Sunday, August 10, 2008

Carte Blanche

On my list of annoyances, shopping carts rate on a par with things like houseflies, cancer, and Al Gore. Now before you write me off as a bigot, I will admit that shopping carts, like nuclear weapons, have their uses. I grew up in a family of six, and I know how much work it is to lug a week's worth of food around a grocery store. It wouldn't be possible if not for shopping carts. I also know how much fun it can be to accelerate a cart up to 50mph or so with your car and then send it speeding off into the night. Nevertheless, I think that shopping carts are the spawn of Satan, and I'm going to rant about it.

First of all, shopping carts never work properly. This could be due to the fact that some people spend hours in dark parking lots pushing them with their cars, but regardless, it is a proven fact that most shopping carts are defective. I could go to a brand new store with brand new carts and I would still have to spend 5 minutes sorting through the wasteland of the cart garage thing to find one that doesn't insist on turning left. Something I've never understood is how cart wheels often seem to get clogged with hair. I could understand if they were entwined with plastic bags or something, but hair? Where does the hair come from? From the shoppers? Of course the one cart I might find with functioning wheels will also have a fresh coat of some unidentifiable sticky substance lining the bottom. I usually pretend that some shopper must have just forgotten a bag containing a quart of icecream. That must be it.

Another thing I've noticed is that it seems that shopping carts have gotten continually larger since I was a kid. Usually things get smaller as you get bigger, but this hasn't been the case with shopping carts. I don't remember it being possible to block an entire isle with one cart when I was younger. It never fails to happen now though. In the same way that a soldier surveys the carnage around them, looks down at the blood on their hands and then abandons their weapon to wander forlornly in the world, their eyes forever asking 'why?,' the shopper abandons their cart mid isle, losing themselves in a hypnotic trance, disappearing forever in the the vast evil that is Walmart. Couldn't they at least take the darn thing with them? And how does one manage to turn a cart perpendicular to the isle you're in anyway? That takes some serious effort. Is it also necessary that everyone in the store take a cart with them when they shop? I can't count the number of times I'll see a single person pushing a cart through the checkout stand with two small items in the basket. Now Hummers are unnecessary and wasteful vehicles, and I've heard all sorts of people rant and rave about excess and frivolity in conversations that center around Hummers, but if the average person can't make a modest choice when entering a supermarket, can one really expect them to do better with something major like a vehicle purchase?

Lastly, you can tell a lot about a person's general sense of respect for humanity by watching to see what they do when they've finished unloading their cart. They have those spaces that are cordoned off with concrete bumpers for shoppers to put their carts when they're finished, but roughly half of the population prefers to leave their carts in or next to one of those parking lot planters. I'm not quite sure I understand the logic behind this. Maybe these people think that it's nicer for the cart. I mean, it's nicer to leave a dog tied up in the shade, so shopping cart will probably appreciate it more as well. Or maybe these people can't tell the difference between the concrete perimeter of the planter, and the concrete perimeter of the cart return. There is nothing so frustrating than when one has been driving around looking for a parking space, only to find the last one has been rendered unusable, and that it actually bears a striking resemblance to the crash site of a derailed freight train. I don't understand why stores don't require a $2 deposit to use a cart, and then refund that deposit when the cart is returned to the rack...but of course then some grocery store workers would be out of a job...