I know that closing my eyes doesn’t make trouble go away, but in a crowded Walmart I allow myself to believe that’s true.
Standing in the electronics section is the hardest. Thirteen year old boys and their kid brothers congregate in the aisles, playing the sample games on beat up X-Box consoles. The little girls are shoved off to the side but they stand and watch, clogging the aisle. Older gentlemen stare at the cell phone accessories, touching things and then putting them back. Young families push carts slowly with cranky toddlers whining about the toy section,“I said that you can only have ONE, Samantha!”
If I had red ruby slippers, I’d click my heels and escape to Kansas.
It’s not only Walmart, but also busy grocery stores and malls that are difficult for me. Being in a crowded, confined space with the general public is not my forte.
Things slow down, as if I’m watching the world in slow motion. My eyes dart around for the nearest corner without people. My anxiety level raises as I walk to that corner and I’ll stay there until I get it together. Don’t talk to me, I’m not a normal person in that moment. My speech is pressured and I speak in fragments. Usually I say something about needing to get away from all the people.
The maternity section in Walmart is generally a good escape.
I’ve looked into it, and I do not have social anxiety disorder. The difference between me and the socially anxious is that they are worried people are watching and judging. For me, I’m simply looking for space to breath.
There is an indoor farmer’s market in White Plains, NY called Apple Farm. My best friend and I will frequent Apple Farm when I visit because they have fresh produce at decent prices, year round. It’s really good food and it’s a popular place. Popular and small = deadly combo for Kari.
I admitted to my friend this week that the reason I hang out in the fish section at Apple Farm is not because I like fish, but because the stench of dead fish keeps others away — it’s the most deserted corner of the store. (I have documented how I feel about fish.) Still, standing near fish with shriveled eyeballs is a better option to me than bumping into people near the broccoli.
Over the last few years, I’ve been able to better control my crowded-confined-public-space-anxiety. Mostly I stay away from Walmart and go grocery shopping at weird times. To be honest, I suspect my anxiety stems from being selfish and not wanting to share space with others. I don’t expect Walmart or Apple Farm to revolve around me, or do I?
The shoe department at Walmart can be pretty busy. But if they sell ruby red slippers, I may risk venturing in and pick up a pair. The potential reward of escape is much worth the momentary terror.