|The Shopping Cart|
Issue #54 (February 1986)
This happened in the spring of 1979.
One day upon coming home after work, I discovered a volunteer shopping cart at the end of my driveway. I've had volunteer oaks, volunteer almond trees, even a volunteer brick, but a shopping cart?
Its handlebar identified it as being of the supermarket where I trade. Some petty thief certainly was into a weird form of exercise, as the store is a mile away downhill on a rural street with no sidewalks most of the way.
So I duly called the store and they thanked me and promised that they'd retrieve it. It languished in the weeds for a week and I called them again: "Thanks, we'll send somebody after it."
The next day, I resolved to take action. With a single strand of rope, I tied the front of its undercarriage to the trailer hitch of the car and reared off toward town.
This cart was badly in need of a front-end alignment; the camber and kingpin inclination were way off spec, and as I took it through a blind right-hand curve at 25 mph, it veered wildly, went paws-up, and snapped the rope. Any traffic coming behind me would probably nail it and get me in big trouble, so I was really in a sweat as I parked and sprinted back up the road to fetch it.
I righted it and started running fast with toward my car. And I stepped on the trailing rope. The cart pitched forward, I went halfway over it, and ended up sprawled on the pavement in its surly embrace.
Damning all things mechanical, I got it back to the car, double-tied it to the trailer hitch and set off at a more sensible pace, the cart juddering along behind. It tipped over crossing the railroad tracks, but since I was only four blocks from the store, I said piss on it and continued on, dragging the unruly son of a bitch down the street on its side. Pedestrians goggled as we clanged by.
What else could go wrong? You guessed it, the Law found my performance impossible to ignore. I acknowledged his presence and continued to the store's parking log with him in stately pursuit, red lights flashing.
Untying the rope, I explained the history of the case. His attention wandered as he mentally reviewed the Civil Code of Walnut Creek, and the Penal Code and probably the City Charter.
"You can't do that," he ruled. "You could have hurt a pedestrian in a cross walk."
"No, I beeped and waved my arms and they stayed on the curb, believe me." The folk of Walnut Creek have their survival instincts pretty much intact.
My first attempts at logic and sweet reason had come to naught. I shifted gears: "You're right, I can't do that."
With the barest flicker of a grin, he broke off the chase and left.
The shopping cart was scratched and superficially bent, but still serviceable at ordinary grocery aisle velocities. I rolled it up to the door and departed.