Why I Left My Shopping Cart Next to My Car

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To the woman who scolded me today in the parking lot:

First of all, thank you for returning my cart to its rightful place in the line-up with all the other carts near the door of the store. I’m sorry I couldn’t do it myself. But you didn’t give me a chance to explain.

I wanted to go to Staples. Well, I suppose I could have ordered everything online and not bothered to go in person to the store. But I wanted to get a new binder for myself to keep all of my notes in for my piano students. I wanted to pick one out, feel it, open it, see how deep the inside pockets were. This is going to be my binder for the next school year, and it needs to endure being opened and closed at least five times a day. It needs to feel balanced in my lap while I lean on it to scribble down notes about what songs we have started and what scales we are learning. It needs to have smooth edges that won’t snag my sweater. I really wanted to pick out this binder in person.

Besides, I needed those jumbo-sized paperclips for bookmarking pages and clipping assignment sheets to my students’ music books. A few fun folders for keeping loose sheet music in would also be great. So I decided to drive up to Staples this morning.

Pulling slowly into the parking lot, I looked for an abandoned cart. There is no cart corral at Staples like there is at the grocery store. They are just lined up by the door. I took an extra loop around the parking spaces, hoping to spy a cart, perhaps left out in the wilderness by someone like me.

Let me explain. When I go grocery shopping, I park near the cart corral if I can. Then I can grab a cart for balance as I cross the parking lot and enter the store. I have my cane, in fact I even wear leg braces under my jeans, but for the past year, that is not enough. Like it or not, my muscles are deteriorating due to my neuropathy, and I need something more. Before you say it, I do have a handicap placard, and I can certainly park in the handicap spot. But if I park there, I probably won’t have a cart to hang onto as I cross the pavement to the store.

What if I had a walker? One of those with wheels. That would sort of be like a shopping cart, wouldn’t it? Sure. And then what would I do with it while I shopped inside the store? Would I fold it up and put it inside my shopping cart? Would I have the balance and strength that would require? Probably not.

This is the conversation I had with a doctor recently. And our conclusion was basically the same solution that I have worked out for now. I park near the carts. Or at least near an abandoned cart. But alas, no rogue carts were to be found at Staples today.

I sighed and pulled into the handicap spot, hung my placard in the rearview window, grabbed my cane, and prayed for balance. The slope from the parking lot up to the sidewalk was steeper than I was comfortable with. “Lord, please don’t let me fall.” I really wished I had a cart. But I made it, and once I was up on the sidewalk near the door, I caught hold of a cart from the queue.

I spent a good hour pushing that cart around, shopping. I looked through all the binders, opening them, feeling them, and finally chose my favorite. I waltzed through the paperclip aisle and found a package of 500. That should last me. I meandered past the beautiful organizers and dreamt of being that efficient. By the time I was waiting in the check out line, my knees were aching, and I was feeling a little shaky. And as I pushed the cart out the door into the bright sunlight of the parking lot, I was thankful that my car was nearby. Still hanging tightly onto the cart with one hand, I opened the back door and placed my treasures on the back seat. Then I pushed the cart past my driver’s side door and parked it there at the base of the handicap parking sign.

I had just closed my car door and buckled myself in when a woman walked up to my window. “Was this your cart?” She pointed with a look of reprimand.

I tried to roll down my window, but quickly realized I hadn’t started my car yet. I cracked open the door. “I’m sorry, yes.”

She grabbed the cart and started to walk away with it angrily. “Well, you shouldn’t leave it here!”

“I… I couldn’t….” I stammered. She was yards away now. “Thank you!” I called out.

I wonder if she heard me over the noise of the cart’s wheels rolling across the pavement. I wonder if she thought she was being a good citizen. I wonder if she thought was being a bad citizen. I guess I’ll never know.

But the next time you see a deserted shopping cart in the parking lot, please don’t judge whoever left it there. And maybe… just leave it there for me.

Suzanne RoodComment