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The Opportunist

29 Mar

 

 

The Opportunist

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

The label has a slightly negative connotation. I have one living with me. He is cute and playful, and now, with good breath, fun to have up close.†

But behind those innocent eyes are the secretive desires of an opportunist. And, specifically, with regard to: the garbage.

Each night we climb the stairs for bed, this con artist deftly feigns bones too tired to make the effort. He lags. He needs coaxing and a plethora of “C’meres” before he reluctantly hops up the stairs.

I now know why, having decided to leave him to his own designs, figuring it wouldn’t be long before he came up. It was just long enough. And he was quiet at his work, like a skilled thief in the night.

But with daylight came the discovery: the garbage can toppled to its side. Every scrap of aromatic packaging strewn about.

All it took was a look, and the culprit slinked out of the kitchen, tail between his legs, making no eye contact. Still, he got his breakfast — Fromm bits and boiled chicken tenders (not a lot, mind you), and then the inevitable Talk from me.

Oh he understands, though he might play the ignorant one. He is, after all … The Opportunist. I believe it to be an innate compulsion –– this deceit masked by cuteness and cuddliness. He knows I’ll not be the fool twice.

He is found out. Discovered. Unmasked … for the opportunist he is.

 

 

†Gordie is a rescue dog, and about 8 years old. He never had his teeth cleaned by his previous owners, and his breath could stop a freight train two miles away. I scheduled teeth-cleaning, both for Gordie’s sake and mine. The vet told me he might have to extract some of Gordie’s teeth due to bad gum conditions. He pulled 9. I asked if there are dentures for dogs.
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What I don’t miss about Facebook

25 Mar

What I don’t miss about Facebook

By L. Stewart Marsden

I have quit Facebook …

20 Mar

I have quit Facebook.

The Last Hurrah

14 Mar

The Last Hurrah

by L. Stewart Marsden

Winter’s last hurrah blew in over night, and I’m pretty sure once this storm has passed, I can breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to spring.

Meantime, the local bird neighborhood was gathered when I came downstairs this morning with the dogs. They waited patiently (their feeders were bare) as I fed the dogs and slipped on my walking shoes and jacket. And they were on the verge of impatience as I slowly poured a fresh supply of seed into the feeders.

A flock of larger black birds apparently heard the ruckus, and decided to descend upon the feeders, which are not designed for them, but the smaller ones.

Don’t know why, but it upsets me when the big birds bully the smaller ones away. They can always go to the dumps and trash bins –– and aren’t above picking the streets and roads of carrion. I have this impression they could take out a few of the smaller birds if they’d a mind.

I once shot a robin when I was a boy. Like today, it had snowed, and I took my bother’s BB gun into the yard where I spied the bird yards away and aimed at him, well above so as to miss him. The shot didn’t miss the robin, however, and I watched in horror as the pellet arched downward and hit the unintended victim.

Even so, if I had a pellet gun or BB gun, I’d be very tempted to whiz one by the large blackbirds as a warning.

I know … it doesn’t make sense, does it?

As it is, when the big ones try to raid the larder, I step out and shout BAH! in a loud voice. The bullies scatter, yet the smaller birds hang close and swoop down onto the feeder. And I have a fleeting feeling of satisfaction, followed by one of foolishness.

 

 

Out of the Blue

10 Mar

 

 

Out of the Blue

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

The photo above isn’t of my driveway, but it might as well be. I live in the mountains of North Carolina, and unlike last year, this year has been rife with snow and bitter cold, with short rests of 60º and higher weather –– enough to confuse the trees into budding early.

Each morning I take my new rescue dog, Gordie, for his constitutional, and Wednesday was no different. Overnight a light covering of very dry snow had fallen. Bundled up, and shod in my overpriced walking shoes (at least look the part, I always say), I snapped the lead onto Gordie’s halter and we set out as always, crunching onto the snow.

We had gone about ten feet when I stepped down on my left heel and –– whoosh! My leg splayed out to the side awkwardly and down I went, experiencing incredible pain along the back of my left leg. Did I say incredible pain? There’s not a word to adequately describe the shot of paralyzing agony that became the focus of my being for the next few moments.

