One of the first lessons of drivers’ ed, no?
I remember sitting in a stuffy classroom with a bunch of bored teenagers waiting for the gruesome slide show of what could happen to us if we exceeded the speed limit (This was before texting and driving existed). While I may have forgotten the exact way to proceed through a four-way stop sign in an orderly fashion, I can still see the imaginary line the instructor drew from the left front fender of the car diagonally to the yellow line in the road – and the other one he drew from the right front fender to the white line marking the shoulder. Absolutely essential to align one’s vehicle in the center of its traveling lane and at a safe distance from the vehicles around it.
I can still sit myself behind the driver’s seat of that virtual tank of a car and see the nice neat points of the front fenders riding the rails of those lines in the road, shielding me from oncoming traffic and obstacles.
But just as telephonic technology has surpassed the cautionary tales of my days of drivers’ ed, so too have the aerodynamic advancements in car design. You try to find a car with square edges anymore. Even the quintessential government-issue boxy Suburban has rounded out. Jack Ryan (as played by Harrison Ford) would be ashamed. It’s nearly impossible to match all those swooping curves to the angular lines of the road nowadays.
Transfer these trials, if you will, to the grocery store.
Have you had the pleasure of driving one of those insipid race car carriages?
Whoever created them is an evil genius of the highest degree. Yes, in theory, it keeps children contained and entertained. Aside from the incessant beeping of the suction bulb horn, your children are a captive audience – thanks to the handy seat belts. However, there are various permutations that alter that ‘blissful’ scene.
Your one child has both steering wheels to himself, but making engine noises gets old fast with no audience and he quickly wants to climb out to be with Mommy, leaving you to push a gargantuan half-empty carriage around the store.
Your two children each get their own steering wheel, but only one horn works. A flailing of arms and flapping of hands ends in a slap fest with wails more heinous than the strangled duck quack of the remaining horn.
Two of your children, the biggest and least able to fit in the cab of the car, strong-arm their way inside, leaving the youngest, smallest, and most amped about such a ride, trailing behind pitifully, alternately pulling on your pant leg and her siblings’ arms – or hair – begging for a ride.
And that’s just the kids.
One would think that the least problematic part of this equation would be the cart itself, given its inanimate nature and all. Ha ha. Then you would be deceived, my friend.
I decided to up the ante this past Friday. You know, July 4th ?
We needed food. We weren’t doing anything fun since it was raining and the holiday. What better time to go grocery shopping with three kids?
It’s not like the entire vacationing population in the surrounding coastal area had the same exact idea.
My husband and I dragged the kids to a discount store beforehand, too, where the eldest convinced the youngest to stick her head into a carpeted cat condo. Good times. When the two oldest, yes oldest, requested the car carriage at the grocery store, I was grasping at straws, really. The look on my husband’s face when he saw me pushing the monstrosity of a carriage into the store, where he and our youngest were waiting, confirmed my insanity. And my state of being matched the tenor of the store.
The produce section, which on any day is hard to navigate with multiple bins packed in, was crawling with more people than potato bugs on a field of bruised spuds. With the turning radius of a sea cow, I ended up moving backward through the aisles. Alas, I did not know the parameters of my vehicle and banged into a woman’s leg with the front of that infernal car. And then I ma’am’ed her as I apologized – the first time I’ve done so in my life. It’s no wonder she didn’t slam the car back into me. After another near miss with the same woman near the bananas, I ended up parking the car and kids with my husband to dive back into the produce pool, while he refereed our youngest’s attempts to gain access to the driver’s seat.
We made it to the check-out aisle with minor infractions after that, but our trip was not yet done.
My husband loaded the conveyor belt and then moved to the other end of the register to bag our groceries. Industrious, helpful, and proactive. But totally unaware of my trial-and-error navigation of the beast of burden. As we went to leave, I pushed the cart to the left, even though we were going to exit to the right. I knew it wouldn’t make the tight turn to the right and planned to go left and back up. Only my husband stepped forward to walk toward the exit just as I swung left. He howled louder than our youngest before she got her turn driving. All those gathered at the front of the store turned, to see my still sputtering husband stalking toward the exit and me moving backward, pulling the car behind me.
Once I got the cart turned the right way and pushed out into the pouring rain, I imagined the ways I could torture the inventor of the infernal object that had obviously been spawned in the underworld. But I’m sure he or she was functioning under the same principles that forced my decision to load the kids into the thing at the start of that grocery visit: the risk/reward factor we all take into account with each parenting decision. Is the frustration of pushing an unwieldy vehicle through the store equal to or better than dealing with wild animals loosed upon the produce aisle? I do have some suggestions for said inventor, though.
Would it kill you put some tall flags on the front corners of the cars? Little orange dooies like the little old ladies put on the back of their scooters? Decrease the wheel base, perhaps? Or better yet, offer a free babysitting service at the front of the store with a racetrack where they can drive the suckers themselves while I shop?
When it comes to grocery store race car carriages, I may not know the parameters of my vehicle, but I’ve learned my threshold of insanity. Yet again, in the grocery store.