When I say I’m exiting normal, I mean that I am consciously steering clear from those parts of modern culture that are hard to take. I happen to think modern culture has produced quite a number of benefits effects worth celebrating. iPads, for instance. Netflix. The rear back-up camera in our truck. Crowdsourcing. And that cheerful scrappiness lots of people have when faced with a world that is changing before their eyes.

But modern culture has also produced negative things. Mass-produced toxic food, for instance. Big government. The depletion of the ozone. People saying “I know, right?” Planned obsolescence of products. And, oh yeah, Wal-Mart.

Although I shouldn’t bash the country of Wal-Mart. After all, these nice people hosted me and my family last night, allowing us to camp in our travel trailer in their parking lot–FOR FREE. What nice people.


Well, free ain’t free. I was awakened in Wal-Mart, Indiana, by something (who knows what, a noise, a thought) and as I rolled over in my cozy camp nest, one eye opened to the false dawn of commerce. Is it morning so soon? I asked myself. Have I slept the night through already? Light shone in the windows of the camper, disorienting me, especially when I asked K for the time: 1:30 a.m.

Then I heard the trucks. What seemed like fleets of them, prehistorically grinding their way through the parking lot and ominously beeping their behinds to the loading docks and slamming their rolling doors with fierce finality. The growling presence of these rigs (which incidentally make our 32-foot travel trailer look like a toy) competed stoutly with the ethereal whirring of the parking lot lights.

Crickets be damned here in this neck of the woods.

I was itching to go out in my nightgown at that point, to snap some photos of this American iconic scene of commerce. But I couldn’t step into the night (day?) singly as a woman, armed with only an iPhone and the weightless confidence of the security camera on the roof across from our camper.

Still, it IS nice the corporate fellows allow weary travelers like us to pull over for the night, at no cost. If their entire corporate mission was to help people, wouldn’t that be a hallelieujah amen moment for our entire society? Instead, the suit-wearing happy faces show generosity to the wrong people, in the wrong dose, at the wrong time. Instead of letting me camp for free, why not pay its workers living wages? Why not supply its stores with products made by people who are also earning enough to live on, be it in the States or China? Why not gift their giddy good will to mother earth as they desert old stores that are bigger in square feet, mass, and resource needs than entire villages in Belize, only to construct new ones a mile away? Why not cease from absorbing every small mom and pop hardware, grocery store, and mercantile with its own massive movement up to profit since, in my mind, success is not worth it if the behemoth has to stand on the little guy’s head to reach the top. Why not stop mass marketing and distributing inferior products to people that need replaced within three years?

Why not give back in real ways instead of pithy ones like letting us camp in their over-sized, grotesquely-lit parking lots, the light of which can certainly be seen from space?

But alas. Modern culture has decided it needs and wants the likes of this giant. It’s not Sam’s fault, and who am I, this little pissant voice in a billion trillion, to speak out against a giant?

Just remember, free ain’t free. When you get pair of flip flops for $2.86 that will most certainly end up someday on the shore of a once beautiful beach, somebody somewhere is paying the rest of the cost.

Anyway, when we woke up, we said so long, Sam, and headed west to Iowa, where I bet two of my kids and my iPhone charger that the Wal-Mart there would look exactly the same.

It did.

We are on our first-ever Exit Normal road trip this fall. Does anyone have any ideas for things we can see or experience or people we should talk to? Thanks!