Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Squeaky Wheel

I’m usually a bit uncomfortable being the center of attention. This time was no exception. It felt like every person in the store was staring at me. I’m certain one lady rudely glared at me. Two children even pointed at me and appeared a bit frightened. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye.

The noise really was most unpleasant, almost offensive. The repetitive squeak of the shopping cart wheel could be heard 5 or 6 aisles away. It rapidly and unpredictably wiggled back and forth while the other 3 wheels silently rolled along in a straight line. Periodically the cart would emit a high pitched screech and veer to the left for no apparent reason.

This was the third shopping cart I had chosen that morning. The other two were just as obnoxious and difficult to maneuver. I returned those back to the cart holding area. After the third time though, I just gave in and resigned myself to my apparently predestined, unfortunate shopping fate.

To say it was an unpleasant shopping trip would be an understatement. The entire super store was being remodeled. The drop ceiling was missing. Wires were visible. Racks and shelves of merchandise were blocking the short cut I normally took to the petite clothing area. Workers dressed in Carhartt attire were wandering around shouting measurements to each other.

When I finally made it to the petite clothing area I was shocked to find it full of shelves of men’s underwear and socks. I eventually squeaked my way around the store and found the petite clothing area near where the shoes used to be. Most of the clothing racks in the store were jammed in quite closely preventing even the miniature kiddy carts from passing through. Of course, despite the obvious, I tried to fit through two racks of dresses. My cart hit the rack making a loud ignorant shopper racket. I tried to push forward, to no avail. I just couldn’t fit. I resorted to backing my cart out of the area only to find that three of the dress tags were now stuck between the bars of my cart. I couldn’t move forward. I had to pull the cart backward. As I did, the silky dress fabric slid right off the see through plastic hangers they were on. Soon the dresses were on the floor, ripped unceremoniously from their tags. I tried to slowly inch my cart forward to reach the dresses on the floor with my hands and only succeeded in running them over with the dirty cart wheels. I ended up crawling like an unsupervised toddler under the rack to reach the dresses. I managed to put them back on the hangers without being seen by anyone except the unseen worker viewing the security camera and two worker men in Carhartt brown.

I eventually screeched my way over the grocery section of the store, my cart announcing my arrival well in advance. The remodel was in full swing in this section of the store. The aisles were barely more than one cart wide. Everything was out of order. Nothing was where it had been the last time I was there. My well organized list was practically useless. The soda was across from the cheese. The pickles were across from the bleach. It was so wrong. Attempting to navigate the Hispanic foods aisle I encountered a cart full of children hanging off of the sides. I attempted the evasive maneuver of moving as far to the right as possible. It failed miserably. I still brushed up against a curious three year old and knocked a can of refried beans to the floor, denting it. Not needing dented refried beans this week, I put them back on the shelf without being seen by anyone except the unseen worker viewing the security camera and two workers in Carhartt brown. My squeaky cart continued to annoy the other shoppers, occasionally veering left, as I continued searching for each item on my list in the frustratingly rearranged aisles.

By the time I started unloading my purchases on the conveyer belt at the check stand I may have been a bit on edge. My nerves might have been a bit rattled. I kept hearing repetitive squeaking in my ears. The friendly and good looking assistant manager was my reluctant checker. He was pressed into action because there were at least 4 people waiting in each of the other two open lines. Relieved to be almost done with my shopping trip, I politely asked him when the remodeling of the store would be done.

“We’ll be done at the beginning of August, ma’am. We start getting new cash registers installed next week.” he proudly said to me.

“Are you going to be getting new carts?” I innocently asked him.

The manager stopped running my yogurts across the scanner, took a deep breath, and then breathed out a little huff. “That is the most asked question we get about the remodel, ‘Are you getting new carts?’ It seems like that’s the only thing people seem to care about!” he said just a little too forcefully.

I chuckled and jokingly said to the manager, “Gee, it looks like you coulda saved yourselves a few million dollars by forgetting about the remodel and just buying new carts.”

Obviously perturbed by my ignorance, the manager informed me that a store remodel was not a “few million dollars” but was a shocking 15 million dollars.

“Wow”, I responded. “I bet new carts were a whole lot cheaper than that and woulda made most shoppers just as happy.”

I was quickly handed my receipt, just a little too forcefully. The manager tersely told me to, “Have a nice day.” I politely echoed the sentiment. And with that, I squeaked and screeched and veered my way out to my car. Men in Carhartt brown, security cameras, disgruntled shoppers and offended managers watched and heard my every move as I left the store. And every one was very happy to see me go.

Check This Out!
Randy Morgenson, a back country ranger in the High Sierra, was legendary for finding missing people. Then one day he went missing himself. Read about this gripping and suspenseful true story in, The Last Season, by Eric Blehm.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

completely and totally funny! I have been there and have actually asked about new carts...twice. Something about a smooth cart that makes shopping a little easier.