Did I mention it was 7 AM?

Did I mention it was in the teens temperature-wise?

Did I mention I live in a cluster of condos where the owners are present ONLY during the warm weather mostly?

Flat on my stomach, grinding and writhing in anguish, with a confused Gordie licking my face, it dawned on me there was no one about; I didn’t have my cellphone (Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!); and I was already feeling the intense cold.

A sheet of ice beneath the snow (the original culprit) kept me from any progress at getting up, much less the pain I felt shooting down my leg whenever I tried to move.

I managed to get to my hands and knees somehow. There was nothing in the empty parking lot to grab to help me pull myself up.

So I crawled. Inch by inch. Slowly. Feeling woozy. Mentally seeing myself found days later frozen to death, by the propane gas man who periodically checks to see if my tanks are adequately filled. Or the electric meter reader. Most likely it would be the attractive postal carrier who brings mail to my door whenever one of my Amazon orders arrive, and I remembered I have two or three orders out there. It was 7 AM, and she comes around 10:30 AM. Then I remembered I hadn’t showered and I knew my hair was a mess. Which was enough impetus to continue my desperate crawl towards my condo door.

Gordie looked confused and a bit guilty …

All the while Gordie looked confused and a bit guilty, as though perhaps it was his fault. I did all I could to let him know he was not the problem, but my sporadic shrieks of pain didn’t help. Gordie is a rescue dog, as I said, and is about 20 lbs and just turned eight. He is a Havanese, but doesn’t look at all like the photos on the internet –– so I figure he’s a mix. The Havanese was bred initially in Cuba (Havana, get it?), and looks kind of like a terrier and Scotty dog mix. His previous owners got a new dog –– a big dog –– and Gordie didn’t take to the intruder. Small dogs are no problem. So, in their infinite love, they chose to give up Gordie for adoption, preferring the new dog. Their loss. The dog community around here is irate about it.

Anyway, I digress.

I managed to get to the wooden walkway to my front door, which has wooden rails on either side. I pulled myself up, and began the hurtful shuffle to the door, and then back inside. Both Gordie and I were glad to be inside where it was nice and warm.

Navigating through the first floor by holding onto doorknobs, counters –– anything I could use for support –– I finally fell into a recliner love seat in my living room.

Relief! Gordie jumped up onto the nearby sofa and curled onto his special dog bed and stared –– obviously worried.

Across the long room, which got longer as I looked at it, was an umbrella stand with several walking canes next to the fireplace. From

Across the long room, which got longer as I looked at it, was an umbrella stand with several walking canes next to the fireplace.

my vantage point, I could remotely operate both the gas fireplace as well as my TV, so warmth and diversion were not in question. But I knew my body was going to demand that I eventually get up in order to go to the bathroom –– either that, or the you-know-what consequences. And I wasn’t about to spend the money to recover the recliner.

There is no comfortable way to get out of a recliner when you have injured a leg muscle. I figured it was a hamstring, and looked it up on
my iPod, which happened to be close enough to the recliner.

How to treat?

I had ice packs in my freezer …

RICE, is what the internet told me. It’s an acronym standing for rest, ice, compression and elevation. The rest part was simple enough, as the pain that resulted from nearly any movement below my waist was plenty motivating. Ice. I had ice packs in my freezer. A mere 15 or so feet away. May as well have been in Siberia. Compression? Nothing. Elevation? Tipping the recliner to its maximum was the answer. According to the information, reducing swelling was the goal.

What if something tore? Perhaps a ligament that held the muscle to the bone had ripped away during the slip. I knew a guy who snapped his Achilles muscle during football practice in high school. I imagined how that muscle shot up his calf –– like a taut wire snapping. Nothing I want to experience more than surgery and the recovery necessary to repair that kind of injury. I will have a new respect for athletes who experience a torn hamstring. I swear.

