in Walmart on Saturday was like entering one of the circles of hell. Every grade gets a Supply List, which is fairly long and contains all the usual stuff like pens, pencils, ruler, eraser, sharpener, crayons etc. It also has loads of stuff that I didn’t recognise. Duotangs. Hilroy coiled and uncoiled notebooks. Paper reinforcements. And then stuff designed to confuse me; USB memory stick and USB flash drive. There’s a difference? Half the people I asked said they were the same thing and the other half disagreed.
We headed over on the bus, which went all around the University of Saskatoon campus. It’s really big and has loads of beautiful buildings and green spaces. We arrived at Walmart, got a trolley, took a deep breath and entered the fray. And what a fray it was. The school supplies bit was a small section, with everything crammed onto two large shelves and about 10 small ones, all arranged in a grid pattern that seemed to be designed to cause maximum trolley-crashing and traffic-jams. It seemed like there were hundreds of fraught parents, all clutching their supply lists and getting crankier by the minute.
I despatched the kids in all directions with specific tasks, while I concentrated on the whole binders issue. 1″, 1.5″, 2″, 3″ binders lined the shelves, all different makes and colours. I needed ones with plastic front covers, white ones, science ones. Different sizes for different grades. Different colours for different grades. Nightmare. The kids kept running back with stuff. “These pencils, Mammy”. “No, love, they have to be HB”. “These pencils, Mammy”. “No, pet, they have to be PLAIN”. “THESE pencils, Mammy?” “NO, darling, I need them in packets of at least 30, not two at a time”. Gritted teeth. “What about this ruler, Mammy?” “It’s lovely, pet, but it has to show only cm” “Oh, ok, what about this one?” “Sorry, love, but it has to be wooden as well”. “There’s no wooden rulers, Mammy”.
“I’m hungry”. “I need to pee”. “I’m bored, can I go to the toy section”. “Can I buy some sweets”. “Why does HE get sweets, I want some too!” “I’m thirsty”. “I need to pee“. “He got Skittles, can I have Skittles?” Ad infinitum. I was sweating now, pushing the increasingly packed trolley around and around the same bloody aisles, smiling inanely at the same sweating parents, wondering what the hell duotangs were and where I could find them.
I found them. They’re folder-type things, flimsy, paper or plastic, all different colours. 15 each for Christopher and Isabel. Ok. I counted out 15 each in two different colours. 12 for Nicholas. Counted out 12 in a different colour. No duotang mix-ups in our house! I could see the finishing line in sight. Benjamin needed about 20. In specific quantities and colours. And plastic. I couldn’t even find plastic ones, never mind multi-coloured plastic ones. I scoured the aisles again, my hair getting wilder and my face getting redder by the minute.
I finally spotted a box above me with thin-looking folders. I grabbed it and peered inside, afraid to hope. Duotangs. Plastic. Multi-coloured. I looked around, wondering why no-one else was hearing the Hallelujah Chorus. I clutched the box possessively and started counting out the folders. 2 Red. Check. 2 Blue. Check. 2 Black. Check. I was getting complacent. Out came the Purple and the Yellow. I was left with 3 Green. There were no Green duotangs. NO GREEN DUOTANGS. Ba&^*%ds. I was so mad. Breathe. Breathe. Look in the box again. Look in the box beside it.
“Mammy, there’s more supplies over here. Will this ruler do?”. More? Woo-hoo. I charged over to a whole new section, knocking little old ladies and baby seals out of the way (not really). We discovered paper reinforcements. Dividers for the binders. Tipp-ex. It was almost Nirvana. And then, there it was, glowing gently on a shelf. A box of coloured, plastic duotangs. With 3 Green ones in it. Clutching them, weeping quietly, I fell to my knees. Well, in my mind I did. In reality I grabbed the box, snatched the Green ones, and looked around fiercely, daring anyone to challenge me for them.
This is what they look like:
Michael arrived with Rebecca, slightly bemused at my dishevelled, swivel-eyed appearance. “Are we done?” he asked innocently. DONE? We hadn’t even started on the white-soled, non-marking gym shoes. We marched off to the other end of the store. Next time you go shopping for trainers for your kids, see how many of them are white-soled. Very few. Naturally. Sure why would anything be easy when it comes to back-to-school time? I slogged my way up and down the aisles, turning over the shoes, swearing and moving on. Eventually we found some. Michael set off to gather the troops from all over the shop. We tried them on. They fitted. We headed towards the checkouts, trolley overflowing, starving, knackered, cranky.
The woman on the till kept trying to sign me up to a Walmart MasterCard (nope, no idea what it is). She must have asked me five or six times while putting through the contents of my bottomless trolley. They must be on commission or something. I thought it would be rude to tell her that hell would freeze over before I’d ever be able to bury the trauma and set foot in a Walmart again. So I smiled sweetly and took a brochure. The supplies kept piling back up in the trolley, neatly bagged. And then she got to one shoe. One shoe. “Christopher? Where is the other runner?” “Well, I don’t know, how do I know?” I was psychotic. “Go and find it, now” I hissed. Off he went. Grumpy. Back he came. “I couldn’t find it, so I got a new pair”. In the wrong size. I felt like assassinating him. “GO BACK AND FIND THE OTHER F*$*KING RUNNER” I hissed again. My heart was pounding. Breathe. Breathe. He arrived back. With another new pair. Right size. I flung them onto the conveyor belt.
We left. Four hundred and fifty-three dollars poorer. Got outside. Realised we had no coins for the bus. Michael went back inside to the ATM, which wouldn’t accept his cards. Or mine. So we headed over to some more shops to see if their ATMs would oblige. They wouldn’t. We sat outside in the sunshine, with all our bags in a trolley, and considered our options. The kids were going nuts. They were starving, tired, bored, starving, pissed off, needing to pee, thirsty, starving. “Let’s get the buuuuuuuuuuuuussssssssssssss!” “We can’t, no money”. “A taaaaaaaaaaaaaxxxxxxxxi” “No, no money”, “I want to go HOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMME!” “We. Have. No. Money”. I called a taxi. It arrived. There wasn’t enough seats. “It’ll be fine”, said the Romanian taxi-driver, a lovely lady. I didn’t really care if it was a Mini, to be honest. We squashed in, four kids in the back sharing seatbelts. (All the ladies of Bree are now nodding sagely. That’s just confirmed the fact that I had lost my marbles. Normally, I am an obsessive car-safety nut. This one’s for you, Angela). We arrived home and paid her out of our rapidly-diminishing bundle of stashed cash.
Next year, I will be shopping for school supplies from January. With a hurl in one hand and a hipflask in the other. It’ll be great.