As I breezed through the automatic doors the Wal-Mart greeter had pushed it out into the center aisle. A magnanimous gesture. I would not have to retrieve my own from a herd of carts stashed in the stall near the entry. There it stood, appearing as a gift with my name on it. So, I grabbed it by the plastic, one-piece handlebar and smiled with satisfaction as I began to orient myself toward said aisle with said items needed on this particular Wal-Mart episode.
But my grin soon turned to grimace as I felt the front left wheel of the cart out of sync with the rest. Like a car needing a front-end alignment, my cart was clearly conflicted about which way it wanted to go at any particular moment, but mostly seemed content to fight the direction I wanted to go.
Reluctant to return it for a new one—which might only prove the same, or worse, I accepted my fate and pushed onward, leaning my shoulders into it, as if trying to guide a pinball machine’s ball into the hole that would rack up points like crazy.
I stared at others who seemed to guide their carts in relative ease, zooming down and up the aisles to their intended light bulbs and pumpkin-scented candles. Jealousy. Self- loathing. “If only I had their cart”, I thought, “shopping would be so much more fulfilling!”
I persevered, and with the necessary items in the grated belly of my behemoth, I steered it through the cashier’s line, and then on to my vehicle, straining to steer out of the path of an oncoming truck and a backing Buick. I found myself about to curse the damn poor excuse of a cart before pushing it hard into the parking lot corral. But just then, a voice came—from outside of me. Yet it was not audible, but internal. The voice struck my conscience: “Ken, that cart is you!” Now this was something I must contemplate.
I am the cart. Compromised. Imperfect. Yet still usable in the right hands. My hearing capabilities closer to a man twice my age. My organs already requiring prescriptions to ward off worsening conditions. My back a ticking time bomb waiting for me to lift one heavy object, or try one more DVD in the “Insanity” workout. I am that cart. Flawed. Compromised. Yet easily shined up and put into service. I may require a forgiving driver. One not too easily flustered. One who is up for a challenge, and not a mere memoryless errand. I hope after that parking lot epiphany that I may be more gentle and tolerant with inanimate, flawed tools, and their human counterparts. For who is perfect after all? But with patience, persistence, and grace, we all may be useful nonetheless.