Rather than recount all the tedious detail, suffice it to say I literally hobbled about to prepare my new command post for the next several hours/days/weeks/months. With each venture from the chair, I planned out every move carefully, from getting a cane, to getting the ice pad, and, eventually, struggling to the bathroom.

I popped Aleve beyond its maximum dosage suggestions. I mean, death by drugs can’t be worse than death by the pain I was experiencing. That probably wasn’t the wisest decision on my part. But the pain did gradually diminish to around a 7 on a scale of 10.

What to do with Gordie? Like me, he needed to be fed and relieved. My door to the deck is a few million feet from the recliner, and with the snow covering it, what did I care? Plus Gordie enjoyed frolicking in the white stuff.

It’s now Accident Day plus two. Surprisingly, I was able to stand and quasi-limp around later that afternoon, and learned very quickly what stances were not painful. I ordered a set of crutches from Amazon, and my son sent me these neat retro-fit snow/ice shoe grips for future use. All arrived overnighted the next day. The attractive mail carrier left them at the door and was gone before I could limp over to greet her. Snap.

All my family in the hinterlands (I live alone) berated me for going out onto the snow and ice. In my defense, how was I to know Nature had it in for me, and was going to striketh me down out of the blue?

Biggest question on my mind as I improved to hobble status was whether or not to Facebook the account. I decided not to do it. I figured most of my Facebook friends had experienced way worse, and that it would be seen for what it was: a ploy for sympathy. Well, not that day, anyway. I like sympathy as much as anyone.

I knew this before, but it’s different when you really know because you go through something that strikes out of the blue: there’s a learning curve.

I learned just how much my hamstring comes into play for the simplest of things, like putting on socks, or getting out of bed, or standing on tippy-toes to turn off the smoke alarm when the blackening salmon fills the kitchen with enough smoke to set it off.

I learned that crutches suck, and are not very comfortable no matter which way you use them.

And while I have written this meme many times before, I know that “this, too, shall pass.”

I pray this is my out-of-the-blue experience for the year. Last year it was kidney stones, which was not anything close to the pain everyone warned me about. My doctor shot the stones with sound waves, and the residual passed with no discomfort. Yeah, I know. I dodged a bullet. Actually more like shotgun pellets.

At 68, I’m hoping the health malady waves don’t begin to hit the beach with increased frequency. For me it’s a matter of doggone it, I don’t have time for this crap! Know what I mean? Places to go and people to see. Better ways to spend my time than detailing out how I’m gonna pull on my Tommy Johns in the morning.

The Boy Scout motto is Be Prepared, and that’s all well and good. As much as I can, I try to prepare, and have band aids and Aleve in the condo, and chains and emergency flashers in my car. Sometimes I run out of tonic water and limes, though. But I don’t take it to the nth degree like some of the Preppers do.

So, no doubt I’ll get caught again with my pants down when something happens out of the blue. I hope that’s a ways off, though.

∞∞∞

My Treatise on Gun Control

9 Nov

 

My Treatise on Gun Control

L. Stewart Marsden

I once had the idea that Detroit should outfit all automobiles with paintball guns on the hoods of their products. Automatic rack-and-pinion pivoting devices that could zero in on some a**hole who doesn’t know what they’re doing behind the wheel of a car. The idea is that the bad drivers will have cars covered with paint splats. Red, blue, yellow – a veritable rainbow of responses to those folks who drive down the highway at 80 mph texting, or putting on makeup, or (and I’ve seen this) reading a damn book!

Nuts! Cuckoos!

The idea is you see a multi-splatted car and you avoid the hell out of them. At some point the sheer weight of the paint slows the car.

Now look – all you law-abiding and devoted-to-safety gun owners – you must agree that there are fools and wack-os out there that should NEVER get behind the wheel of a car! We’ve come a loooong way legislating safety features, laws, and requiring drivers’ training to cut down the spillage of blood, bones and brain matter on our highways. Haven’t heard too many complain about seat belts, infant car seats, air bags (well, when they work), road-gripping tires.

