d find some from the same batch. I bought three packages—and yes, they were just as sweet and just as good.
But the rest of my Walmart experience was disturbing. The entire store had an odd vibe—even for Walmart, and that’s saying something. It was about 9 PM, but the store was almost deserted, and there were three checkout aisles open. The first one I waited in featured one customer ahead of me, a person with some oddity that was indescribable but notable. Perhaps he was intellectually challenged, perhaps emotionally, perhaps both, but something was just off, and the same was true for the clerk behind the register, who sported red hair so brightly colored that it resembled no hair found in nature, and piercings on his face that were strange even for piercings. His nose, for example, had what looked like straight pins hanging from it.
The clerk was ringing up (archaic phrase, that) the last of four enormous canvas bags of goods the man was buying. At the very end, the laborious end for which I’d patiently waited, some glitch occurred that invalidated the entire transaction and the clerk said he had to start all over and ring everything up again. Since this had already been occurring at a snail’s pace (and a particularly slow snail at that), I moved to open register number 2.
Two young women were there, buying just a couple of things, so it looked promising. But then both of the women and the clerk, after hurried and almost-whispered consultation with each other, abandoned the register and disappeared. I waited for several minutes and they did not return. So I pushed on to register #3.
An older woman was there, buying two small cases of Enfamil. Perhaps for a grandchild, I thought. Seemed like this would be a simple thing. Of course, it was not. There were a lot of papers shown (not food stamps, by the way; bigger papers then that, and more of them). Then there was a wait for another clerk, a higher-up, to approve something or other. After that, the customer disappeared for a few minutes, and came back with some cash.
Let me add that at no time during all of these transactions did anyone, customer or clerk, address me or the fact that I was waiting. And if you want to know why I continued to wait, it was the power of those blackberries, the best I’d ever eaten.
And then finally it was my turn. The clerk who waited on me did address me, too, but only in song. Yes folks, he sang everything he said to me—and he wasn’t a good singer, either.
Are these signs of the coming apocalypse?
[ADDENDUM: I may not understand what was going on with the people in Walmart. But I may have solved the mystery of what was going on with the blackberries.
Driscoll’s has been transitioning to a sweeter variety of blackberry, and I may have tasted the fruit (literally) of their labors (the article is from 2013):
California-based Driscoll’s plans to phase out its sourcing of the public blackberry variety Tupi in Mexico over the next eight years, replacing it with sweeter cultivars in sync with an expanding surface area. blackberries.
Driscoll’s Blackberry CMx supply manager Gerardo Cruz [says]…
“We sell Tupi to the whole world, but the new varieties have a higher brix and are being accepted very well, and in that way we can differentiate ourselves from the competition,” he says.
“The average brix of Tupi blackberries is around 10° but our varieties Catherine and Dasha are above 13°.
Nice going, Driscoll’s.]