Meeting friendly folks along the way |

Meeting friendly folks along the way

by Ron Walker

The first rule of travel is to never wear underwear with holes. In early October we are going to San Francisco for a week, and on October 15, we fly to Kentucky for two weeks. We are in desperate need of new undergarments. It’s off to the Land of Walmart.

Saints be with us, we find Mary Lou, the angel of the men and women’s clothing department. We explain our plight and she steals Orllyene away to the lady’s unmentionables aisle. I browse the Fruit of the Loom and Hanes aisle, a thrilling experience.

Once our primary purpose is accomplished, I uncover the “happy side” of Mary Lou. She is the epitome of unhurried contentment. “Are you from here,” I ask, as a means of getting to know more about her. Our conversation is hit or miss however, because an end of the season, “clean everything out” sale is in progress. I find a polo shirt in the exact color I have been looking for and it’s only $1. I’ll wear it in San Francisco as it might be too shocking for Fredonia, Ky.

“How did you find Gardnerville?” I ask Mary Lou. “A few years ago, when my husband’s parents needed help, we moved here. If I make it to heaven, this will be what heaven looks like,” she says with a gush of enthusiasm. It makes me wonder: how many of us would uproot our lives and move to a new town if our elderly parents needed our help?

I pry a notch further. “Is Mary Lou your real name?” I ask. “Oh no, one of my grandmothers was named Maria, and on the other side, Louise,” she explains as smooth as silk, and then asks our names.

I tell her who we are. What a rich and rare woman Mary Lou is. She has strong, nutritive family ties, enjoys her work, and takes time to chat with folks like Orllyene and me.

Next up is Cecille Florentino, the enchanted maiden at the Drop Off window of Walmart’s pharmacy. (Orllyene and I will fly to Kentucky and are taking every precaution to avoid germs by getting flu and pneumonia shots.)

If it weren’t for Cecille’s melodious voice, insisting we initial on the yellow line, print our names, list all allergies by filling in the boxes, we’d be thinking about the vaccination about to happen. I break the formality of the situation and ask Cecille if she is married. She says yes, for 10 years, and tells us her husband is a finish carpenter. In a moment of cautious curiosity, Cecille compliments Orllyene on the new wristwatch she is wearing.

“May I see your Medicare cards and a list of the medications you take” Cecille then asks. Orllyene complies with her card and her list. When I show her my card and confess I don’t take any medications, she feigns anger and says, “Well, we’ll have to do something about that!”

Mary Lou and Cecille brightened our day. We spent our time and money prudently and made two new friends. Sometimes shopping and paperwork can be fun.

Ron Walker can be reached at