Day Ten: Song Lyric Updates

Trendy hipsters are quick to mock the monolithic, transnational Wal-Mart.  It’s even easier now that they’ve tried to humanize their image.  (It’s a bit like Data trying to be Mr. Rogers) For what it’s worth, I like Wal-Mart.  It’s the only place you can get a “The Right to Arm Bears” shirt, a pair of briefs with the Superman logo on the crotch, a bullet blender, a mango and a five dollar copy of Big (which, in my opinion, was the pinnacle of Tom Hanks’s career).

Wal-Mart is unpretentious, unfiltered and unvarnished.  I didn’t shave today, but no one cares.  I might have forgotten to wear deodorant.  A minor problem, but not a significant one.  I’m right within my element.

*      *      *

I have a number of friends who quote song lyrics as their status updates, which means that I can instantly recognize that Dan floats like a cannonball or that Quinn agrees with Thrice’s claim that “we can’t medicate man to perfection again.”  I struggle with song lyric updates, because I never know what to write beyond, “dude, I like that song.”  However, when it’s an artist that I don’t know, I feel like I’m now outside of a club of music insiders.

So I peruse the television section and turn to the lady next to me, “This MTV is not for free.  It’s so PC it’s killing me, so desperately,” but she scurries away.  Holy crap! I’ve managed to be the creepiest person in all of Wal-Mart.  There’s has to be some kind of a badge for that.

I look to Brenna and start talking the lyrics to an Iron and Wine song.  It’s a somber tune about our mortality and the naturalistic resurrection of a fern.  Brenna claps her hands and babbles back to me.  Fellow consumers offer their disapproval through the distinct body language of tapping toes and shaking heads.  I’m struck that out-of-context spoken song lyrics cannot be ignored in a big box store the way they are ignored on Facebook.

Perhaps context matters.

When I speak the lyrics to “Rocket Man,” a fellow shopper speaks the lyrics back to me.

“Sort-of feel like what’s his face, Captain Kirk, when he speaks those songs,” she says.  I say nothing, because I’m suddenly consumed by unforeseen shame.  It’s an awkward interaction in the paint aisle, but she finishes the lines with, “Yeah, I think it’s going to be a long long time.”

When I arrive to the cash register, the cashier says, “It’s packed here.”

I reach for a contextual tune.  “All the lonely people.  Where do they all come from?”

“I love that song,” he says.

“Me, too.”

“I grew up listening to the Beatles on vinyl.  I think my dad through them all into a pile for Goodwill.  Imagine that.”  It’s the rare moment when a comment mimics the type of comment someone would leave on Facebook.

“Wow, that’s a lot of money down the drain.”

“Yeah, imagine that.”  Then he speaks out a line from “Imagine.”  Something about no possessions.  It might be the most anti-Wal-Mart conversation that’s even taken place here.

Bizarre, perhaps, but one of the best parts of this experiment is that I’m seeing the human side of retail jobs.  I never realized just how arrogant I’ve gotten in the way I treat “service” people as invisible Untouchables.  It’s humbling.


2 thoughts on “Day Ten: Song Lyric Updates

  1. I love the fact that music can bring people together both online and in real life. I too often connect with people based on lyrics they share. Like a middle school student I still build much of my identity based on the music I listen to. I think you can tell a lot about a person by the lyrics they share. You mentioned that you found it uncomfortable to see shared lyrics and just say, “I like that too.” But I think that I like it to and subsequent connection can be very powerful.

    I love the idea of walking up to strangers and saying lyrics, just to say what they will do. I think what you are doing is very brave and courageous. It is one thing to hide behind our online identities, but it is another to really open up and face the awkwardness that comes from face to face interactions.

    Oh, and we carried it all so well
    As if we got a new position
    Oh, and we owned all the tools ourselves
    But not the skills to make a shelf with
    Oh, what useless tools ourselves

    Modest Mouse

    As for Wal-Mart, I must be a Trendy Hipster, because it is easy to paint the monolith symbol of all the wrong with capitalism as a monster.

    • I think music is powerful. However, I find it a little sad that it is so splintered that we don’t have a collective song book. When I reach for a Beatles song, people know what it. There are few pop artists (especially ones creating meaningful music) that are so instantly recognizable.

      As for Wal-Mart, I’m actually with you there. I try and avoid it as much as possible. Yet this project is forcing me to see how commercialized and capitalist I can be.

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