Saturday, January 14, 2006

Meijer and the 21st century cart

sitting in my third grade class, I distinctly remember Miss Diggle's southern drawl detailing what life would be like when we lived on the moon. the filmstrip would tick off picture after picture of large half-bubbles with myriads of hamster-like tubes connecting each bubble. it would all mirror the buck rogers tv show (I secretly hoped minus the irritating Twiki robots). on the moon we could by-pass all food preparation and eat food pellets or at least the conveniently packed pureed stuff. at the time it looked so possible so do-able, I mean the microwave oven had just hit the market--everyone was afraid of the microwaves cooking their brains so they didn't sell very well--but we seemed to be on the right track!

fast forward 30 years: no bubbles, no tubes, no space-age jumpsuits, no Twikis (well that's ok), and no pellet food! each time I go through Meijer's candy, magazine, and balloon festooned cattle corral check-out lane, I wonder what in the world the NASA engineers are doing?! think about it, we still drive cars on four wheels, we still fly ariplanes to get anywhere, and we still have to go through the unbelievable rig-a-ma-roll of grocery shopping! put the groceries on the store shelf, pull the groceries off the shelf and put the groceries in the cart, pull them out of the cart onto the conveyer belt, put them back in the cart in noisy bags, pull them out of the cart and into your car, pull them out of the car and then into your home, pull them out of your noisy bags and onto your shelf. what does a 21st century gal hafta do for some space-age help here?

so what's my point? do I really want to eat pellet food--the easy answer is no. I see the intrinsic value of real food and food traditions. but there are so many other areas of the whole grocery shopping experience that we (when I say "we" I mean the creative, scientific, bill gates-type, collective we) can improve on...

it has happened to me countless of times, at first I thought I was losing my mind. I had walked four steps from my partially filled cart of milk, eggs, baby wipes, etc. to read the labels of some wasabi peas (MSG search), only to return and find my cart sporting a very large case of Michelob. nothing against Michelob, but you see I don't drink--well, I drink, I just don't drink things that have been fermented and cause me to lose the function of my brain. I have turned my back and turned around again to find that I had aged forty years and now needed the use of Depends, Polident, and an assortment of prescription meds.

the most surreal was when I was right next to my cart with my infant son strapped into the seat portion. to me, nothing stakes a cart claim like a live human. suddenly, a lady starts dumping in boxes and boxes of on-sale cake mixes into my cart. "um, this is my cart, I think you've made a mistake," I half-laugh. she looks at me, "no this is my cart and that's my baby," she replies. I'm suddenly thrown into panic mode, wondering if I've just sashayed into the mother of all Meijer crazies. somehow, despite my startled state, I manage to slowly (gotta move slow around these crazies) glide my hands onto the cart's handlebar ready to bulldoze her if necessary. I can feel the critical-mass effect rising in the aisle when out-of-the-blue I hear another baby cry. I look over her shoulder to see her baby and her cart at the other end of the aisle. oh yeah, we had a good nervous laugh out of that one, quickly bolted the aisle and ignored each other when we crossed in other aisles.

I could go on and on, citing confused elderly men at the check-out lane wondering why they would buy dog food and tampax when neither applied to their situation, or the woman chasing another woman calling out, "my cart! you've taken my cart!" or the mutterings of people "I just don't remember putting that in my cart."

why can't Meijer offer a hover cart with identity capabilities that blares a loud siren when an unauthorized person attempts to put items in or walk away with the wrong cart. one that follows the shopper around, gives recipe ideas, keeps a running scan with prices, and then infrareds the information to the check-out computer, and finally, gently slides the groceries into a car. is that too much to ask and/or expect from the Meijer R&D department (is there such a thing?)? the answer is probably "yes" since we are in the 21st century and their carts seem to look and act a lot like the last seven centuries.

so, all you problem solvers out there or even the NASA techno movers and shakers that have been taking a break on the whole moon colony thing--why not use your powers to do good? at the very least, someone please come up with a cart wheel that actually works!

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