© St. Petersburg Times, published January 17, 2003
HELP. I am lost in Sam's Club near closing time.
The good news: I have 30 rolls of Charmin.
I RESISTED this for a long time, merely watching the stampede down Dale Mabry Highway.
Then my friend Michelle raved about Sam's sun-dried tomato sausages. I drove south to plop down a $35 registration fee.
THAT FIRST TRIP, a clerk punched my driver's license into a computer.
She assumed that I, like anyone, would want a Sam's credit card. She announced my credit limit, in a voice one might save for "You've won the lottery!"
I DECIDED not to go into debt for sausages.
Minutes later, I discovered 48 Snickers bars for $14.87.
What was that credit limit?
YOO-HOO. I am over here, next to the 25 pounds of table salt, $2.86. Were I a teenage boy, I could kill yard slugs all month.
Do you know how much popcorn 25 pounds of salt would cover?
(Popcorn: 50 pounds for $10.87.)
MY FRIEND raves about tires and Calvin Klein jeans. She recites Sam's prices with the memory of a spelling bee champ.
"You find the things you really love," she says. "Where else are you going to get 40 pounds of kitty litter for $7.87?"
I tell her I have found cheaper Tide elsewhere. There is disbelief in her voice, as if I have broken news of a cheating man.
THIS PLACE scares me. It is a shrine to families with 10 kids. And yet we single people come. Why? There's beefsteak, to be sure. But where is the romance?
I suspect there are hope chests all over South Tampa with one gallon jugs of Kraft blue cheese dressing, $7.78, and 75-ounce boxes of Raisin Bran, $5.49, and 5-pound containers of Peter Pan, $5.87.
MARRY ME, someone is saying, and 50 pounds of sugar are all yours.
My friend calls Sam's "the Disneyland of consumerism" and speaks of her "dazed, euphoric state."
It must be love.
- Tampa's Kennedy Boulevard was once called Grand Central. Now Grand Central is a weekly City Times column. Writer Patty Ryan can be reached at 226-3382 or firstname.lastname@example.org .