Jul 17, 2009

Missing the Target

We've been up here in Tallahassee for about two months now. (And I know that many of you hordes of readers are actually north of Florida, so Tallahassee is still "down there" to you. But it's all relative.) Most of the time when we talk to people about what we are doing, we get asked "How's Tallahassee?" Well, unless they are University of Florida fans. Then they ask "MMmff mfmfmmm brrbllglgl?" Then I have to remind them to take their heads out of their rear ends and when they do, they ask something witty like, "What is it like living in hell?" And then they laugh at how awesome they are and run off to convince themselves that Urban Meyer would never play them like he played Bowling Green and Utah. [Boy, I am going to pay for that. But it was worth it.]

Where was I? Oh yeah. How is Tallahassee? It is strange, moving to a new place. I remember that one of the most disturbing things about moving to Jacksonville from Tampa was that there are no 7-11 stores there. I mean, it didn't really affect my life 355 days a year. But on those few days when I wanted a Slurpee, then I had to go find someone who sold the far inferior ICEEs. And they you had to choose from Cherry or Coke - as opposed to the six flavors most 7-11 stores have. There are things like that. I'm sure anyone who has moved can understand.

Things are definitely different. I mentioned in an earlier, far superior post about the new restaurants up here. That is a good change - having new cool places to eat on those rare occasions that we don't dine at Casa Del Staples. It is also neat to have hills - which the flatlands of south and central Florida don't offer. I also like the promise that cooler weather will be coming in just a few months. The thought of having three seasons instead of two is very attractive. (I've heard there is a fourth season, but that seems too magical - like unicorns or fairies or affordable health care.)

Some things I don't like up here? Sure, there are some. I find it strange to have two major football programs in the same city. I don't like the way the roads are laid out. I don't like the near-cult status that Chick-Fil-A has up here - with their drive thru lines so long they hinder traffic. Oh yeah, that reminds me, I don't like the traffic. I know, some of you are wondering how someone who has lived in West Palm Beach, Orlando, and Tampa could dare question the traffic of any place East of California. But the traffic here is different. I am used to Florida traffic. That is where everyone drives about ten miles over the speed limit, the speed limit on most major (non-interstate) roads is 45 mph, no one uses their blinkers or heaters, and you take your life into your hands every time you get in the car. (California traffic is like this, except played double speed.) Stop lights cycle every 30 seconds. You just go faster. Here? Uh, it is sloooooow. The speed limits are usually 35 - even on main roads. The lights take 2-3 minutes to cycle. People still don't know where they are going, but they are slow about it. Yesterday, it took me 30 minutes to get from Heather's class to our apartment after lunch. You know how far that is? 3.5 miles. Nope, you read that correct. That means I averaged 7 miles an hour. Amazing.

Another thing I don't like is the storms. What's that? Yes, I did live in Tampa - the lightning capital of the world. And, yes, I lived in Orlando, hurricane magnet of 2004. Those places it seemed like there was a pattern. Every afternoon it would storm. You just kind of felt it. But the storms here are weird. They just kind of blow in out of nowhere and are violent. Four different times in two months there have been storms that were so ugly that FSU sent out a text message to all their students to take cover. Our second week here a tornado took out the roof of an elementary school about a mile down the road. Two weeks ago a storm hit on the corner right by our apartment. It took the roof off a Toys R Us and threw its air conditioner unit about 500 feet into a KMart parking lot. This, however, was NOT a tornado. It was random 85 mph winds. Random 85 mph winds? What the what? That's crazy. NOT a big fan of that.

But the biggest thing I have had trouble dealing with is the Target/Walmart situation. Every other place I have lived, it was simple. Walmart was terrible. It was dirty. It was cheap and nasty. The people who shopped there scared you frequently. The people who worked there scared you even more, and usually were grossly incompetent. A new store could open and within two days look just like an old one. You would go there if you HAD to, like it was 1am and you wanted to toilet paper someone's house. Target, on the other hand, was cool. It was clean and hip. It had Starbucks. You would run into people you knew almost every time you went. The employees were generally nice - and you might even know some of them. You would go there to kill time. And Super Target was amazing. You could easier kill a couple hours in a Super Target.

Here it is not the same case. First of all, there are like thirty Walmarts around town. I really think there are more of them than gas stations. Don't believe me? Drive around the capital area trying to find a gas station when your fuel light is on. The stores still aren't the cleanest or nicest, but they are a far cry from their counterparts further south. It is one of your regular shopping places. I know there have been times when I'm like, "I need milk, apples, juice boxes, and an iPod charger. Let's go to Walmart." It has become a part of life - and it seems like that is the way it is for everyone up here. To many people, it is their main grocery store. (I still go to Publix for that. I'll never abandon Publix. You will have to take that free cookie out of my cold dead hand.) You don't avoid Walmart, or go there afraid of getting mugged or catching hepatitis. It is just a normal store.

And the Target? Well, it is like Bizarro Target. There are very few of them - no Super Targets. So that stinks right off the bat. The store itself is terrible. There are almost always empty spots on the shelves. The employees are rude and very odd. The worst experiences have come in the food area. Sometimes when I take the kids to Target, we eat there because it is cheap and fast. But, every time we have gone - literally every single time - they have been out of something we ordered. I don't think they have ever had macaroni and cheese. They usually are out of pizza, and the ones they have are either buffalo chicken or have been out since yesterday. At least one ICEE machine is always broken. The employees are rude and so incompetent. One day, they didn't have pizza. So there was a family who were waiting the "7-8 minutes" until they would be ready. Once they got done cooking, the person behind the counter put them out on the sale rack - despite telling three other people they didn't have any coming out. Naturally, they got snapped up in about a minute by new customers. So they had to put more in for the first family. Finally - after I would guess was a wait of 15-20 minutes - they got their pizza. "Sorry for the wait," was the only thing offered by the employees. The mom was simmering with rage. "What's the matter? Did the other get 'accidentally sold' or something?" "No, I don't think so, they just took longer." Wow. At the same time, the girl behind the counter sold a lady in a hurry a hot dog and told her to wait for it to finish - but didn't tell her it would be another TEN MINUTES! How does it take ten minutes to cook a hot dog? I can microwave one in 30 seconds. I think that same day was the day they only had small cups in stock.

It is kind of a shock to see something like this. You just get used to certain things in life. You can always count on things being a certain way. Kohls is always going to initially tag their stuff way too expensive so they can mark it down. Sports Authority is always going stretch the definition of "authority" with their pathetic inventory. Lifeway and Family Christian Stores are always going to overprice their stuff to the point you wonder why you even bother going in there instead of just ordering from Amazon right away. Winn Dixie is always going to make you wonder how it is still in business. And Walmart is always supposed to awful and Target is always supposed to be cool. To see things turned upside down is very disconcerting. It makes you wonder what else will be upside down. Will Burger King remember to put all the items in your bag at the Drive Thru? Will Dominos make pizza on real crust instead of recycled cardboard? Will Pizza Hut stop injecting their pan pizza crust with a cup of oil? Will Bobby Bowden actually participate in team activities? (Nah, some things are just too far fetched.)

**FROM THE EDITOR: This post is strictly for entertainment purposes. The assertions made by the author were for humorous effect. They were wild generalizations. We understand that not all Walmarts are like this. And we know that any of you who work at Walmart are not necessarily carrying Hepatitis. And we also know that just because you work at Target, it does not mean you are nice and/or competent - or Hepatitis free. Thank you all for your understanding.

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