Wednesday, September 5, 2007

When Freezers Feel

I've written before about the beautiful personality that lurks just below the coldness of modern society. Some people like to think of technology as cold and hard and uncaring, but in my personal journey, I've discovered that even machines are capable of expressing deep emotional sentiments.

Well, I had another glorious moment of discovery in Walmart (where else?) a few weeks ago. I was grocery shopping. The monotony of aisles and carts and shelves was beginning to wear on my mind, and a dreadful dullness was creeping over my spirit. Listlessly, I added item after item to the cart with a quiet apathy. It had been a rough day. I was just another consumer in a billion-dollar industry.

Frozen broccoli was next on my list. I yawned and directed my cart toward an aisle in the frozen food department. As I started down the row, I happened to notice that all the lights were off in the freezers. Oh dear. The second law of thermodynamics was at work...again.

But I was wrong. A greater law was at work here. Just as the front of my cart became parallel with the first freezer door, the lights inside snapped on cheerfully. Astonishing!

All else magically disappeared to me as I glided down the aisle. With each step I took, the lights on either side flashed on merrily, with a brilliant wink and a smile. The food inside grinned enticingly under the friendly glow of the bulbs.

I felt as though I walked on red carpet. I could almost hear a Marine band playing Hail to the Chief. I could almost sense the thundering applause. Never had I been so respected in Walmart! Never had my arrival been so celebrated!

My back straightened, and a brilliant smile lit my face. For the first time in my shopping career, I felt noticed and appreciated. For the first time in my life, a freezer had expressed respect for my natural superiority!

Of course, a less astute consumer would probably have come to a very different conclusion. They might have guessed that the new lighting system was merely the result of a desire to cut utility costs. Perhaps they would have decided that Sam Walton had been convicted by Al Gore's Convenient Lie and and become aware of the fact that every moment of saved electricity benefited Antarctica's polar bears all that much more....

But I knew the truth. I immediately understood that this was a noble effort to honor me, the consumer. Me, the consumer, the missing link that made the world's economy possible. The consumer, who, out of all the places that she could be, choose to spend her money and her afternoon in Walmart's frozen food department. It was about time for some recognition!

I turned down the next aisle of frozen food. Just ahead of me, two young girls were sauntering proudly down the aisle, grinning like only girls who know they're loved can do. The freezer lights flickered on in perfect synch with their steps. You could see the joy all over their faces. Society had recognized their value! In a moment, they had gone from just another consumer to respected princesses. You could practically hear the symphony.

We exchanged broad smiles and shared a secret giggle. It was the first kind look from a fellow shopper all afternoon!

My spirits lifted, I continued the day.

~ ~ ~

Just yesterday, I found myself in Walmart once again, doing the family's grocery shopping. Noting the frozen items on my list, I headed over to the frozen food aisles. This time I wasn't looking forward to the welcome I knew I'd receive, though. I had just returned from a funeral. It wasn't a time to celebrate.

Apparently, though, the freezers caught on. They continued in their morose darkness as I padded down the aisle. The ice cream freezer, however, farther on down, flickered up tentatively. Somehow, I found the low wink consoling. Hope would rise again in the morning.

I selected a half gallon of (all-natural) strawberry ice cream, to celebrate. After all, it was on the grocery list!

I went home comforted. The freezers loved, understood, and appreciated me for all I was worth. It was a dark world, but the freezers cared!

Next time, I fully expect a hug.

Why not?