Now that my daughter is of the legal driving age (for grocery cart vehicles, that is), trips to the grocery store have been, dare I say it, pleasant. My son is still of an age that finds him happy to sit and stare at all the people while munching away on some snack, while my daughter steers this way and that, learning how to signal, to honk, and manage other kids' road rage.
The only cloud on these sunny times is the process of ascertaining the most desirable vehicular cart: the police car.
It's the only one she wants.
There are fire trucks and taxi cabs, decorated with stickers and painted a bright red. And there are a lot of the them. There are only two police cars and, for some reason incomprehensible to the adults, every kid seems to want them.
So, we slowly creep into the parking lot to best survey the rows of carts, as well as any stray returns hiding out. Sometimes both are taken, and the result is an audible sigh with shoulders turned down (a response we both share); but more times than not, there is one police car available.
Upon spying its location, I dart into the parking spot closest to it in proximity, trying to avoid other carts, people, and the teenage cart collector, who may or may not be listening to the Barenaked Ladies.
As I jump out of the car and hastily unbuckle my charges from their seats, a faint glimmer of sanity whispers from the depths of my once reasonable mind and says,
"What the hell is wrong with you? It's a grocery cart....and a germy one."
Nevermind that, I must get it before some other little imp gets his paws on it and I am left with a forelorn little girl.
As we head toward the object of our desire, I notice out of the corner of my eye another child, a girl, pointing enthusiastically at what seems to be the police car, which is trapped amid a web of normal carts near the front entrance.
"Not a chance, sister," I whisper to myself as my pace quickens to a trot while my children squeal with delight.
I'm breathless, I'm determined, I'm kind of sweating, and I am inches away from the cart.
Our paths meet, but we are one step ahead of the would-be usurpers. I announce, "Oh, there's that cart you wanted....the police car!"
I do this in the event that the other mom is more dexterous in detangling carts. Now, she would just appear evil if she went after it after my proclamation.
I am so smart. I dive into the grocery cart calamity.
But wait. Where did she go? My opponent has disappeared.
No, actually she didn't. She and her daughter are happily sorting through the rows of potted herbs while I, sweaty and stupid, try to steer the largest, most annoying, most destructive means of food shopping imaginable.
As I begin my shopping, my embarassed bravado is only overshadowed by my desperate attempts not to knock over the complex displays precariously placed at the end of each aisle.