A few months ago, I would have read his blog like the majority of his readers, laughed, felt a little bad for Matt, agreed with him, and then posted some comment about how people who don't put their shopping carts back are lazy jerks. Or I would have re-posted with a snicker.
That was before my experience in the Kroger parking lot near Danville, KY.
The fam and I were bringing our groceries back to the car and loading them into the back. An elderly woman had just pulled in to a spot near us (we were about thirty feet from a cart corral), on the store side. At about the same time, another elderly woman was unloading her groceries into the car across from Elderly Woman #1.
EW#1: Can I use your cart?
EW#2: If you can wait 'til I'm finished. I need it to hold on to so I can keep myself up. She chuckles a little at her own situation.
EW#1: Chuckles back, knowingly. That's why I asked to use your cart! I need it too!
They both laugh. EW#1 pulls a walker from the back seat while simultaneously holding on to the car door. She walks over to a cart that someone left in the middle of the parking lot - just near the cart return, but closer to a handicapped space. She grabs the card with one hand and put the walker inside. Then, she pushes the cart back to her car, unloads the walker, and grips the cart tightly, holding herself steady. She closes the car door. EW#2 is still unloading her groceries, keeping one hand on the cart at all times. It is a slow process, but a meaningful one: she is still able to do this independently.
EW#1: You have a good day now!
EW#2: She waves at her new acquaintance. You too!
EW#1 walks into the store with her cart. EW#2 finishes unloading her groceries and closes the car's back door. She pushes the cart up to the driver's seat and opens the door. She looks around furtively. It is obvious that she knows she should return the cart rather than leaving it here next to the parking space, but she also knows she can't get back to her car without it. She looks at the cart, then back to the corral, then at the cart. Finally, she leaves the cart where it is and gets into her car, closes the door, and drives away.
I watched all of this with a kind of awe. I never thought about how difficult it must be for an elderly person or for a person with any sort of physical handicap to return a cart to the corral.
I know that there are likely people who just leave their carts in the middle of the parking lot out of laziness or foolishness or the fact that they are super late getting home... There are also people who honestly can't put the cart away, but need it to get their groceries and to get inside the doors of the store.
In the future, perhaps instead of complaining about the ridiculousness of someone else's actions - someone whose situation we don't know and can't know - perhaps those of us who are able-bodied and have a little time could help out with the parking lot situation.
If you see a cart someone has left mid-parking lot (and honestly, there aren't usually very many), take a few extra seconds out of your day and return it to the corral for them. They might be sick, in labor, elderly... they could have left that cart for any myriad of reasons. In my travels I have found that for the most part, everyone is doing the very best they can with what they have at the time. So try seeing the situation a different way, and maybe you could keep damage from happening to someone's car like what happened to Matt's. Or maybe you'll just make someone's day.
For more on this topic, check out Rob Bell's NOOMA:Store. (I'd post it here, but it's not free)