Stretch-Shopping Cart

When Shannon and I took the kids to Wal-Mart the other day to pick up a few things, I was assigned to select a cart. Imagine, then, my moral dilemma when I stumbled upon one of those carts with a blue plastic addendum where you can seat additional children beyond the one you can usually stuff into the "loft" of the metal cart itself.

[This is Grace. She goes in the cart.]

On one hand, the thought of each child having his or her own place to sit (with seatbelt) was pretty appealing. On the other hand, the thought of pushing a stretch-shopping cart filled with food and snotty kids around Wal-Mart was pretty whatever the opposite of appealing is. It’s basically admitting to the cosmos that you’re tired, middle-aged, and prepared to wear tapered jeans, hats with the names of tropical tourist destinations embroidered thereon, and Old Spice. But, moving back to the first hand, the convenience factor carries some serious weight. Returning to the second hand, however, pushing the half-metal, half-plastic cart around Wal-Mart makes me look pretty domestic and indicates that I will soon carry some serious weight as well around my mid section.

I made the fateful decision. I caved. I got the stretch-shopping cart. Savannah sat in the "loft," rear-facing, while Halen and Grace sat in the plastic portion, forward-facing. Grace stayed occupied grasping at every clothing or food item we brushed past, Halen stayed busy picking his nose, and Savannah avoided boredom by asking if we could buy every item of junk food she laid eyes on.

It was initially painful to bite the bullet, but, as is the case when biting any bullet, the aftertaste isn’t really all that bad. A little tinny, perhaps, but satisfyingly crunchy, like Grape Nuts.

I guess it’s kind of like mini-vans. Driving around a mini-van screams "My youth is so far behind me, I can no longer remember what it feels like to be cool, or to see my belt buckle." But once you’re toting even a mini-brood of kids around, the coolness of a manly SUV matters a lot less than the fact that you have toss one or two heavy kids over the backs of chairs to get to them into their seats, you’re always having to fold up and fold down seats, and you have to sell a kidney to pay for gas once a week, since you can only drive to Safeway and back twice on a tank. Add into the mix that you only have two kidneys and, if you’re any good at math, you can see that, with an SUV, you can only go to Safeway four times before you die.

Mini-vans, on the other hand, have doors that open at the push of a button. There’s a nice, meandering footpath from the front all the way to the back. They get decent gas mileage. The kid in the very back is so far back there you can pretend you can’t hear her when she’s asking hard questions about why llamas don’t live in Africa.

I suppose now that I’ve used a stretch-shopping cart at Wal-Mart and I’m singing the praises of mini-vans, I can safely start wearing polo shirts when I’m not at work and replace my Birkenstocks with loafers and comb my hair on Saturdays. Life is pretty much over.