Here’s the other thing about driving: NO ONE DRIVES A HIGH-OCTANE FORMULA ONE RACING CAR ON THE STREETS! Unless it’s a race, of course. But even then, there are RESTRICTIONS!

The sad thing is, apparently vans and trucks and cars have now become a weapon of choice for the America-haters.

Guess what? Automobiles are NOT protected under the Bill of Rights! They are a privilege as, I believe, should be gun ownership. With privileges come responsibilities.

So, segue onto the subject of Gun Control.

The very word “control” seems to cause a great many pro-gun people to shift mental gears to mean “we’re gonna take your guns away from you.” Gun registration as well as being licensed to own and use a gun is also suspect. Too many “Seven Days in May” conspiracy stories, I guess. By God, everything is a conspiracy.

Take a breath. Inhale. Exhale.

Just like the process of training someone to use a car for work, for recreation, to get from Point A to Point B safely and with the least amount of danger to others, gun controls are a good thing.

“Guns don’t kill people …”

Exactly! Nor do cars, but idiotic, psychotic, unprepared and uncontrollable drivers.

“Stricter controls will not keep guns out of the hands of criminals …”

True. And cars will also be stolen, or used as getaway means and end in death and destruction. But you still have to turn your lights on in the State of North Carolina when it rains. The vast majority of automobile drivers are responsible people. Where have I heard that before?

We have central databases where every vehicle operation violation is recorded. We have tags on each car that indicates the vehicle passes a mechanical inspection on an annual basis. We have license renewal requirements, so that each driver must reapply for an operator’s license. We require auto insurance. We have stricter licensing requirements for bus drivers, and truck drivers. Even moped operators must now get a license to drive on public throughways.

Who’s complaining? Virtually NO ONE!

Is it a hassle to go annually to the DMV for a new license plate sticker? Damn right it is! Is it costly time-wise and wallet-wise to have my car inspected annually, and maybe have to replace that headlights or taillights or windshield wipers?

Why do I tolerate this overbearing scrutiny and control? Because I’d rather drive to the beach than walk. Or take the bus. Or the train.

We have an agency in place that can be utilized more effectively in filtering out at least some of the wack-os and, as 45 says, folks with mental health problems, from buying and possessing a gun. The ATF. Will it be overwhelmed? Only if it does its job. Heck, think of the number of people who will need to be employed to handle the load? What a boon! And, a self-financing procedure. Like the DMV.

So, first, enable the ATF to process licensing, with local offices (just like the DMV). Compared to the cost of someone being killed by a gun (jail, court, attorney fees, lost income of the victim, hospital costs). Take the licensing process out of the hands of the Sheriff’s departments so that the load can be handled, and so that consistency of process is guaranteed.

Second, enact laws that require regular licensing (like driver’s licensing). I get my license, I get a DWI or speeding ticket, and I lose my license, or it is restricted. I get a gun license, and within the year I am convicted of a felony, or go through drug rehab, I lose my license. A point system like that in the driver’s license. Further, that anyone diagnosed with a mental disorder that could affect the patient’s ability to legally use a firearm be reported to the ATF. By the way, licensing would require mandatory training (NRA?) as well as passing a written AND, initially, firing range test.

Third, require that a gun owner purchase and maintain liability insurance for each firearm purchased. Just like owning a car where accidents happen. The insurance companies will love this, and the cost of owning a firearm just for insurance will curb the number of guns a person can afford to own.

Fourth, require that firearms are also inspected on a regular basis by qualified people to ensure accidents don’t occur because of mechanical malfunction. Require recall letters from manufactures for such problems, as well as a guarantee of repair or replacement.

Fifth, as with a car, require that a private owner transact the sale of a firearm to another person through their local ATF office. Failure to do so would be a felony crime.

Sixth, require that the loss, theft, or decommissioning of a firearm (dismantling) be reported to the ATF. If to the police, that the police alert the ATF electronically.

Seventh, restrict the sale of types of firearms and add-ons (bump fire stocks, hair triggers, silencers, magazine capacity, etc.).

