I’ve now discovered why there are no old people to be seen on the streets in Fort Lauderdale – they’re all in Wal-Mart! On Monday I went along to said emporium as I’d been reliably informed that it was the cheapest place to buy household goods, and sure enough I found it to be stacked high with ridiculously low prices.
For example, a 16-piece dinner set with four dinner plates, side plates, dessert bowls and mugs for just $11.99. Or a pack of three white tank-tops for $4. Or a 12-foot high ceramic elephant with glowing red eyes and radio-controlled trunk for 99 cents. OK, I made that last one up, but they’ve probably got one somewhere.
I had soon filled my first trolley full of cheap clothes and bedding, and wheeled it up to the vast line of checkouts, to find only two were open. I chose the slightly shorter queue, and eventually the woman in front of me got to the till and dumped a trolley-load of stationery onto the belt.
“How much are these pens?”, she asked, waving a four-pack of felt-tips at the cashier.
“37 cents” replied the gum-chewing damsel in the nice uniform after scanning the pack.
“Too much – don’t want them. How about these pencils?”
This was repeated for every single item in her trolley so it took a good five minutes to scan everything. She knew perfectly well how much they cost as everything was labelled, so I can only assume it gave her some kind of pleasure. Well, I know TV here is dire, so I suppose people just have to make their own entertainment.
Luckily I was a much easier customer (as pointed out by the cashier), and I was soon loading everything into the car, then went back for more. I divided the store into sections and went up and down every aisle, plucking down such essentials as pillows, potato mashers, solar showers, bleach, torches, cutlery, coat-hangers, and far more besides.
In total I spent a nerve-shattering five hours in Wal-Mart, and came to know it intimately, along with its regular customers, whose average age appeared to be 94 with a pace to match. The aisles were filled with a shuffling sea of beige, ebbing and flowing gently around the bargain bins and getting wedged into the tight corners.
By the end of the afternoon my car was full to the roof and would take no more, as indeed would my credit card, so I headed back to Odyssey and began unpacking it all. Two more hours passed and at the end of it I was quite astonished to find that everything had disappeared, swallowed up in the dozens of little cubby holes and nooks and crannies I keep finding all over the boat. And best of all, there still seems to be plenty of space for food!
A celebration was called for, so when a friend rang to invite me out on the town one last time, who was I to refuse? The lure of China White’s proved too great, and once again the vodka flowed freely, keeping me out of my bed till dawn.