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Lost in the bowels of Generica

In the last few years, I've experienced a strange deja vu/vertigo-like phenomenon that was just too weird to mention, so I didn't. But now that I've mentioned it to a few people, I've found others have run into the same thing.

Let me back up a minute. My wife and I, untethered to the home on the weekends because we don't have kids, will wander out and do some shopping in area towns. Occasionally, this will include a trip to the big box stores for items we couldn't get by shopping locally.

We split up our trips. Sometimes it's Brainerd. Sometimes it's Alexandria. Sometimes it's Fergus Falls. Sometimes it's Detroit Lakes.

Each seems to have its own mix of large retail stores. We'll hit a few, then hit the road to go home.

While my wife usually has a planned agenda of what she's looking to buy or at least try out, I'm more of a wanderer and a peeker.

"Can I help you find something?" store helpers will ask.

"Nope, just peeking around," I'll reply.

I honestly just wander until something shiny catches my eye.

But while I'm doing this, a strange phenomenon surfaces. I'll be in a tool aisle at Menards, the pet toy aisle at Fleet Farm, the magazine and book aisle at Target, and I'll forget where I am.

Not the store.

The town.

I mean, I'll know I'm in Target, because there are red bullseyes everywhere. Or I'll know I'm at Fleet Farm, because they all have a unique look. But I won't know which Target or Fleet Farm I'm in, because they're all laid out fairly similarly, but not exactly the same.

This strange disorientation never happens when I'm shopping in a smaller, local store. I've never been at Fleet Supply or Ben Franklin or the Bistro in Wadena, or Eagles Cafe in New York Mills, or the Bullseye in Verndale, and wondered, "Wait, what town am I in again?" There's a uniqueness to those businesses and it kind of anchors me.

But get me in the Detroit Lakes Menards, and I'll go looking for a bone for my dog, and have the thought, "Wait, what aisle is that in again? Wait, what town am I in again?"

I don't think it's a good thing that stores look so darn similar. Don't get me wrong: I still shop there. But we seem to be building a globalized Generica that's not exactly a monument to the inspiration and innovation America stands for.

Maybe I'm making too much of my absent-mindedness. But when the places people gather in Town A look just like the places people gather in Town B, it feels like we've lost something.

It's not so much a complaint, but a nostalgia. But what do I know? I'm just lost in the bowels of Generica, wandering around.