Eighth, require the registration of ammunition and its sale – as do the pharmacists with prescriptions. Lot, box, shells. Shell casings could be barcoded.

And I could go on. The point is that while a few advocate no guns at all, most of us realize that won’t happen – regardless of the 2nd Amendment. And certainly no law or restriction is going to be absolutely effective. There will always be those outlying circumstances and people who defy logic and sanity.

But – IF the laws are enforced with due diligence, perhaps some of the tragedies like Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, and other non-terrorist initiated massacres, will be avoided.

Deer hunters, skeet shooters, biathlon athletes – even those who want/need a deadly way to protect their home and family members – will be able, within the law, to do those things.

Expensive? You bet. So is a car.

Cost of an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle: between $500 and $2,500;
Cost of 500 rounds of ammo: about $150;
Cost of a bump-fire stock: $1,500;

Cost of a human life: priceless.*

*According to the EPA ( https://www.epa.gov/environmental-economics/mortality-risk-valuation ), the value of a human life was $7.4 million in 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

The Cabinet, or, Better Living Through Chemistry

18 Sep

The Cabinet

or

Better Living Through Chemistry

by L. Stewart Marsden

 

I know I put them in here … somewhere
Underneath the whitening tooth gel;
Crammed beside the fat-burning oil;
Above the No More Wrinkles, My Friend;
Or the Gradual Gray-Away Hair-Coloring Brush;
Between the Sleep Deep Tonight and the Stay-Awake capsules;
Or the Breathe Through the Night Guaranteed nose spray;
And the Psoriasis Cream; or the Pain Go Away hot and cold bags;
Near the Gas-Away tablets, and the Warts-No-More stick-ums;
The Breath-O’-Mint gargle, and the NuHair in the Morning rubbing salve;
The ear-wax drops and the nose-hair plucker;
The Intimate Hair Begone; and the No-Leaks, My Lady underwear pads;
The No Sweat – You Bet underarm roll-on; or the Flab-Away Arm and Leg Lotion.
Where the hell are they?
I know I put them in here … somewhere.

 

 

Perspective

2 Sep

Perspective

By L. Stewart Marsden

Anton Ego, food critic, is a character in one of my favorite movies: Pixar’s Ratatouille. A sophisticated version of the Grinch, he seethes venom with his condescending reviews of the restaurant industry in Paris.

He says,

“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read.”

It is metaphor to our current and perplexing nationwide conflict. Too easy to slip in the word “media” where Ego is talking about food critics. Or, perhaps, the extreme Right, or the extreme Left.

If you are familiar with the story, you remember he goes to investigate the hullabaloo over a new chef at a once-thriving restaurant.

There, a waiter asks if Ego knows what he would like for his meal.

Yes, I think I do. After reading a lot of overheated puffery about your new cook, you know what I’m craving? A little perspective.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, in addition to its devastation and carnage of Houston and the surrounding area, we are also left with perspective.

Facebook abounds with quotes and images similar to “America is NOT Charlottesville; America is Houston!”

Well, we’re both. Unfortunately. The perfect among us cannot hide nor eradicate the imperfect.

As a nation, we show the world our best and our worst. From the vitriol of antagonists who can’t stand one another, and are dedicated to sniping at every opportunity (we thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and read), to belittling and bashing one another; to hitching a thousand boats and driving thousands of miles to help with search and rescue and aid.

As Dickens wrote,

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

Perspective. We say that in the aftermath of tragedy: it put things into perspective.

Why does it take a devastating hurricane, tornado, illness, horrific event to grab our attention, shake sense into us enough for us to see (some of us, that is) that we are better than whatever it is that brings us shame?

It’s like we’re caught up in an emotional maelstrom that dulls all other senses and sensitivities. Perhaps a quasi-mob mentality, only the mobs are at either end of a see-saw. The vast majority of us just want none of it. Content to let things play out. Please, we say, can we not go back to normalcy?

We are all afflicted in one way or another.

Perspective. Not sure which is worse: the radical ends of the spectrum, or the sluggish majority that separates the extremes.

