Elizabeth Willis Barrett 7-24-10
I always seem to be losing baskets—the kind with wheels at grocery stores. It is my habit to set my cart aside for a minute as I go down the soup aisle to grab a couple of cans of cream of chicken soup or something else as essential and at times I have to look for a minute before I can locate my shopping cart again. Once with great effort I filled a basket at Wal-Mart with a myriad of necessities, taking a long time to choose the exact sunscreen, B vitamins and office supplies. I was almost ready to check out when I decided to look over in the magazine section for a new Sudoku book. Not wanting to drag the cart into the cramped area, I left it against some display, looked at the puzzle magazines and then went to retrieve my basket—but it wasn’t there. Some days I can handle that kind of frustration fairly well but not that day. I was tired and had lots to get home for, so re-choosing and filling up the basket again was too daunting. Some over-achieving Wal-Mart Associate must have thought my cart was permanently abandoned and restocked the shelves with it. I went home without buying anything and left that particular shopping list for another outing.
The other day I had a similar experience but this time at Superstition Ranch Market. I was filling my basket with grapes and kiwi and strawberries and then a big seedless watermelon which I thought had a particularly nice sounding thump. Then I headed for the apples. I wanted to try some Braeburns since the Fujis seemed a little overpriced and found only three that looked acceptable. I put these in my cart along with four garlic bulbs. I parked my basket against the chilies so I could go down the onion and potato section unencumbered. Seeing a friend, I made a little small talk which really isn’t my specialty, but it was nice to catch up on her family. And after depositing four onions in a plastic bag, I went to my waiting cart. Much to my surprise, the cart that was waiting at the chilies was not my cart at all. Although the owner of the cart appeared to have part of my same shopping list—she too had chosen strawberries, garlic and apples—there were bananas and corn in this cart and there wasn’t a watermelon in it. I hadn’t even gotten to the bananas and corn in my shopping yet. It was odd that another shopper had chosen to park her basket by the chilies. Clearly this person had thought that my parked cart was hers and she had taken mine by mistake.
Not wanting to start shopping all over again, I walked through the store looking for someone who might look a little dazed and who was pushing a watermelon with the rest of her produce. No one fit that description. I was stymied. How had my cart disappeared so fast?
So I had a decision to make. Should I go home empty handed or should I start over? I didn’t come out to this market very often and nothing was too pressing at home at the moment so I made the sacrificial decision to start over.
Grabbing another basket with some indignation, I started again at the strawberries and grapes, chose another thump-worthy watermelon, ran into my friend for a second time and told her the exasperating story of how someone had stolen my cart. Then I headed toward the corn and peppers. Oddly, I saw the same cart parked by the chilies. That person must have had an emergency and had to leave the store without purchasing. Funny that the cart was in the same place I had left mine.
Dismissing any more thoughts about a wayward basket, I chose some peaches and mushrooms to put in my cart and turned the corner to the peppers and lettuce. Just as I chose a healthy head of iceberg, I looked up. There in front of the apples was a cart that held a watermelon, some grapes, some strawberries and some kiwis. It also appeared to be ownerless. Hmmmm. I walked down the aisle to the zucchini. Looking to the left I could still see the other unclaimed basket next to the chilies.
A not too pleasant realization was seeping into my previously offended brain. Could it be that it was my first basket there by the apples? Could it be that I had placed my apples into someone else’s rather full cart—full of bananas and corn and strawberries? Could it be that I had then taken that cart down an aisle or two adding tomatoes and garlic? And then could I have left that person’s cart with a few of my offerings on top in front of the chilies?
Could it be that when I grabbed the onions and went to put them in the basket that I finally noticed that the cart by the chilies didn’t have my watermelon in it but it did have the first owner’s corn and bananas?
Could it possibly be that before I was done shopping that day I had actually used three baskets? And that, in fact, I had taken some other very disgruntled shopper’s cart and used it for a few deposits of my own before parking it by the chilies?
At the check out line both stray baskets were in my line of vision. They were both definitely unspoken for. Somewhere that night would be an irritated produce customer telling her family about a crazy lady who had walked off with her cart.
What was I going to have to do from now on— carry a long piece of red yarn with me wherever I go to tie onto baskets that I might need to leave unattended for a while? Perhaps I could add a sign, too: “I’ll be right back, please don’t dis-assemble.” Besides saving me from future grief, maybe my own personal basket identification would save unsuspecting shoppers from having their well-stocked baskets taken away from them—by me, anyway.
I humbly placed my groceries on the checkout belt and paid without telling the clerk why at the end of the day Superstition Ranch Market would have two half-full grocery carts sitting there with no takers. I just didn’t feel emotionally strong enough to let her know that I was the basket case.