I was at Walmart the other day trying to find a parking spot. I have a pet peeve about shopping carts left in parking areas, especially when I come back and find my bike surrounded by empty carts. The extra space my motorcycle leaves in a spaced designed for a car seems to be an invitation for empty carts. I’ve watched this get worse over the years. I’m often amazed to see carts left in the parking spots just a few feet from the cart return. And one can often barely see the handicap signs on the pavement for the carts parked on top of them.
As a rule I will grab one and take it in with me, especially one blocking a handicap spot. Sometimes my purchase is small enough that I don’t need a cart on the return trip to my vehicle. If I do take the cart out to the lot, I will certainly take it to the cart return once I finish with it, occasionally snagging an additional cart or two if they are on my way. I try to leave the parking lot at least one cart cleaner than I found it.
I sometimes see other patrons grab carts on the way in. These are usually older gentlemen sporting the same salt and pepper hair and paunch I have. Not many, but a few. Why do we do it? To help the gazillionaires who own the business? No. We do it just for the public in general. It takes so little effort on my part to leave something a little better than I found it. It’s a concept I associate with civics. I see it as practicing my civic duty to benefit society.
But the efforts of me and my few like-minded fellow citizens is greatly overwhelmed by the growing mountain of thoughtlessly discarded carts blocking spaces that would have been useful to other patrons. I’m sure we’re considered quite strange by those who see no reason to waste the time and energy required to return a cart, making sure it doesn’t inconvenience another shopper. We may even be considered “suckers.”
I know it’s a little thing of no great consequence. Yet somehow I see in that disorderly ramble of selfishly abandoned metal, the end of our society. It is a refusal to participate in the improvement of the general welfare that will also inform the actions of greater consequence. I just don’t expect much in the way of effort toward improving or protecting our country from somebody who will shove an empty cart into a handicap parking spot. These are not people who will sacrifice for the greater good. The message I see those carts spell out is, “it doesn’t matter if it hurts you as long as it helps me.” Those folks used to be in the minority and the rest of us looked down on them. Now, I think they outnumber the “peculiar,’ folks like me. There seem be be fewer and fewer people imbued with a sense of community, people who demonstrate a concept of civic responsibility.
I’ll keep pushing carts back to the returns even when I’m the last one doing it. I keep hearing my mother from when I was young. I’d complain that nobody else had to do something. She would say, “I can’t control what those people do, but I can make sure you do the right thing.” I guess she still is.
－ Guy Wheatley
Actually the first motorcycle I loved. My Maggie. She’s not the first one I’ve owned, nor the first one I’ve been fond of. But there is something special about Maggie. And lest you think Mrs. Sharon is jealous, she’s just as crazy about Maggie as I am.
It’s hard to say why Maggie is so different from my other bikes. I’m sure some of it is because she was the first bike I bought intending to keep. I knew the Nighthawk was a starter bike when I bought it, and knew that I’d be moving up to another bike soon. Somehow that knowledge prevented me from forming a deep attachment to it. The Nighthawk was an inanimate object I was fond of, but never formed an emotional attachment to. But Maggie was different.
It wasn’t that way on the first day I brought her home. I’m not sure exactly when I started to think of her in emotional terms. I anthropomorphized my sail boat to some degree. But I never really thought of it in truly organic terms. I never treated it like it had feelings, or felt an obligation to be loyal to it. But somewhere along the way, I started treating Maggie as though it was a person, an extremely close friend.
Some of that may have come about as I learned that she truly was a special bike. I didn’t know much about the technical details of motorcycles in those days. When the previous owner kept emphasizing this was a “Magna,” a V-4, I just didn’t understand. So with no real understanding of what I had, the months and years to come were filled with one delightful surprise after another. And as I realized that this wasn’t just another cookie cutter V-twin, the attachment grew.
As my horizons expanded and I realized I’d need a larger bike to carry more gear greater distances, it never once occurred to me to sell Maggie. I’ve made the statement that if my fortunes fall and I wind up living in a tent eating dog food, Maggie will still be parked in front of it.
So I was surprised to find myself seriously contemplating putting Maggie on the market. She’s not running right now. She needs some carb work done, and I just can’t seem to get around to it. There are other projects I can’t put off, and the work Maggie needs is not something I can do in a weekend. Not being familiar with this particular system, I’ll need to proceed slowly and cautiously. I’ll also likely need to leave my work spread out over at least a couple of weekends while waiting on parts or information. Right now my work bench is too cluttered up with other, half-finished projects. So rather than just let her sit there and get worse and worse for lack of use, I considered selling her.
But as I mentioned earlier, Mrs. Sharon is just as fond of Maggie as I am. She’s encouraged me to bite the bullet, swallow my pride, haul the bike to the shop and get her fixed. So that’s probably what I’ll do. It irks me to pay for a repair I could probably do myself. But who knows when I’ll get around to it. And in the meantime, Maggie just gets worse. She deserves better from me.
－ Guy Wheatley