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Survival Skills of the Cart Pusher

September 01, 2002|JIM SHEA | HARTFORD COURANT

Where do you run into the country's worst driving conditions? New York? Chicago? Los Angeles?

Try Big Y, Shaw's, Stop & Shop.

Getting behind the wheels of a shopping cart in the average supermarket makes rush hour look like a bumper-to-bumper seminar in courtesy.

That's because there are no rules in the supermarket, no traffic controls, no enforcement, no load limits.

There are, however, backups and pileups and double-and triple-parking and reckless pushing and ram-and-runs and tush-gating.

There is also crime.

I, personally, was once the victim of a shopping-cart jacking perpetuated by a yellow-squash-wielding senior whose steely eyes suggested she would have just as soon taken me out as look at me.

Other than summoning someone to clean up spills--spill, of course, being an intercom euphemism for an incident too ghastly to broadcast the details of--supermarkets have failed to address the mayhem.

Official action is warranted. Hearings have to be held; laws have to be passed; perps have to be walked.

In the end, here is what needs to be done:

First off, supermarkets must create traffic patterns. I'm thinking something like an interstate highway system that circles the store with on-and offramps.

There also must be traffic lights, stop signs, posted speed limits, clearly marked no-passing zones, one-way aisles, metered parking and weigh stations to monitor people using tandem carts.

There also should be service plazas throughout the store where shoppers can pull off for a nap, a cup of bad coffee and/or to enjoy bodily-function medleys as performed by an ever-changing chorus of restroom strangers.

The shopping carts themselves must be made safe. They must be registered and equipped with turn signals, high beams, brake lights and air bags.

AAA service, of course, should be available throughout stores to handle breakdowns, and especially to fix carts when one of the front wheels gets stuck and you can only go around in circles.

Another must is a public-works truck to salt and sand the floor in the subarctic produce section when it gets icy there.

Then there is the matter of the carnage that routinely takes place around the checkout counters, where statistics show that more people are killed every year than in attacks by sharks.

Finally, enforcement must be beefed up to include spot checks, speed traps and Breathalyzer tests, and these duties should be performed by trained Smokeys in mirrored sunglasses pushing Crown Victoria carts.

*

Jim Shea is a columnist for the Hartford Courant, a Tribune company.

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