The Star-Herald

The etiquette of cart wrangling

Shopping cart season. Four tiny wheels, skeletal frame and driven by a madman: that is the shopping cart. 

It is now the season of maximum shopping cart usage. There is a code of conduct for using these devices. One: Respect the cart jockeys, some of the bravest people in the Walmart or Graves parking lot. They can maneuver a hundred carts around cars, past pedestrians, and into a hole in the wall the size of a cat door.

Dressed in bright orange or green safety jackets, these men and women rescue the carts from wayward, forgetful and lazy shoppers. Often accompanied by a blinking light these heroes of the tarmac help to keep the number of carts from multiplying like bacteria in a Petri dish. This is done while car drivers, pedestrians and delivery trucks bleat and bob their way in the open field of blacktop.

Arriving at the store of choice, select your cart. One wheel should be frozen, unable to turn. The child security straps should contain two to three broken clips. And most important factor: it should be jammed into another cart so that removing it requires four years of college engineering courses and an explosive. Once you have picked out a cart and liberated it, shop. As any parent knows, when shopping with kids, one karat is for the kids, one is for the purchases, and one is for the bundles of cash needed to escape the store.

Once shopping is completed, load carts and head for the exits. Welcome to derby time. The goal is to reach the car and return the cart to its proper place. Close your eyes and push the overloaded cart into the slush and muck of the field. Do not look for approaching cars, pedestrians or other objects that might impede travel. Points are awarded for running over feet.

Upon arriving at the car, start looking for the car keys. The more time this takes, the higher the score. Bonuses are awarded for also managing to tell the story of your life on a cellphone with bad reception — this while a massive delivery truck with a red-faced driver is waiting for you to get out of the way. Extra large bonuses if there is an ambulance or fire truck behind the delivery truck. Find the keys and spend five minutes trying to hang up the phone.

Once finished with unloading, it is now time to return the cart. Shopping carts are incredibly amorous. Leave them alone and parents will soon be explaining the birds and the bees to their maiden aunts. Rabbits look like they are not profligate. Ever wonder where all those paper clips come from? Yep, metal relations in the parking lot. Where is a preacher when needed? The easiest way to deal with the shopping cart is to rest it against the car beside your own and drive off. Better, start back to the store with the cart. Release as it starts downhill and let gravity work its magic in pulling the cart into the store. Points increased if it smacks into a Mercedes. 

The best way is to walk it back to the store or turn it over to another shopper. The cart jockeys thank you for the help.

Orpheus Allison is a photojournalist living in The County who graduated from UMPI and earned a master of liberal arts degree from the University of North Carolina. He began his journalism career at WAGM television later working in many different areas of the US. After 20 years of television he changed careers and taught in China and Korea.

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