( A flashback to October 27, 2008. Nothing like a good parable for a Sunday morning, eh?)
I don’t have a car. For me, getting to Wal-Mart requires at least three hours and four bus rides. If I miss the last bus, I’ll have to lug heavy bags for miles. Is Wal-Mart the devil’s supercenter? Yes, but it’s also an oasis filled with sights, sounds, and extremely heavy things to lug home.
One Saturday last summer, I trekked to Wal-Mart for the first time in three weeks. I arrived with time to kill and money to burn.
As I stood in the ladies’ underwear department, pondering the merits of Fruit of the Loom vs. Hanes Her Way, a small Wal-Mart employee interrupted my thoughts. She was short, heavyset, and dark-haired. If pressed, I’d guess she were a first-generation Asian American.
She told me that a “Code Blue” was underway; I should leave the store immediately. Raised to be obedient, I thanked her and marched toward the nearest exit.
As I neared the front doors, I noticed that no one else was leaving the store. The place was swarming. How could these shoppers stay calm during a Code Blue?? Didn’t they KNOW about the Code Blue?
I felt responsible for these people. Shouldn’t I warn them? What if our LIVES were at stake? What if I were the only survivor of a department store tragedy and had to live with that guilt FOREVER?
I started doubting the Asian employee; perhaps I’d misunderstood her. Maybe she was confused. Either way, I’d waited three weeks for this trip and wasn’t about to leave empty-handed. I hesitated near the exit, then hurried to the jewelry section for a second opinion.
“Hello,” I said to Lacy, the woman working at the jewelry counter, “A lingerie employee said there was a ‘Code Blue’ and told me to leave the building… but… nobody else is leaving. What should I do?”
Right then, a middle-aged couple from my old church appeared, nudging me with their cart. “Hey there,” said Sister Young, “Didn’t expect to bump into you here! Hahhahahah!”
Seething, I forced a smile. Here I was trying to save the world, and they wanted to make small talk. They won; we talked small.
The Youngs finally left, so I turned back to Lacy. She confirmed my suspicions; the lady in the panty aisle was clearly misguided. Visibly relieved, I asked Lacy “by the way, what IS a Code Blue?”
Lacy didn’t know. She flipped out a tiny Employee Guidebook to look up Wal-Mart’s warning messages. Squinting at the small print, Lacy answered “A Code Blue is… … …. that’s a bomb.”
I looked at her. She looked at me. I looked at her. She looked at me.
“Oh,” I said, cleverly.
At that moment, a manly intercom voice announced “CODE BLUE. ALL SHOPPERS MUST EVACUATE THE BUILDING IMMEDIATELY.”
Hardly anyone listened. Practically everyone kept pushing their carts along, buying pork rinds and power tools.
Now, I’d never felt like an Old Testament prophet before, but I suddenly saw what kind of stubbornness they’d been up against; Moses leading his people through the wilderness for forty years, Noah trying to persuade his friends that they either needed an ark or some top-notch scuba gear… mankind hates heeding warnings.
I was torn between a longing to save my fellow man and an overwhelming urge to smack all these &%#^ idiots. Moses surely knew the feeling.
When I finished being self-righteous, I saw how badly this episode reflected on my character. Would Ghandi get testy with the Youngs for their corny jokes? Would Theodore Roosevelt value underwear over protecting his neighbors from a bomb threat?
Here I was in a real live emergency, surly that some stupid Code Blue was ruining my shopping trip. Typical Lack o’ Perspective.
Eventually, all the stubborn shoppers were herded out of the store like fussy, disgruntled sheep. No one was harmed. The bomb threat was a hoax, but I left grateful for the lesson I learned that day:
In the eternal scheme of things, humans trump panties every time.