With disasters come the stirring of wills to be involved in some helpful way. Who is helped at the time is not dependent upon nation of origin, color of skin, gender identification, religious value, primary language spoken, political affiliation, economic standing, outstanding warrants, meat-eater or vegan, educational accomplishments. Or any other attribute that would normally keep us from deigning to be involved with that victim.

For a moment, we will have experienced what it is to give emotionally and financially and physically to a cause without regard to anything but the betterment of those who have lost home and loved ones.

This, too, shall pass.

Houston and the area will eventually get cleaned up. The snipers and critics have already begun to crawl out of the water-saturated woodwork and begin what they do best. The nation will breathe a sigh of relief at not having more than half the nightly news centered on all of the problems that do and eventually will exist. We’ve done our heartfelt and pocket-felt due diligence, and can return to normal.

And the carousel will start up again, slowly at first, and crescendo to spinning speeds.

Until the next disaster.

When,  once again, we will be presented with the opportunity to gain Perspective.

Pain

19 Aug

 

Pain

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

When I was about ten years old, I began having intense attacks of pain on my right side under my rib cage. It was deep inside. The best way I found to describe it was it felt as though a double-bladed knife, triangular in shape from its tip to the hilt, was being slowly inserted into me. The pain would gradually increase over hours, and I did everything I could for relief to no avail. It got so bad I would force myself to throw up in order to empty my stomach. Again, useless. I even banged my head against the wall to distract my mind elsewhere.

I was checked and tested for a myriad of maladies, including hepatitis and ruptured appendix, during which time I must have drunk gallons of pasty, chalky “stuff” that would show up problems under x-rays.

Nothing.

The attacks repeated over a number of years, seeming to get more and more painful and intolerable. And the duration also lengthened, from several hours to a day and a half. The usual guess at a diagnosis was severe indigestion. So whenever I felt an attack coming on, I’d drain a bottle of Pepto Bismal – thinking it might lessen the severity. That’s what you get for thinking.

Finger down the throat. Head banging on the wall. Even had a pediatrician give me morphine once. Well, that worked, but it sure wasn’t going to be the normal treatment.

Over the years I suffered dozens of attacks. Only complete exhaustion and drop dead sleep helped me survive.

The spring before Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinkley, the attacks began to occur within weeks of each other. At the around the same time, I found out my older sister had her gallbladder removed due to having painful attacks.

Gallbladder!

A gastroenterologist told me I couldn’t have gallbladder disease, and my pain wasn’t the result of gallbladder attacks because I had been having them since I was ten.

“Improbable,” he surmised, having never heard of someone so young diagnosed with the malady.

This time the tests – for gallbladder – came back positive, and proved the doctor wrong.

The surgery took hours longer than was expected. My gallbladder had shrunk up under my liver, and the surgeon cut a large half-moon opening to the right of my stomach area in order to actually move my liver So he could get to the gallbladder.

It looked like a dried-up lemon, he told me later. And it was packed with dozens and dozens of BB-sized stones that had been produced over the years.

Pain.

It tells us something is wrong, and compels us to do something about it. I’ve heard preachers say metaphorically that it is God’s way of steering us in the right path. I have a response to that premise, but I can’t write it down in mixed company.

The solution for my pain over the years was first the diagnosis. And no one for the longest time reached a correct conclusion. At the time of those attacks, I was happy merely to have the pain go away, which they eventually did, but only to come back again.

There is no such thing as timeliness as far as pain is concerned, in my opinion.

I’ve been told that the pain of a gallbladder attack is at the same intensity as what women experience when in labor. I wouldn’t know. That could only be asserted by a woman, and I trust they would know.

We’re in a time of pain. The country.

Just shy of fifty years ago we were also in a time of pain not dissimilar to now.

Then, the sources of the pain were evident. On Sunday evenings when CBS covered the war in Vietnam on 60 Minutes. Kent State. Martin Luther King assassinated. The Black Panthers. The bombing of Hanoi. Bra-burning. Marches, marches, marches.

