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New store giving potty talkers lots of material

Published Sep. 4, 2005

My two daughters are at that blessed stage in their young lives when there is no funnier topic in all the world than things related to going potty.

Perhaps it is because one of them is still mastering this all-important life skill and the other only recently perfected it, but I seem powerless to curb the potty chat.

Some observers (i.e. my wife) might say I contribute to the problem by taking part in the discussions. But it's always been my belief that if you want to build a relationship with your kids, you have to be willing to talk about what's important to them.

Potty humor, of course, has a long and storied past, dating back as far as some of the earliest cave drawings.

For my girls, almost anything can spark the potty anecdotes. Soon, thanks to the friendly folks at Wal-Mart, we'll have yet another reason for potty talk.

I am talking, of course, about the new Spring Hill supercenter that Wal-Mart is conveniently building next to a wastewater (code for sewage) treatment plant.

If weather conditions are right, the plant is a veritable factory of potty chat-inducing aromas. We drove by it the other day. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and we had the windows down. Suddenly, it was as if we entered a fog bank of fragrance. My girls immediately launched into 10 minutes of potty standup jokes. It was priceless.

I began to question the wisdom of Wal-Mart's site selection. But then my head cleared, and I realized this location offers boundless opportunity for our nation's largest retailer.

For one thing, this location gives Wal-Mart yet another chance to display its vaunted commitment to cutting prices. On days when the wind is particularly foul, they can simply hoist a flag signaling to drivers on U.S. 19 that everything in the store is half price.

It's a sale that will advertise itself.

Yet, some of Wal-Mart's time-tested practices will surely have to adapt.

Given the cacophony of odors present, Wal-Mart may want to reconsider the need for an outdoor garden section. After all, who will be interested in perusing Gerber daisies when they can't be sure where their next breath is coming from.

Instead of giving kids smiley-face stickers at the door, greeters can just hand them a little smiley-face hanky to dab the tears from their eyes.

At Christmas, when the Salvation Army bell ringers are suffering through the season, Wal-Mart may want to consider how it can help them. Two words: scuba tanks.

On busy days when people are parking in the more remote areas of the parking lot, Wal-Mart can offer high-speed rail service to the front door.

And while Wal-Mart has resisted the temptation to offer an equivalent to Winn-Dixie's preferred customer card, it may want to reward repeat customers at this store. A good start might be discounts on gas masks.

Of course, Wal-Mart has proved time and again that it is an unstoppable force of nature. When small businesses have griped about being priced out of business, Wal-Mart has swatted them like flies. When tree huggers complained about the land cleared for this store, Wal-Mart waved them off like a bad odor.

In that spirit, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Daphne Moore says the company has no special plans to address the smell issue. "Based on just our visits to the site, we don't anticipate much of an issue given the prevailing winds in that area," Moore said.

Time will tell. Members of a local nature conservancy group, engaging in some potty humor shenanigans themselves, have already dubbed this store "Smell-Mart."

But Wal-Mart stockholders take note: If a supercenter can thrive next to a sewage treatment plant, you have nothing else to fear. Not a recession. Not a war with Iraq. Not even a war with Canada.

I suspect Wal-Mart will succeed. On some days, the smells aren't even noticeable. But regardless of whether the air is fresh or foul, I am convinced that we the people of Spring Hill will march dutifully into this store like the good Wal-Mart soldiers we are.

Low prices have a way of wilting our inhibitions, even if the stench may wilt flowers.

Powerless to resist, we are left with one option: Sit back and enjoy the potty humor.

_ Robert King covers Spring Hill and can be reached at 848-1432. Send e-mail to