I believe in returning shopping carts to the cart corral at the grocery store. This isn’t just because carts left to roll around in the parking lot invariably end up in the space I was just about to pull into, or even worse, because these loose carts are magnetically drawn to my drivers’ side door while I’m shopping.
No, I believe in returning carts to the cart corral because it’s someone’s job to herd them up and take them back into the store. When carts are left in the lot, I imagine someone in a giant SUV with a DVD player in the back turning to a minimum wage worker and saying, “Here, let me make your job just a little more miserable.”
No one ever says that directly, because the people who pick up carts are largely invisible.
I’ve worked a lot of jobs where I was invisible, mostly waiting tables. Just like the guy who collects the shopping carts, most of my customers looked right through me. It was frustrating and sometimes I wanted to scream, “Hey, I’m a real person here! I enjoy reading Faulkner and listening to blues music. Pay attention to me!”
Instead, I usually just refilled the water glasses and drew little smiley faces on the bottom of the check when I brought the bill.
Then I noticed something disturbing. When I left work at the end of my shift and stopped off at the fast food restaurant, the acne-faced kid slopping French fries at the drive-thru window wasn’t a person. He was a means to my tasty and fat-filled end.
Everyone can be a commodity. Despite all the technology that’s supposed to make the world smaller, it seems like we’ve drifted farther and farther away from the people in our own communities.
I’m not kidding myself here. Returning shopping carts to the cart corral, or asking the waitress at my favorite restaurant how her kids are doing, isn’t going to fix this problem. But I hope respect is something that pays dividends. A little consideration for others, especially others we don’t know, could be contagious.
That’s why I believe in returning carts to the cart corral.
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