Did you ever notice how a shopping cart in any place other than a supermarket or a supermarket parking lot looks extremely out of place and even a little disturbing? I saw one during my morning commute a few weeks ago. It was so near the road that I almost clipped it. It was there the next morning. And the next. And the next.
The evening commute takes me on a slightly different path that did not go past the shopping cart, and so I only saw the shopping cart in the morning. I did not the shopping at all until I passed it, and when I did, I would be reminded of all previous encounters. At first I was disturbed just by the sight of the shopping cart, but after a few days I became disturbed more by the fact that I only thought about the shopping cart when I passed it in the morning, and wouldn’t think about it again until the next encounter the following morning. It was like the shopping cart and I shared a universe for a few brief seconds and then separated into distinct realities.
Did the shopping cart feel the same way about me? “Every morning a car with Mark Kaplowitz inside drives by,” the shopping cart says to itself, “but I don’t see the car in the afternoon, and I don’t think about it until the next morning when it passes by again.” Did the shopping cart find the routine as unsettling as I did? I began think the shopping cart was looking at me when I passed it. I began to feel self-conscious during that stretch of road.
Then, a few mornings ago, as I approached the shopping cart spot and started anticipating its presence and steely gaze, I saw that the shopping cart was gone. Then I saw that it wasn’t gone, but merely pushed over on its side. Someone must have had the same feeling I had, and finally could no longer stand the stare of the shopping cart. It must have been dangerous to stop a car in the middle of a road to push over a shopping cart. Maybe it was done late at night when traffic was light.
Whatever the circumstances, the spell was broken. I can now think about the shopping cart at any time of the day. And I do. I picture it lying there, among the tall grass, enjoying the precious last days of summer.