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Whittling Away: Meet ‘Flipper,’ grocery cart with weird wheels

October 9, 2019 11:43 am

It’s out there, waiting, hiding in the pack, looking like all the others. It knows when I’m coming and somehow it works its way to the front of the pack waiting for me to pull it from the herd. I’m sure I’m not its only victim but by now we’re on a first name basis. I call him “Flipper,” you probably know him as the grocery cart with the weird wheels.

I look forward to my trips to the market as a mini-adventure, which shows you where my life is at. The whole trip is a challenge, a series of decisions which if made properly means an uneventful day. Blow just one, however, and things can get interesting.

First decision of the day is parking. Not too close to other vehicles, don’t want door dings! Try to park on a high spot so that runaway carts roll away and not toward your vehicle. Walk quickly to the store doors, looking in all directions to avoid being backed over by moms in mini-vans full of kids and dogs or run over by large ladies pushing large carts.

The next decision is made at the doors, do you assume that the automatic door opener is working today or on the blink? I usually approach with caution, I’ve done several nose plants in the past and am now wary of any mechanical doorman. It works! Isn’t technology grand.

There it is, the cart corral. Innocent enough looking, they stand patiently in nice shiny rows, but I know Flipper is waiting. I take my time and look them all over, I finally cut one out of the herd and roll it back and forth to check the wheels. All seems to be fine, this one looks good and is only half full of torn and tattered sales circulars, so off I go. Twenty-five feet and all is well! This is my lucky day! At 30 feet, the front wheels start with a small flutter. I turn down the first aisle and the flutter increases, by the time I’ve made it past the 132 different kinds of bottled water, the wheels are now flipping rapidly back and forth shaking the cart violently. Flipper!!!

The sensible thing would be to go back and get another cart. I like a challenge though and it’s a long way back to the cart corral so I decide to tough it out. I try walking slower so the wheels don’t flutter so rapidly. Not only doesn’t it work, now the wheels are making a loud noise that sounds like,” fludder — fludder — fludder.” People are starting to look, some sympathetically, some with annoyance. This is embarrassing.

Next decision — something heavy! Get enough weight in the cart and that should stop the front wheels from flipping around. I’m near the meats so I toss a couple of hams and a large frozen turkey into the cart, it is helping, three gallons of milk and it’s definitely better. I proceed down the aisle almost silently, heading for the checkout as fast as possible. Flipper isn’t done yet though, about half way to the checkout, one of the rear wheels locks up, causing me to swerve violently to the right into a display of tomato sauce, which amuses a screaming three year old, being dragged by a rather harried young woman. In fact it amuses him so much that he stops howling, wipes his nose on his mother’s leg and smiles. I back out of the sauce, kick the wheel loose and head for the checkout again, running over the kid’s foot in the process, leaving him the way I found him.

The 3-hour wait in line was uneventful, and as usual I learn more than I want to know about celebrities and their goings-on. I return Flipper to the herd, give it a swift kick and a hard stare, walk to my truck, put my purchase inside, remove the flock of Flipper’s buddies that have my vehicle surrounded and drive home.

I’m still trying to explain my purchases to the Queen of our castle. Can it be she’s never met Flipper?

Thought for the week — When the chips are down, the buffalo is empty.

Until next week, may you and yours be happy and well.

Reach Dick Brooks at