Everything Used to be Simpler

Everything used to be simpler - a store filled with lots of different items

Everything Used to be Simpler is a story contributed by Linda Jinkens, Freelance Writer, from Snohomish County. This article is published in the Spring/Summer 2024 Edition of Vibrant Senior Options Resource Guide Magazine.

As I roll through my seventh decade of life, I long for how simple life used to be. One could turn a knob, and the TV would come on. Cash was handed to the clerk to pay for items. I could pay for tickets at counters behind which real people stood. Getting a new radio did not involve reading pages of minuscule print. Lids on jars were easy to twist off and had no plastic or foil underneath to remove. And appliances were simple to operate. 
You’d think a shopping cart would still be simple to maneuver.

The Dollar Store

I had driven to a dollar store to pick up items for my grandkids. My list contained some small dolls, stuffed animals, and coloring books. When I walked in, I noticed a plethora of strange-looking shopping carts. A tall yellow sponge tube stuck up in each cart. Each tube may have been six or seven feet. (My son told me later, a bit surprised, “They were pool noodles, Mom. Haven’t you heard of pool noodles?” My  guess is he didn’t realize I hadn’t been near a pool in 40 years.) I figured the strange objects had something to do with surveillance. I wasn’t sure, but maybe management could see the carts throughout the store by noticing the yellow tubes in the air, possibly.

Looking for Dolls Used to be Simpler

Used to be Simpler: a close up of a doll with red hairI quickly filled up my cart, but could not find any small dolls. Dolls used to be simpler to find.

At the checkout, I asked the young green-haired clerk, “I’m just wondering if I missed small dolls in here. I’d like some for my granddaughters.”

The clerk looked at me and said, “Oh, girls don’t want dolls. They want doll heads. But we are out of them.”

My mouth must have dropped open. And I know my hearing is very bad. (Hearing aides are on my list.) I said, “Heads? They want heads?”
She repeated loudly, acting like I was deaf as a doorpost,“YES, HEADS! They like to comb their hair and do their makeup. They are LARGE DOLL HEADS.”

Exiting the Dollar Store

I envisioned large heads that looked like they had been guillotined, all in a row. What on earth? What happened to just normal heads attached to bodies? And makeup? Puzzled, After paying for items and putting the bag into the cart, I headed out the door to my car, as I usually unloaded the cart and then pushed it back into the store.

I didn’t get too far.

As I pushed the cart out the door, it went maybe one foot forward and stopped. Hmm. I pulled the cart back in. I tried again. I pushed harder. This time the cart went sideways, but was still stuck. Was it the wheels? Maybe not working correctly? I peered down at the wheels. Nope, they looked OK. I tried again. The cart went a foot the other direction. Puffing hard, I thought to myself, I have sure lost strength in my arms when I can’t get the cart through the door! I determinedly pulled it back, grit my teeth, and gave the cart a magnificent shove. Nope. It only went a short distance again.

The Cart With a Tube

I looked up at the tube for the first time, then, and noticed it was stuck to the door frame. Peering up through my reading glasses (not prescription glasses which I really need), I saw there was a piece of metal at the top of the tube, and it was stuck to the frame. It hit me like a two by four! The tube was magnetized to keep the cart in the store! Who would have thunk?

Standing with one foot outside the door, I looked back inside, chagrined. There was a dead silence. The clerk was frowning at me, looking like a statue, one hand frozen in the air above the cash register. The other customers in line were all staring, too, unfriendly. Did they think I was trying to steal the cart? Did I look homeless?

Outsmarted by a Shopping Cart

I felt my life slowly roll by in front of me like an old VHS tape. I yanked my cart back into the store and stared back hard at all of the folks, holding my head high, to show everyone I was not humiliated in the least at being a spectacle! I grabbed my bag. Everyone slowly looked away as I marched out the door.

Will I go back there? Not in a million years. Someone may recognize me as that older woman trying to abscond with a shopping cart in broad daylight.

One good thing. I didn’t see anyone pull out a cell phone to make a video. It might have been titled “Grandma Outsmarted by Shopping Cart.”

I’m sure it would have gone viral.

Linda Jinkens is a freelance writer who simply enjoys bicycling, baking, and her five grandchildren. She has been freelancing for the last six years and has been published in many publications. She is also a former high school teacher.

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