By Pam Linn

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Never say never

I rarely say “never.” But then I almost never say “always” either. It’s not that I don’t have opinions about things I will or won’t do, it’s just that, well, you never know.

My older sister thinks in absolutes. “I always do this,” she says. “I never do that.”

“But what might you do if . . .,” I posit.

Nothing is engraved in stone.

I decided sometime back that I only wanted to support businesses I believed held to standards beyond just making a buck, or selling anything for a few cents less than the competition. These are the companies that seem to care about the environment, their employees and the community. That limits my options but so what. I don’t buy that much anymore.

I admit to having a problem with Wal-Mart. I have the feeling they want to sell me more stuff (units), regardless of quality or lack of same. I don’t want to hike over a gazillion square feet of concrete looking for anything. I also don’t like the way they threaten cities that won’t change their zoning laws to permit stores with the footprint of an airplane hangar and a parking lot the size of Des Moines. The threat: we’ll locate just outside the city, which will suffer all the impacts with no revenue. My children joke that I’d never go into a Wal-Mart. But then, circumstances don’t always allow for such prejudice.

On my last drive to Montana, I left Ogden, Utah, at dawn, with a keen eye on the weather. There was a thin layer of snow on my Subaru, but the forecast was for heavier accumulations later in the day. Then the skies lightened up and the road seemed dry so I pressed on.

I generally make a pit stop in Pocatello, but was considering driving 50 miles farther to Idaho Falls where one has to decide whether to turn east toward Yellowstone or continue north to Dillon, which is less likely to be icy.

At the last minute I decided to pull off at Pocatello turning into the Perkins café parking lot. As I got out of the car I spotted a rear tire with maybe10 lbs. of air at most. Shoot. I must have picked up a nail. Lucky I stopped when I did. I drove into the gas station next door and filled the tire from the free air pump. It was Sunday morning and I needed to find an open tire repair shop. Good luck.

Being a female, I’m not afraid to ask a fellow filling up a car with an Idaho license plate. I asked him if he’s from these parts. He said, sort of. He explained that he had the same problem in the same place and there was only one shop open on Sunday and that is, you guessed it, Wal-Mart. He must have noticed my stricken look. He said, you can follow me over there; it’s kind of hard to find. How nice is that?

Turned out he and his wife were going to the Starbucks right next door. Big as it is, I never would have found this place on my own. I thanked him, went inside and told the clerk my problem. She took the information, my keys and said it would be an hour or so before they got to it. I saw only one guy working in the shop.

I visited the restroom about a quarter mile down the back wall of the super sized center. On the way back, I checked a few prices that seemed not much less than the average auto parts store. I checked the labels on flashlights, batteries and various car things. All were made in China. My trust and comfort level was quickly dropping.

I got ready to walk across to Starbucks when I saw a disheveled looking young man in overalls opening the Subaru’s door. I asked if he would be repairing my tire. “I’m not feeling so good,” he said. Oh, well then, I said, almost relieved. “Nobody else has showed up yet,” he mumbled, and guided the car through the bay doors and onto the hoist.

I watched as he shuffled around, removing the wheel, prying the tire off. He really didn’t look well, but what were the choices here? None.

He shined a droplight into the tire and pulled out a small nail. He applied a patch and daubed on some chemical bonding stuff, probably from China. I wanted to tell him not to inhale, but think better of it. He would either wake up, trip out or keel over. It’s out of my hands.

A superior finally showed up and appeared to check out his work. Well, that’s a good sign.

After exactly one hour, the tire was inflated and back on the Subie, which the disheveled one returned to the car park. I thanked him, saying I hope he feels better. This seemed to surprise him. He managed a twisted grin. I forked over $9 and wended my way back to I-15.

Approaching Idaho Falls, I called my daughter to see which road to take. I told her about the flat and where I got it fixed. She howls. “Mom, I can’t believe you went to Wal-Mart.”

“There are times when one has no options whatsoever,” I said, secretly glad that I never said I would never shop at Wal-Mart.

Was I glad to have a tire holding air pressure for a fast nine bucks and a one-hour wait? You bet. Am I likely to become a die-hard Wal-Mart shopper? Probably not.

But I’m still reluctant to say never.