Three freshly paved lanes to Wal-Mart |

Three freshly paved lanes to Wal-Mart

Barry Smith

It’s rather symbolic, don’t you think, that Carson City has three freshly paved lanes leading to the new Wal-Mart in Douglas County?

I took a drive out there on Wednesday because it’s the thing to do. Whenever something new opens, people flock to it.

I hadn’t seen so many people pushing shopping carts since Costco opened. Of course, at Wal-Mart I could just walk in the front door and be greeted by the unmistakable smell of McDonald’s. At Costco, somebody wanted to card me.

The parking lot was full and people were parking along the edge of the mesa of brown dirt Wal-Mart created overlooking Fuji Park. There’s a very nice view of Carson City from the new mesa, by the way.

Inside, yup, it’s a Wal-Mart. A BF Wal-Mart, if you know what I mean. It stretches farther than your eye can see. Farther than your legs can take you, apparently, as there seem to be benches scattered about for the weary. Or perhaps they’re bus stops.

I wasn’t tempted to buy anything, as I was on a sightseeing tour. Two things caught my eye — a display of “Elvis Remembered” books and another of neon disco balls. I think Elvis would have liked Wal-Mart Supercenters, and I think he might have been tempted to buy a neon disco ball there.

Supercenters are like cities unto themselves. I imagine families spending a morning in the sporting-good section, then moving on to the grocery for lunch, before settling in front of the TV screens for the evening.

I think probably babies are born among the infant clothes and grow to adolescence before they reach the video-game case.

People were on their cell phones — when aren’t they? — and I figured they were calling a friend or business associate in the far reaches of Wal-Mart City to arrange a meeting somewhere near the office supplies.

Wal-Mart City has a police force and a sanitation crew and probably some firefighters and, if we looked far enough into its depths, perhaps a judge and jail.

When I got back to the office, reporter Amanda Hammon informed me the Carson City/Douglas County Wal-Mart was only one of 21 opened that day. That day. All but four were Supercenters. Wal-Mart is a nation, erecting cities inside our borders and changing the balance of power among local governments.

It’s free enterprise, baby.

As Carson residents know now, Wal-Mart City is nomadic. It was barely 11 years ago people were flocking to Clearview and filling the parking lot to see the brand new store. On Wednesday, that parking lot was bare except for a couple of RVs parked in the meager shade of a few scrawny trees.

And the new Wal-Mart City? How long will it loom over Carson City’s sales-tax revenues, siphoning dollars into that evil Douglas County, before it packs up the tents and moves on?

As long as it makes money.

Wal-Mart moving a store is about like the Nevada Appeal moving one of its racks. If we sell eight newspapers on this corner today and think we can sell 14 newspapers on that corner tomorrow, the rack goes.

Of course, seldom do we get a six-lane highway and a new stoplight at the corner for one of our racks. But everybody plays by different rules in Wal-Mart City. Even the Nevada Appeal. If you notice, at other stores the newspaper racks out front are painted individual colors to represent different newspapers. At Wal-Mart, all the racks are a uniform gray. If we wanted to sell newspapers at Wal-Mart, that’s how it had to be.

Living in South Carson, I appreciate the new six-lane road. Now we can get from stoplight to stoplight much faster.

Of course, it’s going to take some re-educating. This week, I had to dodge a pickup truck stopped sideways in the inside lane, where the driver was waiting to make a left turn.

That’s the thing about traffic improvements. They pretty much depend on drivers being smart enough to adapt.

In Carson City, of course, it’s usually an every-driver-for-himself attitude, because if you wait around trying to be polite, you could still be trying to make a left turn onto Highway 395 when the next new Wal-Mart opens.

If the world’s largest retailer was opening 17 Supercenters on Wednesday, chances are good it was also closing about the same number of old stores the same day, like the one off Clearview. Nobody knows what’s going into the old building, although the rumors circulating this week said it would be a casino.

It doesn’t matter much to me. Whatever goes in there, I’m just hoping by the time it opens there are three freshly paved lanes of highway leading back into Carson City from Douglas County.

Thanks, but we already have the stoplight.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal.