Daily (Or When the Mood Takes Me) Gripe: Truant Trolleys

There is a new social curse taking over our suburbs! It has nothing to do with terrorism, violence or teenagers sexting. It is rapidly becoming the scourge of our local streets, blocking egress, despoiling our parks and verges. It’s the dreaded deserted…supermarket trolley!

For want of something better to do while walking my groceries home recently – minus the assistance of a supermarket trolley, I should point out – from my local shopping centre, I counted them. A total of eleven – yes, eleven – that I could see, including two in intimate collusion near a main road, with God-only-knows-what on their minds. Trouble, undoubtedly!

Now, if it was old people using them to transport their meagre pension-depleting purchases home, or people with disabilities wheeling them along the footpaths,serving the double purpose of grocery trolley and walking frame or prosthetic transport, or the homeless fitting them out with entertainment unit and dilapidated though comfy lounge, perhaps I could understand it. But it’s not!

Last week, it was two distractingly strapping backpackers trolleying four measly bags of groceries along the main road. Admittedly, it was a warm day, and they were partially stripped off, but surely these burley boys could have handled two lousy bags each. I didn’t personally feel the need to “borrow” a trolley to cart my eight bags of groceries home – I like to think there is some payoff for my time in the gym. Today it was three strapping girls with about the same quantity of bags as the guys – though fully dressed, thankfully. One was wheeling, while the other two guided. I have a vague suspicion this particular trolley may have ended up as one of the two trolleys in collusion.

What is really mind-boggling about these truant trolleys is the distance they travel. Not one of the eleven I spotted today even belonged to my local supermarket. They were all labelled ‘Woolworths’ and ‘Coles’ (and clearly labeled with a phone number to ring if they are lost – which, obviously, no one had rung) which means they were a 25-minute walk from their original home. Now, it’s hard enough to handle these trolleys down a supermarket aisle (I have a conspiracy theory that the store managers select the most uncontrollable trolleys, and when they see me coming they divert one to where they know I will collect it), let alone manoeuvring one down a footpath, wobbling over its high and lows, rattling over its bumps and furrows, negotiating gutters and pedestrian crossings with errant meanderings. The people who had the patience to do this – and then ingloriously dumping the poor trolley after all that hard work – surely should be awarded some sort of medal for their perseverance!

It’s not as if you see trolleys decked out as attractive plant holders on the side of the road, or covered with some fetching floral vinyl, living out their days as a little old ladies shopping cart. They are not used as baby carriages, to walk pets, nor used as a means of moving house – okay, they sre occasionally used to move house! They just sit by the side of the road looking sad and lonely, unloved and…slightly sinister.

I certainly know in what high affection I hold the movers of these trolleys, as I wait outside my local ‘Coles’ for someone to finish their shopping so I can collect and use their trolley. They seem to run out of trolly’s with boring regularity at our local supermarket. If I’d known they were going to be in such short supply at the door, I could have taken one from the street, and claimed it as my own. What a novelty….wheeling it TO the supermarket. No one would ever believe that!

On the upside, of the six I counted in my street in the week just after new years – perhaps they had hangovers and weren’t able to find their way back to the supermarket – there were none today. I have to admit to feeling a bit let down that there were eleven between my street and the junction, and none to be seen in what is obviously a regular gathering place for them. I don’t know where they have gone – it’s one of life’s mysteries, but I hope it’s a happier place than outside some ugly 70’s apartment building, holding rags of clothing, and disused household appliances.

As for the two in intimate collusion, their very obvious attempt to reproduce was actually, to all intended purposes, successful. I saw a little girl wheeling one of their babies around the supermarket today. It was so sweet, and looked so much like the parents. When I contemplated all the ordeals they had gone through – the exhaust fumes, sizzling hot sun, torrential rain, one had to admire their sheer tenacity. Lo, a sub-culture is born.

I note that the supermarkets are getting savvy about keeping their flocks of shopping trolleys contained these days. Finding that the coin-operated locks only added to their workload with coin jams, and that people rejected the notion of a deposit, they have opted for a technological approach. They are inserting magnetic strips at shopping centre exits, and any trolley attempting a getaway automatically has its wheels locked as it crosses the strip. Good idea – I think! I have a mental image of gangs of liitle old ladies and the homeless, armed with sledge hammers and tool kits, either digging the strips out of the ground, or removing trolley wheels, tossing the body over the strip, then replacing the wheels. Where there’s a will…

If it is the intention of all these truant trolleys to take over the world, I have little doubt the will succeed, and succeed by using us as unintentional allies. As we dump more and more of them onto the streets, they will start to band together. En-masse they will take over our streets, blocking our doorways and driveways, eventually forcing us to surrender by starving us into submission…the ultimate irony indeed!

So, as you drift towards sleep tonight, feel slightly uneasy. Those trolleys clogging your street today may be gone tomorrow – and to where….you may never know!

Tim Alderman
Copyright 2013

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