It was an hour before dusk and there was still plenty of sunlight across the vast parking lot, but I moved along cautiously nonetheless. 

There were predators about and I knew this for a fact. I’d seen all those photos of the carnage — how could you miss them? Just glance at your phone or computer screen and you’re bound to see a few of those grisly images before you can turn away in horror. 

True, I was on foot at the moment and those vicious creatures were not known to attack pedestrians, but who wanted to take chances? How long before their appetites, not sated with mere chrome and metal, transformed into a taste for human flesh. 

All around me, those treacherous yellow poles stood straight and tall — all except those which fed recently and which leaned dramatically as a result of the gorging. 

“This is their killing field,” I muttered to myself, giving wide berth to a pole that I swear was sneering at me.

A Jeep lies on its side in April in the Walmart parking lot in Auburn. Driver Crystal Lawrence, 55, of Lisbon Falls and a passenger suffered minor injuries, police said. Patrick Finn photo

I think we can all agree on this: in the war between Walmart’s yellow poles and our cars, trucks and minivans, the poles are winning on every front. 

Nobody can tell us why the war began — and so suddenly! — in the first place. No investigative team has yet been brave enough to stake out the Walmart parking lot in order to view up-close the warlike rituals of the yellow pole tribe. 

But there are theories as to why so many cars and trucks have succumbed to those leaning poles of mystery. 

“Some sort of magnetism,” suggests Amy Coffman of Greene. 

“They have been placed there by aliens,” asserts Nicole LePera of Topsham,” who are trying to collect DNA samples from humankind. Their surveillance has shown many humans congregate at Walmart, so these poles are an attempt to get DNA from unsuspecting humans.” 

“People trying to avoid pedestrians not in a designated walk way?” offers Faith Whitney of Buckfield. “Poor eyesight? Got their license from bottom of Cracker Jack box?” 

“Maybe it’s a new YouTube challenge,” said Bruce W. Grant of Livermore Falls. 

And while it’s tempting to believe that it’s all the result of something so simple as a YouTube challenge — responsible for so many twisted people gobbling so many Tide pods — I just can’t get my head around the idea that all these men, women and teenagers are driving into those poles on purpose. The public shame that results from such a crash these days would discourage it from the get-go — slam into a yellow pole at the Auburn Walmart these days and you’ll be branded a Walmart pole slammer for life. Friends will stop inviting you to parties. Strangers will stop and stare and point and snicker when they see you on the street. 

The 9,000-plus members of Lewiston Rocks will post photos of your mangled car all over the place and witty comments about your driving skills will fly in from all directions — one Auburn woman even used her own obituary to poke light-hearted fun at the many victims of the yellow pole. 

Meanwhile, another group has created the now infamous Pole Parker Award for those hapless folks who keep plowing into the pole even after all the warnings. 

All of these things await victims of the yellow pole, and who needs that kind of abuse? In fact, some people are so terrified of being associated with the yellow poles of destruction, they will do anything necessary to avoid them. 

“All I know is that I’m afraid it will happen to me,” said Robin Graziano of Lewiston. “And not unlike a UFO sighting, no one will believe my story of what happened. I park on the other side of the parking lot!” 

And so it continues. All rational efforts to explain the yellow pole phenomenon have thus far been in vain. 

“Like the Bermuda Triangle,” said Diane Fuller of Auburn, “some things cannot easily be explained.” 

Efforts to reach peace agreements with the pole army have failed — when some well-meaning do-gooder decided that the worst of the offending yellow poles should be painted green, it only made the poles meaner and angrier. The wreckage continued unabated. 

And yet, there is hope: the hope of numbers. While the Auburn community alone can’t fight the evil, there may be others who can be relied on as allies in the ongoing war. Because, as it happens, the rise of the yellow pole isn’t happening in Auburn alone.  

Temple, Pennsylvania, just outside Reading? Yep. They’ve been victimized by the Walmart yellow pole scourge, as well. Incidents of pole attacks began to occur in the summer of 2020; so many that in defense, one group created a “Pole Hub” Facebook page to monitor the attacks. 

“It’s been going crazy here,” said one man, who identifies himself as “The Temple Walmart Yellow Pole,” and who knows: maybe he really is what he says he is, and I’ve just successfully interviewed an actual pole. Seems like there’s got to be some kind of award in that. 

Osceola, New York? Yeah, bruh. Their Walmart parking lot has been the scene of similar pole abuse. They, too have created a Facebook page: a support group, if you will, for victims of the pole and for others who lie awake at night in dread of them. 

With more than 6,000 people following the Osceola page, nary a day goes by without a posted pole photo, but they also share things like pole defense techniques, pole related music and pole recipes. 

It’s a warm place, is the Osceola Walmart Pole page. 

And now in Lewiston-Auburn, we have the honor and/or shame of having our own Facebook page dedicated to the many foibles of the yellow pole. “Survivors of the Walmart Yellow Pole,” this one is called, and if you ever find yourself getting too haughty about the glorious of achievements of mankind, stop by this page and find yourself humbled.  

Sure, we’ve put men in space, cured many a disease and even invented the flush toilet. But if a chunk of your population is still getting bested daily by limbless, stationary objects in a parking lot, then brother, we’ve still got a lot of evolving to do. 

So, what’s the route to solving this riddle and saving humanity from busted bumpers and crumpled quarter panels? Police? The National Guard? The United States by-God Marines? 

Call them out if you feel you have to, friends, but in my view, the simpler answer is probably drivers ed. 

Drivers ed for the lot of you, and by gum, it can’t happen soon enough. 

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