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Jewish World Review Feb. 15, 2002 / 4 Adar, 5762

Phil Perrier

Phil Perrier
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Consumer Reports

Another piece of Americana bites the dust -- I USUALLY don't pay much attention to business stories in the news but this story is different.

A major national chain of department stores has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. This is particularly alarming considering that after filing for Chapter 11 most chain stores close faster than you can say Woolworths. We will call the chain JMart. Perhaps for some Americans this announcement does not mean much. For people who live in Beverly Hills or Martha's Vineyard this is just another story on the financial pages, I however, grew up in the South, where the cultural significances of JMart cannot be overstated.

In many small Southern towns JMart is the very vortex of the community. People meet at JMart, they sell their cars there, they use it as a point of reference, all directions start with "Do you know where JMart is?"

For teenagers, particularly in towns with no mall, the JMart parking lot is the village green. And, everyone, absolutely everyone in town shops at JMart. Women get up at five in the morning so they can get there when it opens and buy the new Bambi doll for their niee, or the latest Tickle Me Waldo or whatever kids can't live without this year.

Once you get used to shopping at JMart there are all sorts of things that you start going there for; phone cards, film, batteries, CDs. Pretty soon you realize that the same stuff you buy at the mall at inflated airportesque prices you can get at JMart for pennies on the dollar.

Some people actually get snobby when you tell them you shop at JMart.

Well pardon me, Trevor, but if you must go to the Galleria and pay $48 for a pair of sweat socks, knock youself out! ... Meanwhile, I'll go to JMart and get a 10-pack for $4.99... and here's the kicker- they are the SAME SOCKS!

I kind of like the reverse snobbery of shopping at JMart. If you want to see real Americans, go to JMart. You will see the backbone of this country. And sometimes you will see the backbone of this country opening up a can of whip-ss on its unruly offspring. JMart, is famous for its don't-ask-don't-tell policy regarding corporal punishment. If you think about it, it makes sense.

Women like to shop for hours, meanwhile, nothing is more agonizing for a little kid than being with her mom when she's shopping; eventually from boredom and frustration they freak out and cross the Threshold of Doom and mom, instinctively enraged by being disturbed while shopping, is forced to apply the first handy item- perhaps a spatula or a windshield wiper or a Tickle Me Waldo to the fanny of the offending child.

I have never seen another shopper protest. If someone spanked their little "Dylan" at a department store in Marin County they would probably be drowned in tofu on the spot.

Not at Jmart, pal.

Nope. JMart customers will simply walk by, cast an approving smile at mom, and go about our shopping. We may even lend encouragement, "Atta girl!" or "Put your back into it!"

Because corporal punishment fits with the values of we JMart shoppers, we understand that children need healthy "boundaries" to develope properly.

And nothing creates boundaries like seeing your mother, slobbering with rage, coming at you with a toilet seat.

JWR contributor Phil Perrier is a Los Angeles-based writer and stand-up comic. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Phil Perrier