Hell Yeah I Went to Walmart in My Pajamas

By Paul Thomas Zenki

An old fart learns to lighten up …

A while back, I saw a tweet that said:

I can’t decide if people who wear pajamas in public have given up on life, or are living it to the fullest.

That little sentence crawled into my head like an earwig and stuck there. It became my Zen koan, my Gordian knot, my P versus NP.

For most of my lifetime, the only people I ever saw going around in their nightclothes were either drunk or crazy. So for me, the onset of all this PJ-ing about town was a bit distressing. I mean, what did it say about the culture if suddenly my fellow citizens were taking up the intoxicated and the insane as role models? Surely, this would lead to no good end.

Then came that damn tweet. And what I realized was, I couldn’t decide either!

I’d wake up on a Sunday morning and have to go out for the paper, Sunday being the day for coupons, comics, and crosswords worth the time to do them. And as I was dressing, that tweet would bubble up in my mind and suddenly I felt like a six-year-old boy again, cinching up my collar with a clip-on tie before church and wondering what all the fuss was for. Did the Almighty really care how we dressed? He didn’t seem to mind me slouching around the house in cut-off denims and hand-me-down shirts the rest of the week.

What finally broke me was accidentally getting back in touch with one of my favorite ex-girlfriends. We had dated in college and things ended badly. We both loved each other — at least, as much as anyone knows how to at that age — but I made a mistake.

It was one of those mistakes you never really live down. The kind of thing that puts a scar on your memory and, from time to time, just pounces on you out of the blue and makes you feel sick. I suppose that’s why I’d lost touch for all those years. Just the sheer shame of it.

And see, I knew I’d have to dredge it up. To apologize again, not as the kid I was, but as a man who’d lived with it and gained some perspective on the damage I’d done. So I did.

And I’ll never forget her response. She said, “Really? I don’t remember that.”

At that very moment, a light from Heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, “Paul, Paul, why are you such an idiot? People have lives to live and are not concerned with you. Now get up and get over yourself.”

I’d like to say that the very next Sunday I resisted the compulsion to don proper day clothes for my weekly Walmart stop-in to fetch the Sunday edition. Truth is, though, it took months until, just this morning, my childhood demons at last loosened their clutch on my soul, and I joined the ranks of the publicly pajamaed.

Now I have to say, I don’t actually own any proper PJs. But when I get up to feed the animals I throw on a raggedy-ass pair of sweat pants and some demoted T-shirt or other that I toss over the back of the chair by the bed.

Anyway, when seven o’clock rolled around and I was taking the last swig of my coffee, I felt the final tattered thread of my self-respect unravel, and I knew I’d officially gone to hell in a handbasket. Without so much as a twinge of conscience, I stuck my feet into my wading shoes and wandered out the kitchen door unabashed and unashamed.

My trip to the Walmart was an ecstatic experience. I glided by my fellow early-bird patrons and the bored, gossiping staff like a ghost, utterly unremarked. After pulling my paper from the rack by the returns counter, I recalled I needed new numbers for the mailbox, as the old ones were peeling off.

The hardware department is tucked away in the opposite corner of the store, which I was therefore required to traverse in its entirety. No matter. I was invisible now.

And so it was, I came to stand before the racks of adhesive numerals at the far end of aisle 38-B. Where, alas, the 6s were out of stock.

Maybe on another day I would have been put out. I might have sulked over my wasted trek to the back of the store. But not this day.

The knot slipped. The equation balanced. And I heard the sound of one hand applauding as I realized, yes, I had given up on life, and was living it to the fullest at last!


Read every story from Paul Thomas Zenki (and thousands of other writers on Medium).

Your membership fee directly supports Paul Thomas Zenki and other writers you read. You’ll also get full access to every story on Medium.


Paul Thomas Zenki is an essayist, ghostwriter, copywriter, marketer, songwriter, and consultant living in Athens, GA.