I do most of my shopping at Wal-Mart, partly for the low prices (helped now by my husband’s employee discount) and partly for the convenience. It’s right across the street from the office where I work, and I can get almost everything I need there, from groceries to garden tools, plus get prescriptions filled and do my banking.
But today I couldn’t find what I wanted, which was a ball of string. “What kind of string?” the clerk asked, when I responded in the negative to her standard question as to whether I had found everything. “Just plain old string.” Not twine, not kite string, just regular string, like I used to have in my kitchen drawer for as long as I could remember.
I had started in Hardware, where I found at least half a dozen kinds of twine, but not string. I went to Office Supplies, where I really expected to find it, and where maybe I would have found it before everyone switched to packing tape to fasten packages. I walked through the Kitchen section (do people use string anymore to tie a chicken or turkey closed?), and finally found a Wal-Mart employee to ask about it in the Laundry section. She sent me back to Hardware.
No string had appeared since my last visit, so I tried the Garden Center. After all, my father taught me to plant seeds in rows by tying a string between two stakes and making a furrow on either side of the string. The lady working there laughed at my request, but when I turned away she asked me to repeat it. It turned out she thought I asked if she sold “Spring.” She walked with me to the Hardware section, where I again looked at the twine and again decided I really wanted plain old string.
At the garden lady’s suggestion, I tried the Toy department. I decided, though, that while twine was too heavy, kite string was too fine. Then I checked in Crafts, and found some crochet thread that looked a lot like string but felt more like yarn. In the make-your-own jewelry section I found some hemp cord as thin as string, but it cost too much. In the Sports department I found something string-like (I don’t remember what it was called) for catching catfish, but it looked more like the expensive kind of twine, and had a price to match.
I checked the party aisle, to see if there was string for the balloons (no, just ribbon). I even checked the aisle with the picnic supplies, since besides paper plates and plastic forks and spoons it also has matches and a few other items that might be hard to locate. But no string.
When I got back to work, I asked a co-worker where she would look if she were shopping for string. “What kind of string?” she asked.
Doesn’t anyone use plain ordinary string anymore?
I found a Reader’s Digest article describing some “extraordinary” uses for ordinary string. So some people must still use it. But where do they buy it? I went out shopping again and tried Menards (similar to a Home Depot, in case you don’t live in the Midwest). Someone from the information desk politely showed me some excellent nylon twine. I also found a selection of twine made from cotton, sisal, or nylon. But no string. I tried the dollar store, where the clerk was initially puzzled by my request but then said she thought she had seen some, somewhere (but she couldn’t find it, and neither did I).
My last stop was the supermarket, where I finally ended up buying a spool of yellow twine. It’s not as soft or flexible as string, but it had the advantage of costing the least ($1.49) of any string-like products I had seen all day. Plus it has a nice built-in cutting blade. I suppose it will be adequate for my purpose, which is a hands-on activity in the classroom tomorrow morning (where I am a Junior Achievement volunteer) to show a visual model of trading relationships, and how they are affected by tariffs, embargos, etc.
But as the Reader’s Digest article points out, every household should have plenty of string. And it annoys me that I can’t seem to find any.