I finally got a granny cart.

For those of us who live in mass transit cities, granny carts are a sound, pragmatic investment. Yet ownership of such an item seems to be entirely the prerogative of elderly women, particularly elderly women of Eastern European origins. Any East coaster has invariably run into them or, more accurately, been run into by them. These angry midgets burst up to the front of the bus queue as if it were their divine right by virtue of age and amount of groceries. They park in the front of the bus, forcing fellow commuters to negotiate around their week’s worth of zweiback, seltzer, and sardines in a cramped space already packed with indolent charter school kids and those unable to retain their bodily fluids. Not a single fuck is given. So it is then that granny carts are stigmatized by those outside the elderly Polish woman clique.

It took three years living in Chicago without a car and some tax return money to wrap my brain around owning a granny cart. Actually, my will broke after about a month of schlepping groceries. It’s too hot/cold. The bags cut off the circulation in your hands. My back starts to ache. Plus, you really can’t get all that much. God help you if you need laundry detergent or if you drink milk. I remember seeing carts on sale at our neighborhood store, but refrained from purchasing one at the time due to unsteady personal finances. However, I suddenly couldn’t find one once my income stabilized – not at Target, Home Depot, Kmart, Walgreens, CVS, and certainly not where I first saw a cart.

“Oh…We stopped carrying those.” (ed note: I’ve also been offered this excuse for a lack of pierogies, among other perfectly mainstream, sensible things that I saw not a few days before. I regard it with suspicion, much like its Parisian counterpart “That is not possible.”)

I remained cartless for some time and even concocted an elderly Polish woman conspiracy to justify my laziness.

During a slow day at my old job, I found a New York Times article in which the author detailed her own conundrum with granny carts. It paralleled mine. It also reminded me that there is this great invention called the Internet where you can have carts delivered to you. Suddenly, a world of possibilities opened up to me – cherry red, shiny chrome, classic black. Carts big enough to effortlessly haul groceries for a family of six. After much deliberation, I chose the smaller, black one for a mere $29.99. Cantaloupe would soon be mine!

As fate would have it, Jeff and I entered a hermetic phase immediately after the cart arrived. We relied heavily on take-out and occasionally picked up groceries on the fly after work. My transformative moment occurred when one night, over saltines and whiskey (a.k.a. “aperitifs”), Jeff remarked that we had yet to take granny cart out for a spin. It had been at least a two months since its purchase. I resolved to remedy the situation that weekend.

How did it turn out? Well…

Do you ever have those moments where you strike out to do something with great optimism and realize halfway there that you haven’t thought it out entirely? Yes? Welcome to my life in Chicago.

It dawned on me that the cart might be an issue once in the store. Its vertical alignment requires that I completely rearrange the order in which I shop. My usual route guided by the store’s layout – produce to dairy to household goods – would mean smashed grapes. Suddenly, the tiny chaos of Windy City was even more unmanageable. Then came the litany of internal questioning, accompanied by the “Grease” soundtrack blared from tinny speakers. If I decided to use a regular grocery cart, where would I put my granny cart? What if a babushka tried to steal it or mistook it for her own? Would I have to fight her? If I used the granny cart, would the employees think I was shoplifting? Exactly how much can this thing hold? What if there was snow on the ground? Does this thing have good suspension? What if I hit a bump in the sidewalk and all my groceries come crashing out? (They did.)

In the end, the granny cart is better than schlepping by hand although there are still some logistical kinks to work out. We didn’t come back any better prepared for a week of cooking than we normally would. In fact, our haul was rather ridiculous that day: a family pack of chicken legs, something called “smoked Polish sausage for beer,” two bottles of Moet Imperial, and a bunch of random vegetables. Perhaps I need to dig deeper and fully manifest my inner babushka; the old lady who prioritizes her lunch meat over bus manners, the one wise beyond eternity and infinitely more fabulous than all ya’ll bitches in her 4’8″ of fur, excessive perfume, and crooked fuschia lipstick.

A grocery list would help too.

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