Like Urban Legends, Suburban Legends are the product of a little fact, a collective, unspoken fear and some accumulating flourishes. The difference is, Suburban Legends more often involve a car, a m

Like Urban Legends, Suburban Legends are the product of a little fact, a collective, unspoken fear and some accumulating flourishes. The difference is, Suburban Legends more often involve a car, a mall and/or white people. Here are three legends currently circulating:

The Discounted Life. A married couple, both thirtysomething professionals, is in the habit of going to Wal-Mart every Saturday morning. Every time they enter the store, the same red-vested, retired gentleman of about 70 is there to greet them. The man is a little hard of hearing, so he speaks in an inappropriately loud tone. A skin condition has his scalp flaking like the paint on an abandoned rowboat. He exudes an aura of Ben-Gay and hair oil. Worst of all, he reminds them both of the parents they happily moved far away from and who they've successfully reduced to line items on their long-distance phone bill.

For all these reasons, they want no part of the old man or his attentions. But he's impossible to avoid.

So, unwilling to change their busy schedule, they complain to the store manager. Since Wal-Mart's corporate Prime Directive is to "keep our hand deep in the pocket of every human breathing air — including those on respirators," the manager, to avoid losing the couple's business, assures them "I'll take care of that for you."

The following Saturday, the couple arrives at the store to discover their old nemesis is gone, replaced by a less offensive, more avuncular figure shipped fresh from one of the Wal-Mart Senior Citizen Feed Lots. Feeling smugly self-satisfied, the couple treats themselves to many unneeded but irresistibly discounted goods, including a riding mower, a decorative yard flag and a 25-pound bag of Wal-Mart's house brand dog food. Later that day, they go to feed the dog, open the bag of dog food and inside discover the severed head of the greeter they'd complained about.

Research reveals: Pure poppycock. In fact, double poppycock. First, when the Argentinean Secret Service (a wholly-owned Wal-Mart subsidiary since 1989) is called upon by a store manager to "disappear" a greeter, he doesn't turn up anywhere. Secondly, Wal-Mart kibble is made from lean Chinese political prisoners, not mushy older Americans.

ET B SUV = DOA. Late one evening, a businessman is driving his Ford Expedition at approximately 85 mph on the beltway, headed home. Suddenly, a few hundred yards ahead, he sees a saucer-shaped aircraft land in the median. The craft aims a beam toward his SUV, a beam which pulls driver and vehicle onto the grassy divider and on board the spaceship. Inside, the driver somehow discerns that his alien captors' mission is to conquer the entire planet. Luckily, his state has a concealed weapon law so he pulls a Glock 9mm from his glove box and wastes all eight members of the dumbfounded alien crew.

Research reveals: The story is true up to the ship's landing. From that point forward, the facts are these: The startled driver lost control of his Expedition, careering into the median. His mammoth sport utility then violently hit and crushed the compact, fuel-frugal spacecraft, killing all eight (toddler-sized) crewmembers instantly. Their remains, along with the wreckage, were spirited away to Roswell, N.M. The businessman was uninjured and, through a false insurance claim, came out $700 ahead on the incident.

Children of the Dumbed: Suburban parents have spawned a race of super-intelligent progeny who will solve all our problems and save the world from its many ills.

Research reveals: This legend can be traced directly to the "Proud parent of a (suburban school name) Honor Student" bumper stickers. As this impressive pronouncement reached critical mass, adorning every minivan and family sedan outside the city limits, the population-at-large naturally began to assume all suburban children were preternaturally brainy. The facts, however, contradict this assumption; they indicate that grade inflation, "social" promotion and universally lower academic standards/expectations allow any student able to identify the items on his/her lunch tray to be celebrated by interested parties as a bloody genius.

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