Thursday, January 31, 2008
Parking Lot Blues
Do you put the cart back when you are done with it at the grocery store? (or for my Australia friends, the trolley)
I have found this to be a source of stress for me lately (I'm just creating stress to add to the stress I already experience!). Growing up, we shopped at the store in town, which was a very small store (no Super Wal-Marts or anything then). It had a very small parking lot and it was a very small town. As we got older, taking the cart back up was a privilege. It meant we were old enough to watch traffic and cross the parking lot (albeit a two-row parking situation) and take the cart back in the store (because they didn't have the cart-corrals that everyone has today. It was almost a right of passage. (I also remember taking the glass coke bottles in for an 80 cent credit slip, but that's a different 'long ago' story)
When I was in college and out on my own for the first time, I still returned the cart to the store (again, still no Super-anything stores with cart corrals). It felt like a task a responsible person would carry out. Why leave the cart in the lot for someone else to have to fetch, or have it roll into another car, or whatever? I was being responsible and making sure the property I had borrowed was brought back.
Then I had a baby. There was no way in Hades I was gonna leave that baby alone in the car while I returned the cart. But I still felt guilty, and there still weren't cart returns, so I would unload my groceries and then go back in the store with the baby and return the cart, carry her out, and leave. This worked until I had more than one child small enough to ride in the cart. When we got our first adoption set (we had other sibling groups, but these were younger than any other kids we'd had) I had three little girls who definitely should not walk through a parking lot alone, and two kids who could hold hands and hold onto the cart, but who should not be given the responsibility of holding on to a little girl. So I had no way to return the cart and then get everyone back to the car unless I left my purse with the groceries I had unloaded, and that was a scary thought. I imagined creeps lurking in the shadows waiting for me to leave my valuable merchandise and my purse (with keys) in the car so they could run off with my belongings.
Fortunately by this time they were beginning to put cart returns in parking lots (this may have been going on for 50 years elsewhere, but around here change comes a LONG time later) but they were always about 5 spaces form any available parking space. So I would unload groceries, kids, and purse in the car, lock the doors (taking the keys with me), walk the cart to the return (walking sideways so as to keep an eye on the kids), ditch the cart and RUN back to the car. It was nerve-wracking!
As the oldest two reached the age of about 9, I decided to let them take the cart to the corral. After all, by their age I was going in the store with a short list and money and doing the shopping for my mother while she sat in the car with the babies (again in a very small town and a very different time). But the crazy driving of some people even in parking lots began to make me wary of letting them walk behind cars when they were still so short. One time I had to hit a guy's back window to keep him from running over the whole family as we walked behind him. He had come out of the store after us, jumped in his car while turning the key, threw it in reverse and started rolling it, and I just thought to myself "Where the heck is he going in such a hurry?" Too many young people think the road is their own personal drag strip.
Anyway, then came the first Super Wal-Mart. Oh, the excitement of having everything in one store, and the prices were great for our growing family. But the parking lot the size of our little town's entire plaza was intimidating, and there are like 5 cart returns in the whole lot. You have to walk a great distance to get to the cart corrals, and with (now) 7 little ones, I wasn't about to try the lock and run again. I just started ditching the cart! The guilt is still very real and immediate. I look around to make sure no one is watching as I let go of that cart handle and get in my vehicle. And as much as I try to justify it as not my fault because the way the parking lot and the world are being run, I still feel that pang of being irresponsible and negligent with borrowed property!