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