The lonely chariots

Michael McGuire

People line up to meet them. They grab and they push; they reach out to them, they depend on them.

Jet-setting from one place to another, these immortals are welcome wherever they go, never sleeping in the same place twice.

Everybody knows them, Everybody wants them.

Known as the “Cortland Street Camel” or the “Silver Street Side-Car,” the life of a shopping cart may seem envious, even desirably dangerous to an outsider.

However, based on what I’ve gathered from these nomadic icons, it is really a lonely, somewhat abusive, and solitary life of confinement – lived on the streets of America. They’re filled with glamor by day, and left cold and empty by night, stained with the fingerprints of a thousands hands that left drunk with the satisfaction of consumption.

“The only thing that helps us keep it together is the songs,” said a young local cart, who did not wish to be identified. “Most of the time they leave us out here together, four or five at a time, stranded on a corner or lawn somewhere. So we just sing – it makes us feel alive.”

Listening to their songs, such as “Enough with the wheelies,” “It was nice ridin’ with ya, lawnmower,” and “I wasn’t made for that,” they describe an existance of lost purpose and lost hope.

Like their mothers and fathers before them (despite constant innovations in their appearance, steering and load capacity), these carts live each moment knowing that their destination is out of their control, and that each new journey could be their last.

“I used to get sad about it,” said Barry, a 12 year-old cart from the old A&P who learned 4 years ago that the grocery store had been closed, and that he would probably never again be reunited with his friends and family. “I used to rust and bend about it, I even rolled myself off Red Mill Bridge a time or two. But they found me. They always do.”

Barry currently resides near a stop sign on Canasawacta Street, and says the most painful part about being a cart is watching the younger generations suffer the same fate as him.

“I pray everyday that they don’t make anymore of us,” he said. “I wish they didn’t make us so strong. I pray that someday it will all be over. I don’t think it ever will – I am so tired.”

Barry’s fate is the fate of many carts. They don’t know why JOE, their eternal Store Manager, let’s them roam the earth alone and homeless. They hope someday for a savior, someone to round them up, bring them home and give them a purpose.

Until that day they are reserved to believing that JOE works in mysterious ways.