Running into the supermarket to buy milk, I took a shortcut through paper goods to the dairy section. As I skirted a huge pallet of toilet paper, I realized it was my favorite brand—and on sale, besides. I galloped back to the store’s entrance to get a cart (of course, I hadn’t needed one for milk only), and crammed a gimongous package of twenty-four rolls into it.
Already pleased at having saved so much money, I practically shook my own hand when I turned the corner and saw my husband’s preferred brand of soup on sale. I loaded up. Remembering my original mission, I hurried to the dairy case. Browsing through shelves of milk like a column of personal ads, I looked for a suitable match. Finally I found it: fat (none), lactose (free), cow-feed (organic), and size (quart).
As I headed down the coffee aisle towards checkout, I picked up a box of coffee-filters. A clerk was slicing open cases of Crispy Thins, my favorite crackers, so I maneuvered my cart around a Pepsi driver unloading twelve-packs, to grab several boxes. The Crispy Thins made me think of the apples we’d enjoyed yesterday afternoon. I’ll just dash over to the produce section and get a couple more, I thought to myself. Mentally, I was adding up my purchases, realizing I’d have to pay with plastic because I didn’t have enough cash. I plopped three apples into my cart. Done!
It wasn’t until I’d turned toward the checkout stand that I noticed my cart contained a twelve-pack of Pepsi . . . and a cake, too, with “Happy Birthday, Susie” inscribed in frosting. Huh? Someone had taken my cart! I looked around the produce area; no one else was there. That cart thief moved quickly. I took my apples out of the wrong cart and start walking—storming, rather—from aisle to aisle, muttering under my breath, ready to confront the mindless shopper who had probably filled my cart by now with her purchases. Finally, I located it, abandoned in the cracker aisle by the unknown coward.
Grateful to be reunited with my purchases, I hurried to the checkout line where I stood for several minutes before it was my turn. I foisted my purchases onto the counter’s moving-belt and dug for my credit card. That’s when I noticed the commotion in the main aisle. The store manager and a distraught woman were walking briskly toward the bakery. The woman was dabbing her eyes with tissue. I heard the manager say, “Don’t worry, ma’m, it has to be here somewhere. Cakes don’t have legs.”
“What’ll I tell her? She’ll be heartbroken . . .,” I couldn’t hear any more words, just a little sob.
Remember those old cartoons where the underdog characters deliver a physical wallop to their pursuers? Suddenly, I had become Br’er Fox or Wiley Coyote—felled in the midst of my own righteous pursuit. It was I who had taken the wrong cart!
I should have left the line immediately and chased down the woman with a helpful comment, such as “Excuse me, ma’m, have you checked produce?” Instead, I stood there like a guilty fool, flustered and embarrassed. How would I explain my need to stop my purchase-transaction to the woman behind me, already impatiently tapping her foot? I paid for my groceries and made a beeline for the door.
Driving home, I reassured myself. It’s not as if I’d wheeled the cake into the parking lot or dropped a case of peanut butter on it. It’s not a crime to move a cart . . . and little Susie’s mother was headed in the right direction to find it.
After all, cakes don’t have legs.
copyright © 2009 Sara J. Glerum