by Mike Todd
The wheels on the double-wide shopping cart rattled underneath my feet as we picked up speed.
“Faster, Daddy! Faster!” my two sons yelled, clapping and banging their fists on the handle.
“Babe!” my wife Kara yelled, her voice fading away behind us, becoming almost quiet enough to earn me deniability. The cart was quite loud, and my ears were plugged with obstinacy, after all.
I can understand why Kara was anxious about watching our cart careening across the Costco parking lot, namely because it was loaded with precious cargo: a bag of oranges, 40 bars of soap, jammies for the kids, a gallon of maple syrup, 23 undershirts, enough vegetable oil to drown a moose, etc. Oh, and also our children. You can’t forget about the children since they are always screaming about something.
“Slow down!” a woman’s voice called from somewhere far, far behind us. Maybe it was Kara yelling at me, maybe not. One can never be sure of these things when one is trying not to be sure.
The wind in what remains of my hair felt especially liberating that evening because just moments before, we’d been trapped inside Costco with no clear exit strategy.
“I swear, I never touched the receipt,” I’d said, back in the food court, patting my pockets as proof.
“We must have thrown it out with the pizza plates,” Kara replied, rummaging through her purse again.
If you’ve never shopped at a warehouse store, here’s a key difference between Costco and stores where you can buy less than 10 pounds of almonds at a time: You can’t leave before showing your receipt to the guard at the exit. Some might argue that this person is not a guard, per se, but he is armed with a marker — a permanent one. If something goes bad with that thing, it can never be erased.
The guard glances at your three-foot-long receipt, peeks in your cart, then draws a stripe down the receipt, which is proof that he mentally checked off each of your 81 items in two seconds. I don’t know how they do that so fast, but these people should consider going into military codebreaking.
“We’re trapped. We don’t have our documentation. This is going to be like that Tom Hanks movie where he had to live at the airport,” I said. At least Costco would be a much better place to live. You could just walk laps and live off the free samples, then sleep on the patio furniture.
“I think we threw the receipt away. What do we do now?” I asked the guard, watching his marker warily.
“Bring your credit card to a supervisor, and they’ll print you a new one,” he said, rendering my query on the location of the sleeping bags moot.
By the time we were cleared to exit, we were the last shoppers to leave the store. The parking lot, normally a bustling ode to chaos and turn signals, was nearly empty. It was like that scene from the movie “Vanilla Sky,” when Tom Cruise was running around an empty Times Square, wondering why nobody wanted to hang out with him anymore.
The conditions couldn’t have been more perfect for scooting across the parking lot with the kids. Besides, if stores didn’t want their patrons acting like idiots, they could always purchase carts that lack the scooting bar across the bottom, giving would-be scooters no foothold with which to scoot. It’s an institutional problem, is my point.
“Do you really think that was a good idea? There are still some cars driving around out here, and you don’t really have control of that thing,” Kara asked when she caught up (finally).
If people only did things that were good ideas, would the pyramids have been built? Would the airplane have been invented? Probably. But still, the question remains: Next time, if we misplace our credit cards in the store, too, do we get to live there?
Ed. Note: Last month Mike Todd won a Keystone Press Award second place for “Best Column” among all of the hundreds of newspapers in the state under 10,000 circulation. Jim Harris, also of the Local, won first place.