Slices of Life: Putting the cart before the horse -- part one of two

"Usually there are five or more rows of carts lined up within the store’s entrance. Do not just take any old cart willy-nilly. You’d certainly identify yourself as a rookie right there," writes Jill Pertler

Jill Pertler
Jill Pertler
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I’ve addressed grocery store conduct in the past, but today I address a topic so immense and life-changing that it spans two weeks worth of columns. It’s a specific facet of grocery store protocol which is (or should be) of paramount importance to us all.

Slices of Life: Defining death and rebirth

Shopping carts.

Shopping carts are a necessity because toilet paper, bread, milk and bananas take up real space, and it’s paramount for the user to choose the very best one. (Yes, that’s actually a thing.)

When arriving at the super store (or any store with aisles, check-out lines and a dairy section), be aware. Usually the carts are lined up near the entrance and you might be tempted to choose the first one you see.

Whoa. Stop right there.


Usually there are five or more rows of carts lined up within the store’s entrance. Do not just take any old cart willy-nilly. You’d certainly identify yourself as a rookie right there. Use the five seconds it takes to approach the carts and evaluate them. Look at the wheels and bottom carriage. Any rust?

Rust elicits squeaks. It impedes forward progress. It identifies a cart that’s been through the ringer — or at least outside in a rainstorm or two.

Any cart that squeaks is a cart worthy some WD-40 work in the warehouse during the late night shift. In addition to the rust clue alluded to above, you will be able to identify this abnormality within seconds of selecting your cart because the spinning of its wheels will elicit a sound sounding much like a squeak — not a mouse squeak, but a cart squeak. Both are equally bad when shopping for fresh produce and other edibles.

If you do hear the sound of the dreaded squeak, simply step away. Cart commitment takes much longer than 20 seconds to establish. There is no need for guilt on your part.

Avoid rust like it’s rust.

Next, check out the body. Chinks? Bends in the metal? You’ve found a cart that’s likely been in a front or side end collision. The body has most likely been irreparably damaged, leaving either the right wheels — or left — to pull in their preferred direction, and you fighting (unsuccessfully) to maintain straightforward progress every step of the way from the meats to freezer section. Never pick a fight like this with a cart. The cart will win, leaving you frustrated and your arm muscles spent.

Leave the bent metal cart to the next rookie entering the store.

Finally, when you pull on a cart to release it from the pack, it should immediately roll toward you. If it remains wedged onto the cart linked up in front of it, walk away. No positive cart relationship ever started with hesitancy or, worse yet, defiance.


Carts are built to serve people, not the other way around. If carts refuse to come with you willingly, they likely have an unhealthy relationship with the cart positioned next to them. Even if if is deemed consensual (and I’m not sure carts are able to give consent), it is never healthy. Carts are not made to cohort with their brethren in such a manner. It should be outlawed, but those cart lobbyists wield more power than one might imagine. It’s best to leave the carts choosing to cohort in unhealthy relationships to themselves and pick another.

This brings us to the end of part one. You are near to picking your grocery vehicle at this point, but there is so much more to cart management, which we will cover next week.

Until then, stay safe — everywhere, but especially in the grocery store.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

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