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Athlete of the aisles

By Mike Masterson

This article was published August 2, 2014 at 3:06 a.m.

There I was again, facing more harrowing moments of decision. With one coming up fast from behind and another whipping past within inches to my right, I knew I had to make my move. Imagine a swarm of crazed mosquitoes buzzing around you, intent on feeding.

So I squinted, girded both loins and pushed my four-wheeled wire basket immediately left into the main aisle just as an another shopper rushing down that thoroughfare with an overflowing cart came rushing in on me like a semi speeding along a superhighway.

But in my rush (and looking right to avoid her cart) I hadn't seen that the man to my left had stopped in front of me to avoid another shopper who'd suddenly entered in front of him. Oops, sorry!

Meanwhile, the oncoming woman swerved to the right, flashing unmistakable disgust at my attempt to enter "her" aisle. After all, my act clearly had inconvenienced her for a split-second.

Welcome to my love-hate relationship with Wal-Mart on the weekend. I've come to expect these special times as an odd blending of NASCAR, an NCAA track meet and a "yeehaw" Oklahoma rodeo.

Every wide aisle I turned down had at least four other shoppers blocking the way. Some had as many as eight. One had a single shopper with her cart parked sideways as she examined the cereals, thereby blocking anyone from passing through.

Since Wal-Mart doesn't offer a week-long orientation seminar for shoppers, few among us know to ease the cart to one side when stopped since we really are not the only people in the store.

If they'd ask me, I'd suggest (as on the highways) stopping on the far-right side of each aisle. But then no one has asked me.

And moving one's basket as far over as possible when one stops to gawk, search, shop or rest also means being aware of one's surroundings and the needs of others, right? Probably too much to ask, I realize, in 2014 America.

To most shoppers I witness, there are no others trying to survive all around them. They are absorbed in their individual thoughts and desires.

And so I wait two full minutes behind a lady and her cart simply to reach across the aisle from behind her and snatch the bottle of catsup I'd come for. She must not have realized I was even there, wanting only to grab what she blocked in her own prolonged search for just the right brand.

Choosing the proper catsup in any mega store has become akin to trying to find a tube of toothpaste on an entire wall full of confusing choices, from sinus medicines, to protein bars, cereals, hair-care products, lotions or pretty much whatever else nowadays.

And so my adventure as an athlete of the aisles continued for a half-hour, dodging, swerving, stopping suddenly, waiting to turn, constantly watching over each shoulder to avoid a sideswipe of my own. At one point, a man turned from the shelf of foodstuffs he'd been studying to walk obliviously into the right side of my passing cart.

Oops, "excuse me!" Yet again.

For days like these, the best part of my shopping adventure becomes finally swiping the well-worn debit card and darned near sprinting back into the relative safety of the parking lot where at least all those teeming vehicles in that other swarming anthill of humanity have horns and brakes.

Now, where did I park this time?

I'm sure none of you enjoy similar experiences. They only happen to me.

Athletics aid academics

Anyone else notice the seismic change in approach to academic enrichment that occurred two years ago up on University Hill? It somehow seems to have slipped beneath the public radar, or at least it had mine until last week.

I'm talking about an altered direction that came about after Chancellor David Gearhart decided to ask UA Athletic Director Jeff Long to pitch in on the rapidly growing school's overall goals, which made this all the more unlikely in my view.

Academics and athletics holding hands in a common goal?

But when Long bought into the chancellor's proposal, and the Board of Trustees approved it in 2012, construction began on Champions Hall. That will be the badly needed four-story general education classroom and lab building now rising on campus and funded almost entirely by revenue generated by the university's lucrative membership in the Southeastern Conference.

Yep: Athletics is funding practically every bit of a general education building that for decades to come will serve thousands of students at the state's rapidly growing university simply because athletics can afford to.

Going up at the corner of Dickson Street and Duncan Avenue, Champions Hall will open in the fall of 2015. And, because of athletics, it will cost no additional student tuition dollars or fees to build, Gearhart said. Readers statewide can see the building going up on webcam at

Under the financing plan, $1.25 million of the university's annual share of SEC revenue will be used toward amortizing some $22 million in bonds for the construction. Additional financing requirements for the $26.5 million total project cost will come from university reserves and a small amount of current facility-fee resources.

Sure sounds to me like an innovative concept when it comes to putting the needs of the people of Arkansas above individual departmental interests at our state's land-grant university.


Mike Masterson's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at Read his blog at

Editorial on 08/02/2014

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WGT says... August 2, 2014 at 7:32 a.m.

Don't go to Wal-mart. Shop the little guy. Saying something like "shop local" is redundant in this situation! Ha ha ha! Thank you!

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