Return Carts Here

Last night we were talking to some other couples new to Silicon Valley and comparing notes on whether or not we knew our neighbors and felt people were generally friendlier here or where we came from. A woman from NY said that moving from there to here was like switching channels from watching the Sopranos to a Yoga show. Coming from LA, we could relate. We've been struck at how open, friendly, courteous and mellow people are here. After 6 months, we're actually getting used to smiles and hellos from strangers on the street, chatting with neighbors at the curb, and talkative counter clerks. But at first it was freaky. Suspect. An invasion of our personal space. Nosiness. Which is really sad. Self-awareness of our reactions opened our eyes to just how "LA" we had become after 19 years there. I'm happy that my son won't be internalizing that disconnectedness and paranoia as he grows up.

I can't ever use a shopping cart again without thinking about this issue. My friend from Dallas was shocked when she moved here that people did not put their shopping carts in the cart return area when they were done. The idea of leaving shopping carts all over the parking lot is rude and abhorrent to her. She pledged to take the higher road and model proper shopping cart return behavior to the rest of us unrefined Californians. I'm sure she is absolutely right, but what amused both of us is the difference in our perspective on this. My feeling is A) Hey, they pay high school kids and retirees to gather up the carts and bring them in, so it's my civic duty to provide this employment opportunity, and B) especially as a new mom, it was utterly convenient and helpful to find a shopping cart right there on the edge of nearly any parking stall you select so that you can transfer baby into it and immediately use it rather than abandon baby in the car to go find one or carry baby with you to get one and bring it back, and that C) when you leave yours in the corner of your parking spot as you go, you are providing the next person with that same convenience. Apparently, many people agree with me because it is completely accepted culture to not put your cart back as long as you nicely push it to the edge of the parking spot so as not to block the space or hook one wheel in the flower bed so it won't roll away or hit any cars.

I wonder what the unwritten rules are on this in other places and whether anyone else besides my friend has strong feelings about it. BTW, she is living proof that one person can make a difference, because now that she raised my awareness, I have actually taken the time to return my cart properly on many occasions in honor of her (of course, when it was convenient for me). Which brings us to the more serious issue of cart abandonment. In my own defense, I must say that at least I have never removed the cart from the premises and left it out on the streets to
fend for itself. T, a Dallas cowgirl like you should appreciate the tireless work of the Cart Wranglers,the "Loraxes" of the shopping cart world!

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