*I wrote this feature while I was in Michael Skube's feature writing class at Elon University as an undergrad. The challenge was to write a full feature in no more than 350 words. It was a difficult assignment. Still, I thought I'd post it here for consumption. Enjoy.
A Typical Day in Wal-Mart (in 350 Words)
It requires the deft footwork, superior vision and quick steps more suited to an NFL running back. Hit the hole, spin around the cart, juke to the right, jump the child, and finally reach the electronics department.
Grab a cart, and it becomes tantamount to car racing. Take a hard right, pull in tightly behind another cart and wait for the chance to make a move to the outside. Beware of blind spots, though. Wrecks are sometimes inevitable.
Getting through Burlington’s Wal-Mart – the part department store, part grocery store – is a laborious task. It tests patience or boils blood. It remains busy from sun up to sunrise – all the more reason it shouldn’t have reallocated large chunks of its parking lot to the sale of soil, mulch and other gardening amenities.
“It’s as if the whole of Burlington is at the store at one time,” said Elon junior Joe Torralbes. “I like to do my shopping at 4 a.m.”
The store, located only a couple of miles from Elon University’s campus, is an overwhelming presence. It’s big business in an slow-moving, small country town. Walk through the sliding doors, occasionally receive a hearty “hello” from the greeter, and one’s immersed in the vastness of the Supercenter.
At least a half-mile from the front of the store to the back, and from side to side, Wal-Mart sells everything under its high ceilings and neon white lights. Board games, clothes, school supplies, groceries, electronics, Wal-Mart’s got it. And employees clad in blue vests scurry to their respective departments, perhaps making the store more bureaucratic than it need be.
The 30 terminals overrun the front end of the store, although rarely half of them are open. Of course, that forces lines to snake into aisles overrun with spilled merchandise and clog up the middle of the store.
And when the shopping is complete, one customer walks through the doors into the parking lot, cart in tow, sense of relief on his face. He mutters to himself, “That was a chore.”
The utterance isn’t sure to change next week.