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Honolulu Lite

CHARLES MEMMINGER

Sunday, September 15, 2002


Why some shoppers
put the cart
before the force


I used to get mad at people when I went shopping at Costco and they would run into me with their carts. I'd just be standing there, looking in total disgust at one of those 50-gallon tubs of mayonnaise and some lady would come bearing down on me with her cart the size of the USS Nimitz.

I don't know if there are any rules about cart operation in stores, but I assume it would be something like the operation of boats on the water. Which is to say that the craft under power should avoid stationary objects such as myself -- at that moment a large, slightly nauseated stationary object. But the skipper of the oncoming shopping vessel -- a perfectly normal looking specimen of the housewife variety did not try to avoid me and in fact seemed to accelerate to ramming speed.

The metal bumper near the cart wheels hit me just above my left heel in that really sensitive place just aft of the ankles and I spun around and came close to popping her one in the kisser. It was pure reflex and I held back at the last second. (I don't generally hit women, even if they are smaller than me.) She reversed, altered course, and then advanced into the fog of shoppers, her eyes set on some distant bargain beacon.

The thing is, this stuff always happens to me when I'm shopping. People are constantly walking into me or running their cart into me as if I don't exist. I used to get mad. Then one day, I was watching television and saw this lady who said whenever she was in a mall or a supermarket people would walk directly at her as if she wasn't there. They would walk right into her, surprised when they made contact. This woman figured out that the reason this happened all the time was because she was invisible. At some point, upon entering the mall or store, she became transparent. She could see everyone else, but they couldn't see her or, apparently, her shopping cart.

ONCE I HEARD this I realized I suffered from the same phenomenon. The reason why little old ladies about half my size would crash a shopping cart right into my gut while I watched was because I wasn't there. At Ala Moana Center, I can walk in a straight line from Sears to Macy's and at least 23 people will walk directly into me. I'm a pretty big guy. If I saw someone as big as me approaching, I'd get out of the way.

I don't even have to be moving. I can be standing, looking into a store window and some mom with a baby stroller will take a bead on me from 85 yards away and not deviate her course a millimeter until she has plunged that baby stroller into my shins. And all the while not looking at me, but looking through me.

I believe scientists will discover that large shopping areas like Costco and malls generate a type of energy field that causes certain susceptible people to become invisible. It's a natural thing, like gravity and the reason toast always hits the floor butter-side down.

And it explains a lot. Like why I can never get a salesperson to help me in stores. I thought they were just being rude. But apparently I'm simply not there, so I don't even yell at the people who plow me over in the aisle anymore.

I have noticed, however, that the invisibility decreases the closer you get to the exit. The guy checking receipts at the door manages to see me every time.




Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. E-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com





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