My hometown Kmart got condemned.

See, back in the day, the corporate Kmart folks made the mistake of buying land from shady Jimmy Collins. Now, everybody in town knows that Jimmy is a shyster. But the corporate types? Well, those city slickers didn’t know. So, they bought the land for their store from Jimmy, who, of course, hadn’t filled the land properly. It had previously been not a flat plot, but the Iowa version of a holler: steep and craggy.

So, Kmart built their store, and it was the location of many an important event. My 4-year-old self scored a play shopping cart there as a reward for not being a jerk for a week. It was also the first store I ever called, as 6-year-old me phoned Kmart to ask if they had Golden Dream Barbie in stock.

The Kmart had some accessibility issues. First of all, it was one of those stores that had all of its cassette tapes behind Plexiglas, so you had to ask the pimply kid with a key whenever you wanted to look at a tape. Secondly, pushing a cart in the store took skill, sort of the shopping equivalent of driving a stick in the mountains.

See, the floor of the store had peaks and valleys. You had to get a running start and pop a wheelie to get your cart over some of the steeper areas. It was a bit of a mess, but you just got used to it.

Well, the Kmart just was what it was – until a few weeks before Christmas, back in the day. The corporate Kmart folks came in with their engineering types. They took 1 look and promptly evacuated the building. Not just, “Hey, let’s step outside,” but more, “Holy blue light special, get out now!”

The store we’d all navigated with wheelies and patience was suddenly a little shop of horrors. No one was allowed back in the building without a hard hat and safety gear. That meant no Christmas shopping. And if you had Christmas layaway? You had to bail it out of a van in the parking lot.

So, eventually, they tore the condemned Kmart down. For the last 25 years, it’s been an empty lot where semis park overnight. It’s 1 of those things that just was … it never occurred to me that a condemned Kmart was noteworthy.

What weird things did you grow up with that you’re just now realizing weren’t exactly, erm, normal?

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