Summer has arrived, and you’ve only used that Sam’s Club membership – the one you swore would “pay for itself” – three times. Reasoning that buying meat and other grilling materials in bulk will save you some money in the long run, you resolve to venture into the wild fluorescent frontier to claim a month’s worth of cookout accroutements. If you have children, go to #1, if not, go to #2.
When you arrive in the parking lot, your child screams “Taaarrgeett!” with irrepressible glee.
“Actually, this is called ‘Sam’s Club.’ We’ll go to Target another day.”
Your child begins sobbing violently. You look at your wife for reassurance, hoping that she’ll turn around and do that thing where she lowers her voice and makes some sort of Faustian bargain with your kid so that they’ll cool it long enough to get through the shopping trip. Instead, she does that thing where she serenely looks out the window, and you get the feeling that she’s mentally in San Tropez sipping a piña colada. Either that or she’s trying the ‘just ignore their tantrums because they’re looking for attention’ thing that the pediatrician allegedly told her. After you nearly clip an old man pushing a cart full of cheese and Andy Griffith DVDs, you gather yourself, park the car, and wrestle your kid through the front doors. If you want to go straight for the meat, just to get it over with, go to #3; If you want to check out what kind of deals they have on HDTVs first, go to #5.
You park your car and walk into Sam’s Club.
If you just want to get in and get out, go to #4. If you’re the browsing type, go to #6
You try half-heartedly to convince your wife to save time by going to get some spices and a couple of bags of those delicious frozen french fries you always want but forget to buy while you pick out the meat. She rolls her eyes so hard you’re afraid she might hurt herself, then you agree to stick together. On the way to the meat section, an older lady with nothing in her cart reaches out to touch your kid’s hair like they’re petting a dog at the park. You recoil probably a little to quickly and half-sprint, half-jog towards the butcher’s window. If you’re in the mood for steak, go to #7. If pork chops are more your thing, go to #8.
Determined to make this a quick trip, you lower your head and push past the apron-clad hucksters shilling bites of smoked sausage and spicy queso. That is, until you see a kindly-looking grandmother type holding up a tray of what look like over-stuffed pizza rolls. You make eye contact, and she smiles, and before you know it you’ve stuffed three of the things into your mouth. If these sound delicious, go to #9. If you’re getting queasy just thinking about them, go to #12.
In a few short minutes, you regret walking into the electronics section. A 46-inch, 1080p, LCD TV (with wall mount included!) is only $398 dollars. You can feel the credit card in your pocket begin to tingle… or at least you hope it’s the card. Your wife pretends not to notice the drool sliding toward the dimple in your chin. The TVs millions of pixels are calling to you, and you’re imagining what Dwyane Wade pouting over a foul call would look like on its glorious screen when your child shouts at you, having caught sight of Kung Fu Panda 2 playing a few screens over. If you immediately run from the electronics section and toward the meat, go to #3. If you give in and push your cart toward the movie, Go to #13.
It’s a full forty-five minutes before you even remember why you came to Sam’s Club in the first place. You’ve looked at iPods and discovered they’re just like the ones at Wal-Mart/The Apple Store/Everywhere, looked over the selection of books and read the first twenty pages of a Sam Walton biography, and seriously contemplated buying a $200 office chair. When the thought of grilling out finally returns to you, you bolt from the office furniture section and toward the meat. Because of your dilly-dallying, you must go to #10.
You fall into a trance watching the butchers chop enormous hunks of meat into the neatly packaged cuts inhabiting the freezer case in front of you. When you snap out of it, you’ve lost the feeling in your fingers because you were absentmindedly massaging a twelve pack of thick cut ribeyes. While comparing prices of New York Strip and ribeye, you break into a sweat from the pressure of making the proper meat selection. On the one hand, the strip is a leaner cut, but the ribeye is a little less expensive, plus, the marbling of the ribeye gives an unmatched flavor. In the middle of what you thought was an eloquent inner monologue regarding the virtues of Dale’s marinade, a Sam’s Club employee grabs your shoulders and shakes you back to reality. From what you can gather, you’ve been holding two packages of meat out in front of you, and, Billy Madison-style, conducted an elaborate debate between the two cuts of steak. You’ve gained a considerable audience, and a few people have even thrown some loose change at your feet. The Sam’s employee approaches cautiously, tosses a blanket over your shoulders, and leads you towards the customer service desk. They page your wife, who had gone off in search of 225 oz. of laundry detergent, and you are asked to leave the store and get plenty of rest, but not before you agree to participate in Sam’s Club’s new group therapy initiative. You have to sign up for 50 sessions up front, but it’ll probably be worth it in the long run. The End.
