Normally, I do my shopping on a Thursday, at Wal-Mart. While I consider Wal-Mart the epitome of capitalist monopolies, it really is the only place in our town available to purchase all one’s weekly needs under one roof, which rather proves my point.
This week was an exception to the norm. Rather than shop Thursday, I decided to go early Sunday morning, while it was quiet. The Wal-Mart experience is horrifying enough without the addition of milling hordes, screaming kids, and constant trolley collisions.
Consequently, 9.00am this Sunday morning saw me trolling around Wal-Mart, filling my trolley with all possible speed and ready to make a hasty dash for the exit.
Now, I’m not a great consumer of alcohol. As a part-time school bus driver, abstinence through the week is essential, so it’s usually only Friday and Saturday evenings that a small tipple becomes the order of the day. But this week saw the last of school for the summer, and my long stored bottle of Scotch whiskey had landed in the trash can only the previous night, and needed replacing without delay.
Consequently, by the time I arrived at the Wal-Mart check-out, at precisely 9.10am this Sunday morning, sitting atop the food and other items in my trolley was one bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label and two bottles of white table wine.
I had already loaded the conveyor, the part-time Sunday check-out girl busy filling bags on the carousel, when I heard a loud cry behind me:
“You can’t purchase those before 10 o’clock!”
Bewildered, I turned about to see a rather fat, middle-aged, woman in pince-nez spectacles standing behind me, the word “Supervisor” emblazoned across the plastic badge pinned malevolently to her bosom.
“Alcohol!” She barked.
From her lips the word flashed like some medieval witch’s curse, as with a decisive sweep of her arm she reached over the belt and rapped long, plastic, fingernails cursorily across the bottles.
Aware now that she must be invoking some ancient, religious, Illinois taboo, I determined not to give an inch until having to.
I smiled sweetly, “Is there a problem?”
For a moment she appeared perplexed, assuming perhaps I had not understood the first time.
She repeated herself, “Not before 10 o’clock! You may not purchase alcohol before 10 o’clock.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Why?”
It seemed an innocuous question to me, but Ms Supervisor was obviously not used to being interrogated by the irreligious on the Sabbath.
She drew herself up to full height, “It’s the LAW!”“
Unlike those obnoxious individuals who take delight in berating innocent shop staff for rules over which they have no control, I am always careful never to utilize them as a focus for my frustrations in such circumstances, but my present adversary’s attitude was irksome in the extreme.
I returned to my sweet smile. “Why?” I repeated.
Momentarily, I observed a tinge of pink on the face, a brief uncertainty in the eyes, before the only answer she had available popped into her brain.
“It’s the Sabbath!” she exclaimed with a trace of triumphalism, as though this were a totally plausible explanation.
I glanced at my watch. “But, according to you, only for another fifty minutes?”
The trace of triumphalism vanished, to be again replaced by pink face and bewilderment. Reaching out, she vigorously swept the three bottles from the conveyor, and snapped……
“We don’t make the law. We just have to enforce it!”
……..before rushing away in the vague direction of the Wines and Spirits rack.
I caught the eye of the check-out girl, brows quickly raised, then lowered as though afraid someone in authority might see, and reprimand. I grinned at her. She grinned back, briefly, before lowering her eyes and returning to her check-out duties. I got the picture. She didn’t much like the overzealous supervisor, either.
Driving back home, car trunk loaded down with the week’s groceries – less three bottles of booze – I got to pondering on the strange illogicality of this law that set its Sabbath time limits. In my own native Wales, for many years the cold and religious held sway over the laws of the land, banning alcohol on the Sabbath in large areas of that country. Then, slowly the Welsh began to realize most of their income came from English tourists, flocking to the picturesque hills and mountains and seashores on their leisure weekends, and demanding alcohol to enhance their recreation. Gradually commerce overcame piety, until now the whole of Wales is open for alcoholic business on the Sabbath, just as any other day.
Probably, such is the case with Illinois. I’m sure there was a time when the sale of alcohol, along with plenty of other commodities, was totally banned on a Sunday. Wal-Mart lost sales as a result, and eventually the pious found their influence dwindling before the pressure of capitalist commerce. As a sop to the churches, it was no doubt agreed to keep the hours from midnight Saturday till 10.00am Sunday as sacrosanct to God, given that it didn’t really interfere with alcohol sales as the only mugs daft enough to be up and about at that time, and not in church, were irreligious wretches like RJ Adams.
To my mind, it’s a great presumption to limit one’s Almighty to a couple of hours on a Sunday morning, though it’s certainly in line with the way most Christians seem to treat their “God”.
It’s all highly illogical, but then, for many of us so is religion.
Filed under: Have a drink on me