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« December 2004 | Main | February 2005 »

w January 09, 2005

Shopping Cart Wars

It came to my attention recently that I have a profound and possibly irrational pet peeve, that of shopping carts abandoned at inopportune points in any given parking lot. Probably because of the holidays, I have been going to the grocery store far more than I would probably like, but the task is made even more onerous by these orphaned carts, which always seem to be right in the middle of the parking space I would like.

My truck is not with the elderly shoppers, who are probably getting help out to their cars anyway, nor is it with people for whom it would clearly be a struggle to have to walk more than absolutely necessary to get the grocery shopping done. That being said, most of us out there could probably walk the extra 20 feet (if that) to return the carts to somewhere that isn't supposed to be a designated car slot. Frankly, it would be a major benefit for most of us who ate too much fruitcake or gravy over the holidays, but as I'm fond of saying, that's another rant. I don't even think having kids in tow makes it all that much harder; it would seem a lot of them kind of like riding in the cart anyway.

It's laziness, pure and simple. Or a feeling of entitlement, that returning something to its appropriate spot is just far too unimportant to be bothered with. Let the minimum wage cart monkey do the job, right? I have no doubt that many of the offenders would go insane if someone didn't return something of theirs properly and promptly. Just return the damn cart. Just do it, to co-opt Nike's marketing slam dunk.

Now, there is a flip side to this story, which I am beholden to mention. Our friend Jim, himself a pithy observer of the human condition, did point out that it's kind of nice to have a cart handy once you get out of your car. That, and you get the added bonus of having a bit of metallic armor with you as you cross the parking lot. His theory is this: there are a lot of drivers who might not have much compunction about hitting a pedestrian, or at least shaving it close enough to scare the foolhardy walker into getting out the damn way. On the other hand, most people don't want their car to get nicked, scratched, dinged, or otherwise negatively affected, so they are much more judicious around someone wielding a shopping cart.

Perhaps there is something in this. But I still wish I didn't have to run the risk of dinging my car every time I run the shopping cart gauntlet.

by Heather Hoffman at 8:28 PM

w January 02, 2005

Transglobal Griping

Not a political diatribe, not to fear.

One of my very favorite websites is AirlineMeals; I enjoy reading about food in any form, but somehow the multitude of reviews and pictures of not just your mainstream airlines, but ones like Air Kazahkstan and Air Vanuatu feels like the most self-indulgent form of armchair travel. For someone who really can't stand flying, but likes the *idea* of flying, this is a great treat.

What isn't a great treat, though, is digging through these reviews over time and realizing that most travellers are, frankly, big whingers. I don't know about you, but I've accepted the reality of air travel for the last, oh, 30 years: it's NOT A FIVE STAR RESTAURANT IN THE SKY. Flight attendants are NOT WAITRESSES. Nor are they your airborne mommies, but that's another rant. Some reviews on AirlineMeals are fairly positive, albeit surprised, but the vast majority talk about "hard bagels" and "tasteless rice" and "soggy vegetables". Okay. Ignoring the fact that pretty much sums up most people's "home-cooking", let's understand one simple thing. Everyone flies. EVERYONE FLIES. I don't care if you're flying first class on Singapore Airlines or chartering a FunJet to Las Vegas, you can find pretty much the whole gamut on airplanes.

And that's a good thing, that almost anyone can get where they need to go, reasonably quickly (at least compared to other travel options). But therein is the point: it's transportation. It's not a dining experience. The fact that you get fed at all is now amazing, which is maybe an understandable gripe, but I for one would rather have something in my stomach, regardless of quality.

I'd like to think that most of these bitching reviews are posted for the entertainment value afforded, say, me, but that's not the case, sadly. I really think these travellers expect a level of personalized, impeccable service that went the way of the 707s. I'm not so sure that's a bad thing, though; I mean, for the price of a standard airline ticket, we had a dinner at the famous
French Laundry in Yountville, California (just up the road for us). And to tell you the truth, it wasn't the greatest meal I've ever had in my life. It was good, but it wasn't spectacular. The service was pretty good, and the wine list was extensive. But for the same money, I could have gone to London, or Hawaii, or possibly even farther given some luck on the discount travel agency sites.

And I would have probably gotten some food on those flights too, but the French Laundry didn't send a car to pick me up.

by Heather Hoffman at 2:15 PM