Example 1 - the Dreaded Cereal Aisle.
Most families who live overseas have a very set plan for their first day "home." Ours was always Mexican food (bean and cheese burrito for me) and Walmart. We didn't necessarily need anything, but there's something that cries out to be around ALL THOSE OPTIONS. Oh Walmart, like a mirage in the desert. You think it's exactly what you need to embrace being back in America. And a trip to Walmart is a blindingly good example of some of the struggles I'm thinking about.
The below example is not necessarily the first trip to Walmart story, which is a family affair. It's more of the, your mom letting you run into Walmart on your own a few days later story.
You know that scene in the Matrix where Neo is getting guns to rescue Morpheus and there are aisles and aisles flying by, and then they zoom down what seems an infinite aisle? Yeah, going to Walmart and into the cereal aisle for the first time when you get back to the States is exactly like that.
At first you are excited and want ALL THE CEREAL. And then it starts to get a little overwhelming. And then you start crying because your brain is short circuiting about cereal and you choose Corn Flakes because that's the only cereal that looks familiar. You don't even like Corn Flakes.
Example 2 - Paying for the Cereal.
You take your sniveling self and your sad box of cereal (you don't get anything else because if you can't pick out cereal, there's no way you are up to facing the horror of shampoo choices yet) to the check out line. At this point all of your senses are being assaulted - it's noisy, crowded, too bright, and too many smells. You start digging around for money.
American money. Sigh. There is nothing quite as tortuous as a handful of coins you don't recognize and a line of fifteen people behind you, while you try to figure out 66 cents in change.
You: "Sorry, weird question, how would one exactly make 66 cents in change?"
Cashier: blank look.
You: "Um, hm, sorry. Never mind. Here. These two big ones are 25 cents right? So that's 50? So I just need 16 more?" Hands over 2 quarters. Nailed it.
Cashier: "Um. Yeah."
You: Staring blankly at the rest of the coins in your hand. You know one is five and one is ten. Hands the cashier a nickle. "This must be the ten cents."
Cashier: "No. That's a nickle."
You: "Sure, sure. Sorry, what's a nickle worth?" It deteriorates from there. It almost always ends with you shoving all of the coins at the cashier and running out of the store. Why are dimes so small? Why are they worth more than their giant sibling the nickle? Who named these ridiculous coins? Why can't we just be civilized and refer to them as their worth - "ten cent coin"?
Example 3 - Eating the Cereal.
There is always that moment when you realize your passport country isn't actually home, in the truest sense of the word. Sometimes it's while you are eating soggy Corn Flakes. Possibly soggy from all of the tears of confusion. Why is everything so hard and different here? Why don't I fit in? Why is this so much work? Why isn't Walmart the answer to all the questions? Why didn't I buy Cinnamon Toast Crunch?
This is a low point. You feel all wonky and off-kilter and full of cardboard and confusion. But then, your grandmother, who before last week you hadn't seen in three years, walks over, and takes your bowl of Corn Flakes away. She hands you half of an old fashioned cake doughnut and an IBC root beer in the bottle. Suddenly, things are much brighter.
Okay, enough sentimentality. Example 4, 5, and 6 will be my next post, and to be honest where the real humor begins. This was all just to set the stage for the horror that involves the Constitution, seaweed, and astronauts. You want to tune in for part 2, I pinky promise.