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March 9, 2013

As Time Goes By: Coming of age in the grocery store

The Daily Star

---- — As we age, there are events in our lives that are considered “milestones.”

A milestone is a baby taking his or her first steps. 

A milestone is a christening where the entire family makes a trek to be with the newest member of the clan.

A milestone is when your children get married. (A stone for each couple.)

The latest milestone in my life occurred when I climbed into one of those electric cars they have at supermarkets to assist those people with walking or standing limitations.

I was having a very bad day coping with my mobility-challenged legs. I was grouchy and curt with everyone. I did not want to be old. I did not want to be mobility-challenged. Everything on or in my body was going to hell in a handbasket. I was shouting “STOP,” but the hearing aids in my ears had run out of electricity.

Where the heck is that pink energy bunny that runs around beating that bass drum when you need him? He probably is in Washington trying to jump-start the legislators into action. “Burn them good, Pinky!”

At the moment of lowest despair when life seemed to run into the gutter and down the sewer, a ray of sunshine landed gently on my shoulder and I heard my wife Diane, say “Why don’t you try this electric cart?” Why not, indeed!

I let go of my walker and hobbled over to the conveyance. It was simply a cart with a basket in the front for shopping convenience, a steering mechanism that made it capable of making right- and left-handed turns, a lever operated by hand that enabled you to go forward and reverse, and a horn that went “Beep!”. The battery was at full charge, so away we went! 

My first attempts at steering were clumsy. I’d get partway into the turn and forget to keep pressure on the lever that gave it the power to move. I looked just like that car on T.V. that keeps jumping forward and then stopping.

In no time I had mastered the eye-hand coordination necessary for smooth operation and people started having confidence in my ability to stop by getting in my way.

I was mumbling under my breath that what I needed was one of those old fashioned “ooga” horns that could be found on old Model Ts.

A moment later, I looked at the steering column and spied a button that said, “Press here if you want to scare people out of their shorts.” I did, expecting some kind of noise that would herald attention to clear the road or aisle whichever came first. I hoped for something you would find on an 18-wheeler.

All I got was a feeble “feep.” The sound was akin to something when you are blowing your nose after your mucous membranes had gone dry.

It sounded like something you would give to a vehicle that was on its last legs. “Feep!” I could make more noise rubbing two crickets together.

I tried it out on a group that has holding a coffeeklatsch in a center aisle. They didn’t even look up. Nobody respects the elderly anymore.

Still, I had a ball! No longer was I confined to the distance my legs could walk before I felt like collapsing. I could scoot from the meat display to the wine display and find out what was “on sale.” Then I could scoot back and pick out some meat for the main entrée and have a coordinated bottle of wine to match the choice. Compliments were sure to abound.

As I zipped along, Diane kept trying to catch me, mumbling that we had just blown an entire month’s food bill on meat and wine and that I had to stop. I just pressed “Feep,” and kept going.

Just about this time my finger started cramping from holding the “accelerator” wide open for such a long length of time.

The store manager had joined Diane in an attempt to stop me before we had to declare bankruptcy or I hit someone on the hairpin turns connecting one aisle with another. (Good exercise for Diane.)

After I was “captured,” I had to return most of the wine and meat. I was allowed to keep the pre-cooked whole chicken and a few ham steaks, but all the wine had to go back.

I was not allowed to bring them back piecemeal like I did when I was a “buyer” — one trip for all the wine, one trip for all the meat. Some people can sure take the joy out of shopping.

For some reason the manager took my picture and I suspect that I am being “posted” on the walls where you get the electric carts at other shopping markets.

The people on television tell me I can get a cart at no or little expense of my own. I am going give them a call and see what the deal is.

As time goes by, I’ll keep you posted on my next adventure.


Henry Geerken is a three-time NYSUT award-winner writing humorous articles addressing retiree and senior citizen concerns. Geerken also writes for Sail-World, World Cruising Newsletter, regarding his many humorous sailing episodes through the years. He can be reached by email at ‘Senior Scene’ columns can be found at