Runaway grocery cart

May 20, 2008

They’ve appeared before on the sidewalk across the street from my home office — grocery carts deposited like driftwood on an overnight tide. I noticed one this morning but paid it no mind. That is until I observed people react to this interloper in Irvington, my Northeast Portland neighborhood.

There was the boy clad in yellow backpack and cruising the sidewalk on a foot scooter. He wheeled to a stop and peered inside at an assortment of discards. Then a woman (his mother I presume), tugged along by a dalmatian, shooed him away. A few other pedestrians slowed and glanced at it, including a man who kicked at one of the wheels.

None showed the delight of a woman riding a motorized cart down the middle of the street, little stuffed animals swinging from a handlebar basket. Spying the cart, she veered sharply to the curb, hopped off and retrieved a bottle. It joined a collection of bottles and cans in a bulging plastic bag slung over the back of the cart.

As darkness approached, I crossed the street and made my own inspection. Two empty beer bottles. . .why weren’t they retrieved? A sign identified the cart as property of Whole Foods grocery, which is seven blocks away. If the cart returns to service, perhaps we’ll be reunited at the store, not that I’d notice. The cart would be like all the other carts, unless in its travels it’s developed a squeaky wheel.

Before first light, the cart will probably vanish from the sidewalk, wheeled away by unseen forces of the night. Or perhaps this one is different, a runaway shucking off the slavery of rote conformity. Is this the beginning of rebellion in the tranquil organic aisles of Whole Foods? “Free the carts!” my next bumper sticker will proclaim.