The grocery store parking lot is one of the best opportunities to see life as a free-for-all. As uncaged animals, we humans, somehow unconsciously act comfortably as if the concrete pavement as a see of limitless possibility or our own backyards.
The walkers are quite the variety. Cue the aimless wanderer, taking their time; those people know where they’re going, but they don’t want to give that information out. Even though they are leaving, they don’t want you to have their spot. The other slow walkers take to the middle of the right or left driving lanes. Sometimes they pair- or triple-up, walking side-by-side, slowing any progress.
And then there are the people — like me — who can never find their damn car, repeatedly pressing the unlock button and hoping the trunk will pop open and all those balloons in there will magically fill and float into the sky, signaling to your airhead that the car is near Section 7.
The drivers are either too cautious or too erratic. When there is an opportunity to move around the line of walkers, they choose not to. The rest stop to a quick halt at the stop signs in front of the store, as if they didn’t realize these inanimate warnings were never there. Others cut across the parking lot, ignoring the faulty invisible electric fences marked by yellow lines. Then they’ll carelessly park, hit-and-run an adjacent vehicle or take up two spots.
And the cart leavers, the too-lazy-to-walk folk thinking the cart depot 20 feet away is actually 400, so their cart remains in the corner of their electric yellow fence line, like a horse at a hitching post they’ll never return to. Horses will generate shit, and other drivers will utter the profanity when they accidentally and blindly pull into the spot and ramming the cart, or a strong enough wind pushes the steel steed into their ride.
After all, if the offender didn’t see it happen, the incident never happened in their minds.
At night the teens skateboard around, or they’ll stand around the vehicle and talk until whatever time, drinking SoBes or Mountain Dews or kombucha (or whatever the latest thing is). Daters will sit or lie on the hood of a parent’s car, because when that night license is officially obtained and freedom to cruise is granted any Toyota or Hyundai sedan feels like a ’70s Chevelle.
There’s nothing like hanging out in a parking lot on a Friday evening during the summer. It’s validatable proof of not having an agenda, no rush to have one and no way thinking about the future. It comes across like a rite of passage — or it felt like one back in my years.
And then there are the children, either running circles around the parents or playing the yo-yo game while on a leash. Others sit atop a parent’s shoulders, pretending and learning to fly.
Or they are seated in one of the vanity carts shaped like an animal or car. We never had those, but instead had to endure the rigid plastic covering the metal grates.
There’s something special about grocery runs as a child. Except for that one time I got lost in Wegmans, and some woman brought me to the service desk, where I could have sworn the not-so-elderly woman behind the counter told me she was going to find me a new family, but, thankfully, I turned around to see (through the tears in my eyes) my mother a distance away.
The grocery store was quite the experience as a child. It’s a vast jungle of food. There are so many distinctive smells, including the coffee aisle to the produce, where water occasionally sprays down. Free cookies, usually sugar cookies, were available in the bakery. The video section had an array of the new releases, old releases and a booklet listing the films, the cast, descriptions, the ratings. Oh, the ratings — maybe we can get an R this time?
Plus, who can forget the Nintendo cartridges, which would be joined by Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis cartridges years later? We’d eyeball something to rent, and hope our good behavior would help grant our mental wish true.
But then it was time to leave the little fantasy-painted reality and head for home.
As I cautiously headed out of the Wegmans lot the other day, there was a little girl in one of the vanity green car-shaped shopping carts. Her mother guided the cart to the side of the driving lane and toward their vehicle, maybe a vehicle she’ll one day borrow or eventually own, but, determining her young age, maybe 3 years old, her parents will have a more updated version of whatever make it is.
Her expression fluidly changed from settled to determined to ferocious joy. It was a windy day, and the wind blew through her hair. As the green cart ventured onward, she stationed herself at the helm, her hands on the dashboard. A little wind wasn’t going to blow her backward in her fantasy-coated reality.
Don’t ever lose that, kid.