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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!


Anonymous said...

We went round and round about this in our GKGW class years ago. (Don't sue was a long time ago, and we didn't know any better.) The folks in my class argued that "biblical ethics says you take the cart back". I argued that "biblical ethics says you protect your children ~ and that out-ranks any stinkin' cart!" (I might have said, "So there!" and stuck out my tongue, too, but I'm not sayin'.

Anyway, what is Gary doing having you go to the grocery alone with seven children? (I'm not fussin' at you, Gary, I'm throwing out a new idea.) I'm telling you, I chickened out around four or five children, and it has been a family event ever since...out of necessity. Oy.

BTW, I *get* the guilt thing. I did what I had to do, but I still felt guilty, too.


motherofmany said...

:):):):):):) We are BOTH laughing out loud!

When we first got the kids, Gary was still milking cows, which was an 18 hour a day job (i had been his only help and then when I got pregnant I couldn't even walk in the barn without tossing my cookies. I know you understand that one especially right now!). I did everything by myself because he just couldn't get away.

Now I like winter shopping because he can go with me (we sold our milk herd), but in the summer it is still generally a one-man show because there is hay to make. He also just had knee surgery, which is why it came up again even though it is the farmer's 'off' season. And the super Wal-Mart just opened here and I decided to try it out- I'm not kidding that there are only about 5 cart corrals in the space the size of a football field! There is a smaller Super Wal-Mart a little further away, and I think it is worth the drive for my peace of mind!!!

Guilt. One thing I am really good at!

dccdmom said...

I try as hard as I can to park next to a cart return just to avoid this. Now that I have an 11 year old I feel a little better about leaving the kids in the van while I go to the return, but for many years I ditched the cart if I couldn't get a parking spot right next to the cart return.

a soldier's wife said...

I don't have to deal with this very often, thankfully, as the commissary has baggers for you, so they load your car and then take the carts back, but there were a few times when my children were young that I felt prevented me from taking the cart back and I always felt bad about it and worried that it would start rolling and hit another car, so now I always take them back and there have been times that I take one that someone has left in the lot to use for my shopping so that it doesn't stay there :)

motherofmany said...

I remember when one of the smaller stores in town had baggers, but it was a more pricey store (they also didn't sell alcohol) and we couldn't really afford to buy everything from there.

I also remember when the attendant would pump our gas, check the oil, and clean the windshield! Good times.

a soldier's wife said...

I remember when they'd pump gas for you, and clean the windshields while the gas was pumping. That's how it was when I first started driving (giving away my age here lol) and it was nice, definitely good times!!!

I'm thankful that we get to shop at the commissary. It saves us so much money on groceries. Sometimes I'm lazy or running around crazily and shop at Farm Fresh via the internet so that my groceries are ready and waiting for me, but it's always such sticker shock compared to my normal grocery shopping on base.

laurie said...

Our smaller stores have near by stalls so it is not an issue. But I remember the first time I ever grocery shopped with a newborn. I stood there wondering what do I do first? Do I put him in first - no then I would have to leave him while I put the cart back. Oh my - new ways to do everything!
Fast forward a few years - I am grocery shopping with all 5 - baby strapped on me, toddler in front of basket. preschooler sitting in back, 2 hanging on to the sides. I get asked "Are they all yours?" I thought "No, I try to make my life as hard as possible so I pick up all the neighbor children on the way in."

motherofmany said...

"No, I try to make my life as hard as possible so I pick up all the neighbor children on the way in."


I have been know in my less-gracious moments to say something sarcastic in response to that question, like when a doctor at the hospital asked if they were all mine, and I said, "No, there's a parade. Didn't you get the memo?"

Kelly said...

Our super stores have about eight total cart corrals. The first four are within 4 spaces of the front, and the second four are spaced about 6-8 spaces down from the first. They are all relatively close to the front, when you consider how far back the parking lot goes.

I look for a space that is close to the corral, either within 3 to either side, or directly across from it. Then I strap the children into their seats, put the groceries in the trunk, and run it to the cart corral while leaving the children strapped in the van. That way, I'm very close to the van at all times.

Most of my friends with larger families (I only have 3 so far) say that they started shopping at night, or on the weekend when they could leave the children at home, usually between 3 and 4 children.

That's not always possible, though, and I'd leave the cart in the parking lot if I needed to, because safety of the children comes first.

I often return extra carts that are in parking spaces on my way to take mine back, so just make up for it when you can, and it will all even out. :)