And like a gallbladder attack, it was like a two-edged knife being slowly inserted into the gut of the country, and there was no relief to be found.

We’re there once again. The faces are the same, only the names are different. Afghanistan. Syria. Al Qaeda. ISIS. Terrorism. Police brutality. Denial of rights to a different set of minorities. Racial tension. Political buffoonery. Fascists. Bigots. Racists.

For those of us who were around the first time during the 60s and 70s, it’s deja vous all over again. Ground Hog Day. Like the unseen gods are saying, “We’re going to do this until we get it right”-kind of scenario.

Is it just me? Or have I felt this pain before? And will we ever have a definitive diagnosis? Will we go into surgery to have this malignancy removed at last?

Were it only that simple.

In the meantime, we have the pain, which will persist and recur until solutions are found.

 

 

 

 

Get the shopping cart into the correct place … Dammit!

2 Aug

 

Get the shopping cart into the correct place … Dammit!

By L. Stewart Marsden

A post on Facebook this morning got me to thinking. I know, thinking twice in one month is rather astounding for me. And painful – like a brain freeze.

It focused on people who do and don’t return their shopping carts to a cart station in the parking lot (perhaps, even, to the front area of the store). You’ve seen those people who don’t return theirs. They tend to smoke and drive big pickups and have Confederate flags on the rear windshield and have mud flaps with a chrome naked woman and spit on the pavement and wear greaser T-shirts and probably voted for 45. They shoo their carts and let them drift aimlessly in the vast parting lots like maverick cattle, creating chaos and confusion. Shameful!

The writer asserted – with admittedly no science to back his thesis – that successful people tend to return their carts, and the lazy bastards of our culture (see above) don’t.

I’m not sure this doesn’t fly in the face of what might be more accurately deduced. For example, the shopping cart returners seem to me more like Stepford Wives than successful entrepreneurs. More like the vast crowds who shift and turn based on the movement of the masses – unthinking and mechanically reactive. Like those schools of sardines you see during Shark Week, rippling through the water en masse. And, sad to say, I’m in that vast population.

I’m not advocating total chaos in the parking lots of America, mind you. And while the data are truly lacking*, this is also one of my peeves, although not a pet one. Mine is more unrestrained and feral. The point is whether you return your cart or not, I don’t think it’s an indicator of much of anything success-wise. But the post – like I said – got me to thinking.

Today there are at least two sizes of carts at most stores (Dollar General is the exception – and Aldi’s): the hunka-munka-I’m-here-for-a-whole-s**t-load-of-stuff cart, and the dainty-just-gotta-grab-one-or-two-items cart. (I normally use the latter cart, then cram it full of oh-I-need-thats until it looks like one of those commuter buses in India where passengers are literally hanging off the sides.)

Which brings up another pet peeve (squirrel!): going through the Express check-out with more than “about 12 items.” But I’ll leave that for another day.

So I get my stuff; wheel the cart through the parking lot with the one wheel spinning uncontrollably; unload my stuff in the trunk (cold stuff near the door, non-perishables in the back of the trunk); and turn to put my dainty cart in the cart station.

Again, there are usually two lanes of carts in each of these stations. Now at Lowe’s Home Improvement, one of those lanes is for the flatbed carts, and is much wider than the one meant for the regular carts. But at the grocery store, the lanes are the same size! AND, horror of horrors, the dainty and the hunka-munka carts are MIXED TOGETHER!

AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!

So, I spend time fixing the mess, pulling out the two sizes of carts and putting them together in correct sizes, and rolling those cart trains back into the cart station lanes, nice and neat. I even wait in my car a bit if someone who has just rolled out and emptied their cart to see if they are going to screw up the order! If they do, I don’t normally roll down my window and yell, “Hey! Asshole! Put that shopping cart in the other lane!” But I sure do think it.

I’m not sure this qualifies me for anything other than the Coo-coo’s Nest Elderly Care Retirement Home located on a dead-end street marked at its beginning with a sign that says, “No Exit.”

But it might.

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*I understand the Federal Government is funding a $2.6 million study on this very subject.