A Thousand Aisles from Nowhere


The media has kept us well informed about the various people who have become lost in the wilderness in the last few months, but I’m curious as to why they’ve been mum (and mum’s the word) about the estimated 5,793 Americans who disappear in warehouse superstores every year.


The problem, of course, is their sheer size. PricePlanet, the one in my town, is 354,000 square feet—that's 2,306 football fields to you or me (if you're not you or me, who are you and why are reading this?). The store spans three time zones, is represented by two Senators, and has its own climate and a parking lot that can be seen from outer space.


I've lost three neighbors there this month alone. The most recent was Ed Hillary, who visited the store one Saturday morning in search of wood glue, radish seeds, a bungi cord, Hello Kitty shoestrings, liver-flavored floss, a hydraulic jack, raccoon vitamins, Bundt-cake mix, varnish, and a left-hand glove (you'd have to know Ed). Three days later, when his family noticed he was gone (I never said he was memorable), a search party was formed; unfortunately the bloodhounds became distracted by the acre of chew-toys and the two volunteers that did not become lost themselves gave up the search in favor of a bargain on a FamilyPak of paper towels—2,000 rolls for $6.99.


Ed's distraught wife, who had rushed to the scene after a nap and catching a movie, was philosophical. "Such is life," she said, chewing thoughtfully on her third helping of turkey-meatball samples. "Ed's in a better place now—somewhere between tires and bakeware, we think—and it's time to move on. Ooh, look! Lipstick!"


My solution to this alarming problem? First, never enter one of these stores without a compass, a GPS tracking device, two cell phones, a month's supply of food, an emergency blanket, a large whirl of cotton candy (ok, that one's optional), flares, and a native sherpa, preferably one from a family that has lived in the store for at least two generations. Second, use the Buddy system. Under no circumstances should you become separated from your Buddy, no matter if he wants to buy a fifty-five gallon drum of peanut oil and you want to crawl around on the floor of the Tonka aisle making big-twuck noises. Be sure to pick a Buddy that is good in a crisis, plump, and weaker than you are, in case cannibalism becomes necessary. Third, if you do become lost, yell for help as loudly as you can, and rest assured that the chances you'll be heard over the P.A. system and the beeping of forklifts are actually quite slim to none. I have a fourth idea, but just noticed that this printer cartridge is low, so I'm going to run down to PricePlanet and pick one up. If I'm not back by morning, tell my family I love them.