Of Shopping Carts, and the Best Thing I’ve Ever Seen

shoppingcartsmash.jpgThis last Saturday, The Wife and I volunteered at WFMU for their annual pledge marathon. (You may have seen me write about it a few thousand times.) I did some phone answering and assisted her as she cooked dinner for the DJs and volunteers. It was great and fun and rewarding and I got to hang out with lots of amazing people. But earlier in the day, I saw something that made the day even more special.

We needed a few more items for dinner prep, so we drove to a nearby Shop Rite. If you live in the NYC area, you may remember that on Saturday, we were basically hit by a hurricane. I could literally feel my tiny little car getting pushed by the wind as we chugged along to the store. About a block away from the Shop Rite’s entrance, as we waited at a red light, I saw a rogue shopping cart bolt from the confines of the parking lot and make a run at freedom, straight across an extremely busy, four-lane street.

Unfortunately, this shopping cart jailbreak coincided with the light turning green. As the traffic began to move again, most of the cars managed to avoid it with some judicious swerving and braking, except for one completely oblivious Mercedes SUV. There’s no way the driver of this car could have missed the thing, unless they were facing backwards with their eyes closed. Still, they drove on, making no attempt at evasive action, and so hit the shopping cart head on with a big, rattly WHAM.

Not only was this awesome and hilarious, but it also brought back a fantastic memory. This blast from the past also involved cars, and shopping carts, and the best thing I’ve ever seen.

I was about 11 or 12 years old. My mom had to make a quick run to the Grand Union in town. So my two younger brothers, my cousin, and I piled into her car and went along for the trip, probably so we could finagle a trip to the local video store and rent a Nintendo game right after the groceries were done. I only note the headcount to prove this story can be verified by other sources. What I’m about to tell you actually happened.

As my mom went inside the Grand Union, we stayed in the car and probably listened to a Weird Al tape or something. But we were about to witness something far more mind-blowing than “Like a Surgeon” (no offense, Al). My mom’s car was parked at the edge of the parking lot, facing a small hill that led down to a creek. There was no guardrail or fence or anything else to separate this hill from the parking lot.

Suddenly, we heard an engine racing off in the distance. An angry, growling engine. As the sound got closer, we saw it was attached to an avocado green American car of 70s vintage. Something low and sloped, almost El Camino like. And it was going very fast down the main drag of our small town, in an area where 30 mph speed limits were generally adhered to.

As he neared the Grand Union, he suddenly swerved toward the parking lot without slowing down much, if at all. He peeled into the lot with a horrifying screech, burning rubber and making a dangerously wide arc on his way in. Once he regained control of his vehicle, he aimed it at a parking spot a few slots to our left. The fact that this parking spot had two idle shopping carts in it did not concern him. Or, more likely, he had no time to worry about it, as he spent most of his concentration on driving like a maniac.

The two shopping carts each took a different approach to this assault. One of them was defiant and flipped up in the air, landing upside down on his hood. The other one was more submissive. It launched off of the car’s grill, as if it had been drop kicked, and tumbled down the hill into the creek below.

Somehow, the driver managed to stop his car before it too careened down the ravine. With rubber mist hanging in the air and a shopping cart still clinging to the hood of his car, the driver got out. And this is the craziest part of the story: he walked over to the Grand Union as calmly as I’ve ever seen anyone do anything. Whatever sense of urgency compelled him to drive like a maniac and defy common sense, the self preservation instinct, and the well-being of his vehicle had completely vanished.

It was like something out of the best action movie ever made, but not even the craziest, Jason Statham-iest thriller would have a scene like this in it, because it would stretch the bounds of suspension of disbelief far beyond their limits.

The only bad thing about witnessing this? Even at age 11-or-12, I knew I would NEVER see anything better.