While nearly everyone in the US heard the news when K-mart went bankrupt a few months ago, I can't say I heard it anywhere mentioned that Ames, another "big box" discounter, had been completely shut down as well. We didn't know anything was going on until we saw dozens of neon yellow-and-pink "Store Closing, Save Money!" signs on our way to the realtor, which was just down the road from an Ames store.
The few times we'd visited the place, because it was the nearest discount department store (incredibly, there are no Wal-Marts inside the beltway), it was nearly always deserted. When they finally put in a Target as an anchor store of a huge shopping center only a few blocks from where we lived, every reason we had to shop there disappeared, and so did we.
When shopping, humans seem to return to their ancient Paleolithic roots. Men hunt. We have in our minds a clear picture of what we want, we march in, and make our kill. Women gather. They go out and browse through every clothing bush, every shoe tree, every underwear garden, looking for only the choicest, ripest items. How do they tell? All together ladies... it's on sale!!!
So while I walked into this place looking to score some cheap cookware, my wife was walking into the land of discounted milk and honey. The ripeness wasn't just limited to one kind of shoe, two kinds of blouse, or an aisle of makeup. The entire store was practically bursting with on-sale goodness. You could just see the sparkling in her eyes... all was hers, the challenge being more what not to pick. It was like watching a beagle get turned loose in a titanic rabbit patch. She almost literally ran from point to point.
A store closing sale is about as close to an outright looting you can get without actually being inside a riot. Homicidal grannies were almost knocking each other over to get at grandkiddy clothing. The aisles turned into Mad-max style races to the departments; you could almost see the leather and the Mohawks on some folks as they jostled for access to the best stuff. The moms were almost hopeless, looking like they'd got hit with a two-by-four between the eyes, at a loss where to even start, as their kids burned hard for the toy section, which already resembled some sort of Lord-of-the-Flies meets the Watts riots apocalypse.
People were pulling things off one shelf and then putting them on another as they found something even better. ALL SALES ARE FINAL signs were everywhere, and we even had someone droning over the intercom saying "you buy it, it's yours, don't even try to bring it back." Nobody made any real effort to clean anything up. It really was mass hysteria.
Ellen and I got separated, and I was almost afraid to go looking for her. You don't get between a New York Italian woman and a sale, not unless you want to end up becoming part of the foundation of the next high-rise in New Jersey. I had a few things in mind when I finally found the kitchen section, but the only one I found on the list was a pressure cooker. Yes, I'm a guy, and I cook. Fear me.
The atmosphere was beginning to affect me as I hit the electronics section, and it was as I was grabbing handfuls of batteries like a half-starved crack addict when Ellen found me. She had transformed into this sleek well-oiled shopping machine, not only picking up several items she was looking for but a few for me as well. Due largely to her efforts we got out of there with our hides intact, our car filled, and our pocketbook only marginally lighter.
So, if there's an Ames anywhere near where you live, you better head out there right now. There's good stuff to be had, but Everything Must Go.