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Christmas shrinks personal cart space

Quote of the day: “Hail! Hail! The gang’s all here.” – D. A. Estrom

“Silver bells, silver bells / It’s Christmas time in the city”

As I walk in the front doors of one of Santa Fe’s upscale grocery stores, the produce department sounds like a Christmas cattle drive gone cowbell crazy.

Everywhere I look, aisles are crowded. People are rushing as if en route to an urgent bathroom visit. Shoppers, with one ear attached to their cell phone, fuss over lettuce as if choosing their last supper, albeit an organic one.

Desperate, I park my cart in a little nook the marketing director has actually failed to fill. Unfortunately, in the time it takes me to pick my first item up for purchase, the cart is gone, snatched away in a flash.

Mike Andberg.

Mike Andberg.

I go back to the store entrance and get another cart. The only one left is a huge family-size monstrosity. As I wheel the tank-like contraption back to produce, I get butt-ended by other people trying to turn their tanks around.

Space is at an all-time premium today. Some people act like there’s a personal two-foot area surrounding their cart that I’ll get shocked by if proceeding within. (I don’t exactly experience shocks, as if entering the customer’s electric dog-fenced yard, but do see snarls and flashes of customer teeth.) Wasn’t the personal cart space in August at least three feet in width?

Cautiously navigating my way out of produce, I head to one of the store’s middle aisles. It’s clear! Suddenly, Christmas carols are replaced by “We’re Off to See the Wizard.” I kick my heels in mid-air as I skip down the lane for no other reason than I can.

Soon, however, like Dorothy in Oz’s Munchkinland Square, shoppers descend upon me from all directions. I stop to watch my fellow New Mexicans race around, as if by doing this they’ll shave time off their unalterable 15-minute check-out experience.

I hear Christmas lyrics again – “Strings of street lights / Even stop lights / Blink a bright red and green / As the shoppers rush home with their treasures” – and get scared. Exiting my aisle, I look both ways for oncoming speeding traffic, then get bumped from behind by another M4 Sherman war machine. Don’t traffic laws for carts exist during Christmas season, too – the season of giving? How sad.

Christmas brings shopping cart aggression in a Santa Fe grocery store. (Courtesy of Mike Andberg)

Christmas brings shopping cart aggression in a Santa Fe grocery store. (Courtesy of Mike Andberg)

Christmas isn’t a very heartwarming holiday. Because of it, and feeling crowded, people just get grumpy. All I really want to do now is shop, pay and get out of here.

Approaching my car in the parking lot (with its Munchkin-sized lanes and Munchkin-sized parking spaces), my checkout line bagger suddenly rushes up and says, “Oh, sir, you left your bottled water behind. Here it is. And happy holidays, sir.”

He smiles. I smile. We even shake hands.

“Silver bells / Silver bells / Soon it will be Christmas Day.”

Maybe Christmas hasn’t completely failed the test after all. I guess it just depends on who you bump into.

Mike Andberg is a resident of Santa Fe.

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