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Missing Miss Doris cheer at Wal-Mart
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Behind crystal meth, crack cocaine and Pringles, the fourth-most addictive thing in the world is Wal-Mart. No, it wasn’t discussed at our first grader’s school during the recent Red Ribbon Week, where at the end of the week the kids went to a “rock concert” to, in my little girl’s eloquent words, “celebrate Halloween and drugs.”

But Sam Walton’s creation is one of the most insidiously addictive substances in America, at least until recently. This year may be the year I finally break my Wal-Mart addiction because our neighborhood Wally World in Rincon has apparently lost its best feature: Miss Doris.

Wal-Mart’s tentacles have had me in their firm grasp all my adult life, even before the days of eight gazillion square foot “Supercenters.” One reason I needed to get my regular “low prices” hit after moving to Effingham County was the lovely lady who usually greeted us at the Rincon store.

Miss Doris appeared to be in her 80s and always had a smile, a lollipop and smiley-face stickers for my little girl. As a special treat for my daughter, Doris also usually sang a few lines of “K-K-K-Katy,” a song written in 1918 that to Doris’ amazement I knew (she didn’t realize that I am about 50 years older than I appear).

Since kiddie super group The Wiggles never recorded “K-K-K-Katy,” my little girl wasn’t enamored with the song, but what she couldn’t wait to hear every trip to Wal-Mart was Miss Doris playing the harmonica. If you didn’t happen to catch her playing it when you came in the door, you could bet that sometime, while you pushed your shopping cart with one wheel getting stuck every 13 seconds, you would hear Miss Doris’ tones echoing back to the Oxy Clean and the baby food.

Sometimes she would play church hymns, which gives you pause when you are shopping in certain parts of the health and beauty section and find yourself humming “There’s Power In The Blood” along with Miss Doris’ harp.

Holidays, however, are when Miss Doris shone. Not only would you hear “America The Beautiful” on Independence Day or “Silent Night” around Christmas, Doris would outfit herself in enough seasonal-colored rhinestones to make Porter Waggoner roll over in his grave. The purgatory that Wal-Mart often becomes, watching your ice cream melt while waiting longer to check out than it took you to shop because enough registers aren’t open, was more palatable because you couldn’t help but smile at Miss Doris and marvel at how much she enjoyed saying “Hello” to everyone and playing her music.

Then one day, a few months back, I realized it had been a while since we were greeted with harmonica music, bedazzled vests and someone freely handing out stickers and singing special songs to my kid. Miss Doris didn’t seem to be coming to work any more.

My child asked me why the other greeters weren’t as nice as Miss Doris, and the only answer I had was that Miss Doris was a special person. I couldn’t tell my girl that the other greeters seemed to think of what they did only as a job, that human interaction apparently was too difficult a concept for them to grasp. I couldn’t tell my daughter that because she would have repeated it word for word to the new greeters. Yes, she is one of those types.

I feel horrible because I haven’t mustered the courage to ask someone at Wal-Mart what happened to Miss Doris, whether she passed on or simply retired. If she has gone on to be a greeter at a more important place and the Rincon Wal-Mart hasn’t paid homage to her with a picture at the front of the store or something, Wal-Mart should be ashamed.

My addiction forces me to visit Wal-Mart frequently, especially around the holidays. But we miss the music and the stickers, and if there is a way for me and my family to say “thanks” to Miss Doris, wherever she is, I hope that will be my surprise Christmas gift this year.