Dollar Stores Depress Me

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As soon as I crossed the threshold into the Dollar Store in Decatur, I felt my vibration crash like a malfunctioning elevator. (FYI: After this sentence, I will no longer be capitalizing the words dollar and store.)

I was questing after a package of gold star stickers to celebrate myself day-to-day as I complete my commitment to writing and posting a new piece 30 days in a row. I had already checked out Target, CVS, Walgreens, and the BP gas station on Clairmont. Amazon has them but I don’t need a pack of 1000 stickers. Plus, I don’t want to spend 6 bucks on them. Walmart has them, too, but I made a soul contract with myself to nevermore step foot into the place.

So basically, I was forced into it. Plus, I was virtually guaranteed that the dollar store would have them. After all, the dollar store has at least one of everything that exists on the planet, does it not?

I can count on a hand and a half the number of times I’ve been in a dollar store since the advent of dollar stores, which probably runs parallel with the time when Americans got used to paying natural fiber prices for petroleum-based fabrics. It only took one visit before I was able to accurately pinpoint how long I could be in there before my energy started draining out of me. Answer: 3.5 minutes.

Working with a tiny window of time, I made a b-line directly to the stationery aisle. I wasn’t hopeful; I was expectant. This would be easy. I’d snatch the package of stars off their peg and hightail it to the cash register.

My eyes did a quick pan across the merchandise. A few times. Alas, to my chagrin, there wasn’t a single package of gold stars in that store – or any other color stars, for that matter.

I lingered for awhile as I tend to do when a store doesn’t have what I want in stock, believing that if I stand there long enough staring at where the item should be, said item will surely materialize.

Just as I was practicing my magic, a lady of about 70 wearing a mask entered my aisle, dragging her feet. I was wearing a mask, too, and I stopped wearing a mask while shopping weeks ago.

“Jesus,” she said. “The whole world is turning upside down. Look at this place.” I wanted to laugh at her candor (which I’m doing now) but I was certain that she had actually gotten it from the mouth of the lord himself regarding the change of position of our beloved Planet Earth and I wanted to respect her insider information.

I wanted to tell her that if one is seeking esthetic appeasement, one usually doesn’t amble around a dollar store, but when a clerk called out, “Hey Girl, how you doin’ Hazel!”, I knew she wasn’t a neophyte.

Last time I was in a dollar store up north, they were selling glass-jarred peaches from China. This incensed me. “What? Now we can’t even can and sell our own peaches in this country anymore?” I wanted to smash those jars of peaches to the floor, then hijack the store microphone and scream into it hard like Johnny Rotten.

Once I calmed down, I determined that perhaps China had brokered some of their homeland surplus produce into the deal they had made with the dollar store empire to produce literally every single item in the joint.

Some years back, I happened upon a Netflix documentary about North Koreans who had miraculously escaped to freedom in China. Once there, they generally ended up working in factories. I remember one thing and one thing only about that compelling and disturbing documentary: at its end, a North Korean male interviewee stated, “I wonder why we have to sprinkle lead into every box before sealing it up.”

Funny where the mind goes when you’re in a dollar store thinking about the lives of all those poor working-class Chinese slaving away so we can gorge ourselves on cheap consumer products.

But I doubt that anyone working there thinks about that. Those Chinese factory workers are their brethren. The warm and friendly, scantily-dentifriced cashier who checked me out with my purple poster board, two packs of off-brand post-it pads, and a blank writing pad has a lot more in common with that scantly-dentifriced North Korean factory worker than she’ll ever know.

Looks like I’m going to have to shell out the 6 bucks for the gold stars from Amazon. And, I think it’s time to fold the dollar store dynasty into that same soul contract I made with Walmart.







Earlier today, after sharing a lengthy conversation with a man and his wife at Alon’s,  swapping stories of caregiving, death,

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