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This family has not, as a general rule, spent much time in Walmart. This probably stems from my feeling, years ago, that the store offered cheap and cheerful crap–with the emphasis on the cheap and crap. My thinking has somewhat modified in the intervening years, although I still prefer other discount stores in general — or wait until my regular shops have things on sale.

A prime example of this was our debacle, a few years back, when Li’l Sis and Crazy D lived with me. We had, thanks to Crazy D and his travels to exotic places for work, an infestation of bedbugs! For reasons not entirely clear to me, Walmart is the ‘go to’ place for bedbug covers for pillows and mattresses. I know, who knew? After we discovered this, I expected to see, on the few occasions I frequented the store, to be greeted by the greeter saying:”Welcome to Walmart — for your every bedbug need.’ There’s just no good (or even bad) answer to that comment. I suspect we’ve been forever branded as ‘the folks who have bedbugs’ since we returned to the store several times for replacement covers. Apparently they still sell cheap, possibly cheerful, not sometimes flimsy crap. Just sayin’…

It’s a good thing Gill was not home when this debacle happened. Not only does she not like bedbugs; she does not like Walmart. She prefers to give the Supercentre her business, thinking it is somehow less overwhelming as a store. Not really much difference, really, but we all have our preferences.

During my recent trip to Mexico, three of us in our group had occasion to ‘go off the reservation’ (as we described our posh condo complex) to stock up on basic food and drink items to have at the ready in our suite kitchen. The complex does have a store handy, should the guests run out of vital things (such as high-end booze, chocolates, cheeses, fancy pastries) but these were obviously over-priced and, no matter how you cut it, you can’t exist on those things alone. Well, actually WE could, but you don’t want a thing like that getting around.

We set off for the local Walmart in a taxi. The complex has an elaborate system to help guests actually escape the reservation. No tunnels need be dug. First, you take a trolley through the grounds to the edge of the complex where a taxi will be ordered for you.(Being Mexico, it isn’t a great idea for gringos– especially ones coming from an expensive resort –to try public transport…even if they CAN figure out the system.

We were dropped off at the entrance to the mall where the Walmart was located, grabbed our buggy and began to find things on our shopping list.One of the main items was drug-related…not THAT kind, although what we were after was potent enough that at home it needed a prescription. Okay, I’ll ‘fess up…we needed sleeping pills. We all suffered from that plague of old-age: insomnia. I had, foresighted as I was, brought along enough of MY prescription valium pills to last me for the duration.The others were relying on Gravol tablets — not great but better than nothing.

We had heard that certain meds were available in Mexico (again, we’re not talking street drugs) without a prescription so, since I couldn’t offer to share my supply of valium lest I run out, I volunteered to be the one to find out if this was indeed true. I mean, come on, it’s Mexico — where all the cartels that supply the U.S.are headquartered. I mean, if the U.S. is so concerned (even apart from Trump) that they are determined to keep the Mexican drugs out, there must be a reason.

I found the Pharmacy and stood in line behind another older couple from the U.S. They had clearly been there for some time discussing their needs with the Walmart pharmacist.They were waving around a piece of paper that I assumed was a prescription. They did not speak Spanish and she did not speak English. As it turned out, the piece of paper was not a prescription but simply the name of a drug product that they were hoping to buy cheaper in Mexico to take back to the States. As the pharmacist left to go back to the shelves, I struck up a conversation with them. “So, you’re from the States, huh?”

“Yes,” they answered.”We’re from Indiana.”

“Trying to get cheap drugs, eh? You really should come to Canada…our drugs are cheaper than yours …and we’re closer and you could drive it in a few hours.”

They seemed somewhat surprised.We chatted some more and I explained the concept to them. I swear, I could see the wheels turning in their heads as they planned their route to Canada. Since they have a son living close to the border, I fully expect they’ll be visiting our country soon …perhaps even popping in to say hi!

The pharmacist returned and, shaking her head, announced in Spanish, that they couldn’t provide what the couple wanted. I couldn’t (nor could the couple) understand most of what she was saying, but somehow ‘not without a prescription’ comes through loud and clear in any language.They left, crestfallen. I presented myself at the front desk and asked, although I already knew the answer, if she spoke English. I did what the other couple had done: wrote the word ‘valium’ on a piece of paper. She instantly said the Spanish words “Not without a prescription.” So much for rumors about lax drug laws…

Well, if we couldn’t get sleeping pills, we’d have to do with wine. Now, keeping in mind that we were buying for three people for two weeks plus frequent meals at the other suites of our friends, don’t be horrified if I note that we had half the buggy filled with booze. Cheap at Walmart…the store had not let us down.

We moved on to snacks. Although we saw row upon row of chips, we couldn’t find nuts — and not just any nuts: almonds, trail mix with low sodium. It was not obvious from the package labels since we didn’t know the Spanish for ‘trail mix’ or salt. Yup, that’s just how pitiful we were. Asking clerks proved to be futile in most, but not all, cases. Signs were in Spanish, ATMs were in Spanish. It was annoying but, it IS their country. I felt somewhat humbled and embarrassed that even the maid for our suite was making a concerted effort to learn English…but we only knew “Hola, Gracias, and   dos Margaritas’. I know now how Gill feels when she travels to Spain, Wales, and to some extent, France…although she has at least a fighting chance in France. In Spain, she can fudge it by mangling a bit of French. Wales, never! It isn’t even clear WHAT language they are speaking.

I returned home vowing to learn at least a few words and phrases in Spanish before our next trip to Mexico. After all, if you need drugs (again, legal ones) and booze, the least you can do is learn the Spanish names for name. Gringoes indeed…And so, until next time, have a good day, por favor!