A Slice of America

We’re approaching the two-year anniversary of a new Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market opening just down the street from my house. The shopping center prior was completely run down: a shuttered pharmacy here, a closed laundromat there, more empty buildings than I care to remember and the “corporate headquarters” of a company whose potential business partners probably walked away if they judged by the outward appearance of the place. The whole area was unattractive and pretty much unproductive. It needed a makeover, and the presence of the market had the potential to provide the boost.

If you’re unfamiliar with a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, it’s just the juggernaut’s version of a supermarket. It’s been convenient to have one so close, walking distance in fact. And a friend and I have been curious to see what else opens at the center. Even as the supermarket was being build we’d check the site plans and debate over what businesses the other proposed buildings would house. Well, there are more plots available, but two other new businesses have opened thus far…

A three-story storage unit and a car wash.

Yup, exciting – a little slice of America in our own back yard.

America’s love affair with the automobile has been long known. Ours is a car-centered culture. The citizens of the good old USA use their four-wheel friends for more out-of-house trips than any other industrialized nation; over eighty percent if memory serves from my readings. (I think powerhouse Germany ranked second with just at sixty.) Some European countries actually utilize the car less than other forms of transportation – I think the Dutch go by bike more than car, once again if memory serves. So, a car wash may not be such a big shocker.

But a three-story storage facility? Our countryside is littered with the darn things. Sure, the wife and I used one for a few months between living arrangements, but there are thousands of them out there. Why? Because another thing America is famous for is the accumulation of stuff! George Carlin had a great routine about that, saying a house is just a “big pile of stuff with a roof on top.”

That’s true, but why do we need extra space for our stuff? Depending on which sources you trust, the average house size has almost doubled over the past fifty years. You don’t have enough space for all your stuff in a house twice as big as your parents or grandparents? Not only that, but families are about twenty-five percent smaller so you should have even more room for stuff without kids.

It would make a lot more sense for the need to store more stuff if families were having more kids. After all, there’s more space in which to make kids in these bigger and bigger houses…not to mention the cars (come on, we all know what happens at make out point).

Of course, that’s probably what the car washes are for.

I’m hoping for a restaurant at my new shopping center, even if it’s just a simple fast-food joint. Maybe a bank, a gym, a mom and pop bookstore, or something other than just that little slice of America of a car wash, a storage place and the ever-present Wal-Mart name!

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