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On grocery carts

I arrived at the grocery store the other day ready to run to pick up a few items needed to make dinner for a friend. I knew it would be a quick trip as I had a very set list and was purchasing nothing for us; we were heading out of town and I had been engaged in a desperate attempt to consume everything perishable before leaving. I knew my foray into the market would last twenty minutes, tops, and would be quick and painless. This was reinforced by there being only two or three other cars in the lot; the store would be virtually empty and I’d be able to sail through.

By virtue of there being hardly any other shoppers, I had my pick of grocery carts. There were five rows of the beasts, lined up nearly to the door. My quick scan revealed no major differences; they were all in the same state of general disgustingness with no major defects of note and no trash in the basket.

I strode to the line directly in front of me and pulled a cart out, swung it around, and headed with a sense of purpose into produce.

Whap. Whap. Whap.

Dammit. Wonky wheel. I was immediately annoyed and briefly considered swapping it, but knew that it wouldn’t last because my grocery run would be fast.

WHAP. WHAP. WHAP.

By the time I rounded the corner out of produce and into the deli area, I was ready to murder someone. My head pounded, my nerves shrieked, my ears popped. Dammit. I should have changed it out.

Nah, this won’t take long.

BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM

The noise grew louder as I went. I tried slowing down, which meant I would only delay my misery by having to stick around longer. I tried sprinting, which, with a clunky grocery cart, isn’t the most graceful thing to do. That didn’t work either, because the clanking grew so loud I thought my head was going to explode.

I began experimenting. Perhaps if I lifted the back end of the cart off the ground? Nope. It was definitely a front wheel. I slowed the cart and inspected the front end. Neither wheel showed a flat spot, nor did they look out of sorts. It was like the cart was possessed by a noise-loving demon.

Since the store was so empty, my cart proclaimed its presence with a dismaying echo. I couldn’t have snuck up on a rock concert with the thing. My good mood quickly soured into a raging, uncontrollable anger. If the store had been out of cilantro again, I’d be in jail right now.

I cursed my luck. There were 500 carts lined up there and I had to grab Satan’s. The grocery gods were punishing me for having a list and bypassing all the marketing gods’ efforts at compulsive shopping.

Here is what I don’t understand: what the hell happens to grocery carts to make them like this? I know you’ve had a crappy cart before. Everyone has. It’s a cost of grocery shopping. Carts that veer precipitously off to one side, forcing you to use actual bicep muscles to steer the damn things. Squeaky carts. Baskets with odd liquids dripping eerily off the bottom. Carts that look like they’ve been through a war zone.

Grocery carts go two places: the grocery store and the parking lot. The store is paved with smooth tiles, and there are no speed bumps, pot holes, land mines or flamethrowers. The parking lot is paved with asphalt, and while there may be a bump or a dip or two, there generally aren’t massive obstacles that force you to go off-road carting in an attempt to deliver your groceries to your car.

I’ve never once, in all my years of grocery shopping, inflicted enough damage to a cart to cause it to lash back in anger. In fact, I can’t recall a time when I’ve inflicted any damage to a cart. What in the hell are people doing to these carts?

I propose there be two sets of carts available at the grocery store. You take your cart driving test and qualify for one of the two available cart selections. If you pass the test, you are allowed to use nice carts that have smooth wheels, don’t perpetually steer themselves right, and don’t look like they need decontamination by a hazmat team. If you fail the test, you get the shitty carts the rest of us hate.

And we’ll all know who you are, because we’ll hear you coming from three aisles away.

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