Monday, March 21, 2011

The Human Condition - Stubborn with a Chance of Swear Words

Yesterday I totally forgot a post title and realize now that there are a lot of funky spacing issues going on with that post. Apologies. Of all things, my internet was not working so I copied and pasted from word processing, and some formatting went haywire as a result. But it is nice that "my internet not working" now qualifies as a through line! Though not one of my favorite things (anyone notice that's not really been upheld as a theme? anyone notice I take one day off a week? I do!)

Today I've been looking out my work window a lot. Even more than I regularly do, which I regularly do a lot. Despite just stating that I stare outside from time to time rather than working, I staunchly maintain the position that having a window view is a boost for work time productivity. I don't know if it's the promise of the outside world after work is done? Or an opportunity to observe the world and feel mildly engaged in it just by way of observation? Or, well, natural light and a view of the sky (yes, it's gotta be that)? Could be a combination. But whatever it is, I cherish my window. Today's rain had me checking the puddles for action, the sky itself, and the umbrella-usage levels of passerby before heading outside. It also made me feel even worse than I usual do for those poor bastards whose shopping carts magically stop working, because they were getting wet.

My window overlooks the exit of a grocery store in a shopping center that was probably designed and built in 1981 or '82. The grocery store is unintentionally ironically named "Superior." Really, there is nothing superior about the store. Sometimes the checkout lines are superiorly long, but there's nothing that makes you say "Yeah, let's not have mediocre grocery shopping ruin our day. Let's go to Superior." What usually sends me to Superior? Hunger. Trolling for snacks mid-workday. But I am in a minority among Superior shoppers. Most are families who are buying a week's worth (or more) of groceries in one go. Most carts exit the store loaded for bear. And that's where my birds-eye view makes my sympathy muscle strain time and time again.

There is a magnetic stripe underground a few feet from the exit of the grocery store that activates when carts roll on top of it, stopping the wheels full-tilt. There is no signage indicating that a cart full of your week's-worth of groceries will magically stop rolling, just about the time you're in sight of your car and thinking about the next part of your day. And the magnets are embedded far enough away from the door that you would not think it's a manmade defense mechanism to keep the carts from being stolen, you would think your cart magically stopped working.

Sure, every now and then you pick a shopping cart with a bum wheel. The one that makes hellacious noise all over the store as you roll it. Or sure, you might have one that stops a bit and proves to have a kink. But these carts come to an immediate surprise halt, jilting patrons pushing with some force time and time again.

I have seen little old ladies with canes do battle. I have seen mothers make their children get out of the carts and walk while they try to force the cart forward. I have seen old men reposition themselves at the rear of the cart, pulling on the basket portion rather than pushing from the handles. Human beings are stubborn in the face of completely baffling grocery cart malfunction. No one, really, no one thinks, "Wow, that was sudden and inexplicable. Must be beyond my power to fix." Everyone tries. And tries. And tries. And looks exasperated. And tries some more from a new angle. Even the little old ladies. Probably mostly the little old ladies, now that I think of it.

Watching this same cart/human tragedy over and over again would be hilarious if I were the producer of Jackass, or looking to make a gag reel for America's Funniest Home Videos, but lacking both of those vocations, I end up having to look away from being unable to prevent or fix the struggle that I totally understand the cause of. I want to yell "GIVE UP! TURN BACK! IT'S MAGNETS! The damned magnets always win. They always win."

The window does not open. And people always work it out. Necessity is the mother of invention. Or an improvised plan B. Often times that involves precariously juggling 17 grocery bags in a Herculean dash toward one's car. But never are food bags abandoned. And, as of yet, never have I seen anyone beat the cart and overcome the magnets. Or beat the cart by way of destruction. Things can get dicey though, so maybe one of these times humans will in fact prove to be Superior.

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