She lived on the third floor of a small complex. Acoustically it was at the right height so that everything that happened on the sidewalk sounded like it happened right outside her window.
The northwest part of Portland is dense and people live on top of each other. There is no parking so if you own a car you circle and circle to find a place close to your house but usually end up blocks away. One car had a bumper sticker. It said, “Visualize Parking”. She didn’t have a car so it didn’t matter. The neighborhood had all she needed, a car wasn’t necessary.
She wasn’t sure if it was people who didn’t have cars or people who just bought too many groceries. But you would see shopping carts randomly parked around the neighborhood. Sometimes they would be there for days. There were two groceries with in five blocks she just made several trips a week and rarely shopped using a cart. She never bought more than she could carry, what could fit in a basket. A redish orange truck would drive the neighborhood each day, collect the shopping carts and take them back to the store where they belonged.
Then one day she started really thinking about those carts. She thought if she had a camera she would make a video about these abandon carts. Think about it. You are a brand new cart, you just came off of the assembly line were loaded on a truck to be taken to your grocery store.
Your wheels are straight, your cage is shiny there isn’t a nick or scratch anywhere. You are nestled inside another and one is nestled resting gently inside you. You get to the store you are unloaded from the truck and carefully lined up just inside the door. The lights go out and it’s dark. All of the carts are there, waiting in anticipation of the next morning when the doors are unlocked and customers start coming in.
But the unthinkable happens. The new cart gets his chance. He feels the warm hands on the handle. His wheels are smooth and silent. And as she pushes him he understands what his purpose is as the light shines on his shiny new frame. Isle after isle more and more gets put into the cart. He can feel the cold go to warm as they leave the produce section. Then colder as they enter the frozen isle, that actually feels good. He breezes through the isles and proudly carries fresh vegetables, fresh loaves of bread, toothpaste, soaps, it all fits perfectly.
At check out he wonders if the shopper even noticed that he was new or if the checker knows? They have to, he is so shiny. The shopper unloads the cart, pushes it forward and the cart waits to be reloaded. The checker is very neat, so the bags are fit in perfectly and sit snuggly next to each other. Now his first trip outside to the parking lot! Will they leave him in the cart bin outside or bring him back inside? Oh it’s a nice day he hopes that they leave him outside, the sun feels good. What kind of car does she have? What color? Where is it?
Then it happens. She doesn’t go to the parking lot. Ok, she is parked on the street. Is it this car? This car? This one? She keeps walking. Where is she going? She is getting further and further away from the store. Then she turned the corner! He couldn’t see the store any more. Where is she taking him? He started to panic. How would he do his job and be there for the next person if he is so far away?
He heard some rumbling the night before among some of the other carts but he didn’t pay any attention. He figured it was an old cart. How crazy to think that someone would take a cart to there house so far away from the store. Then he remembered someone saying something about a redish orange truck. He had to keep an eye open for that truck. Where was it? Oh no! Another corner and further away from the store, he had to be brave. Things looked nice so it must be a nice place. Where was he going?
Several blocks have gone by. It’s getting dark. There are a few people on the street, but it’s pretty quiet actually. Then she slows down. There is a street lamp and the light is shining down on him. He feels it bouncing off his shiny new frame. One by one she takes the bags out of the cart and into the building. There is one last bag in the cart. This should be it. She will take the bag come back and push him back home so that he can continue to serve the customers. She takes the last bag and walks inside. He waits. And waits.
He doesn’t really have a concept of time. He is a shopping cart after all. But he is thinking that she is taking longer than needed. Even allowing for time to put frozen things in a freezer and other goods in the fridge, she should be out again. And it’s getting darker and darker. How could this have happened to him? His first run and now he is stranded and has no idea how to get back?
Wait! The redish orange truck he heard them talking about last night! It had to come soon. Was he going to be visible to the driver? How did he make sure that he was picked up in that truck and taken back to the store? He looked all around as best he could. But there was no traffic. Now it was really late and very dark. She had forgotten him.
It would be a very long night. There was some foot traffic, but no trucks. Two boys walked by and threw their empty coffee cups in the cart. He wasn’t a trash can, but now he had trash. He hoped that was all that he had to take on until that redish orange truck found him. He didn’t mind just staying in one place. That was part of his job. He was too far away and felt useless.
Now if she just had a camera she could take it to Freddies and attach it to a cart, fill it up, push it home and leave it out front of her apartment. She wondered if her neighbor downstairs would let her put a camera in their window to shoot over the night for time lapse? But like many other things it was just a thought. She would tell the story a few times to friends but never produced the video. It seems a bit traumatic maybe. But really it is comical. It’s A shopping cart after all!
The redish orange truck did make its way to that street and picked up the cart and took him back to the store. The cart was a little wiser and a bit more prepared for the next time someone took him home instead of leaving him. But he hoped not!