While appraising the dozens of packages filled with pork chops, you notice an pork loin that looks like it came out of a triceratops. The label says it’s eight pounds, but you don’t buy that for a second. You carry it over to the cart and drop it dramatically next to your child, who has been bribed into riding in the cart with a 200-count bag of Dum-Dums suckers. “Eww,” says your kid. “That looks like the grubs they showed on TV this morning!”
“It’s not gross; it’s a pork loin. We can cut it up into our own pork chops to save money.”
“That thing’s enormous,” your wife says Then, with a stern look, she cuts off the joke you were about to make. “How many pork chops will you get out of that?”
“I don’t know. Probably twenty.”
“What are we going to do with twenty pork chops?” she asks.
“We can freeze them and have them whenever,” you say.
“Just like you always say you’re going to re-heat leftovers from Olive Garden?”
She sighs. “Fine. But cut it up and freeze it tonight. And no more penis jokes!“
Triumphant, go to #11
Obsessed with the over-stuffed pizza rolls, you race to the frozen foods aisle, where you buy a bag of each flavor (you’re particularly excited about the barbecue chicken bites). On the way home, you decide to scrap your previous dinner plans and gorge yourself on pizza rolls instead. When you cook them, however, you find that they taste bland and rubbery. Crestfallen, you read and re-read the instructions to make sure you did everything exactly as they said. Unable to understand your failure, you return to Sam’s Club the next day and ask the manager about the little lady with the pizza rolls. Though you describe her in amazing detail, the manager only looks at you quizzically. “There used to be a woman just like that who worked here for years,” the manager said. “But she’s been dead for ten years!”
The next thing you know, you’re in your bed, sweating and confused. You unlock the safe behind that painting in the hallway and take out a heavy metal top from a wooden box. You spin the top on the counter and it goes on spinning for what seems like eternity, and then, just as it kind of wobbles, the screen cuts to black. The End.
In your hurry to get everything you need before the store closes, you take a corner to quickly and barrel into an old woman who had been offering free samples of overstuffed pizza rolls. You help her up, and to make her feel better you take a few of the pizza rolls that didn’t fall off of the tray. They are more delicious than you could possibly have imagined. Overcome, go to #9
It’s time to check out. Proud that you’re going to soon be carving a gigantic slab of meat into easily grill-able slabs, you approach the check out lane with your chest puffed out.
“Is your back alright?” your wife asks.
“You’re walking funny.”
“Never mind,” you say.
You pile the pork loin and a half-dozen other items (including a 40-count box of Toaster Strudel you don’t remember putting in the cart) on the belt, and the pimply young man at the register takes your membership card and rings you up. Before you can ask how it’s possible that the total exceeds $80, your wife swipes her debit card and you’re pushing the cart towards the door. Just as you hand the receipt to the woman checking them at the door, your child notices a balloon tied to a display near the exit. “Not this time,” you say. “But we’ll come back soon.” Your child’s anguished face compresses more and more tightly into a little red mass of despair, and over the din of your wailing progeny, you fail to hear the woman at the door thank you for shopping at Sam’s Club. The End.
This was a test. If you think over-stuffed pizza rolls aren’t delicious, you are either mentally ill or un-American. Either way, seek help. The End.
Before you realized what’s happened, you’ve watched half-an-hour’s worth of Kung Fu Panda 2, and come to the conclusion that Jack Black isn’t actually a bad actor if he gets the right material. Knowing that walking away from the TV now could be problematic, you tell your kid that if they’re good for the rest of the time in the grocery, you’ll get Kung Fu Panda 2 on DVD. After haggling for a couple of minutes, your kid gets you to agree to buy the Blu-Ray instead. A few minutes later, you find your wife playing a game of solitaire on the iPad on display by the TVs. Go to #3.