I went into the grocery store today. I bought the following:
  • 2 gallons 2% fat milk
  • 1 quart 1% fat milk
  • 5 bananas
  • 1 dozen eggs
I didn't use a shopping cart - not the large kind with wheels, and not the small basket kind with metal handles. I just carried the stuff in my hands or under my arm as the situation called for. I'm pretty dextrous, so I had the quart of milk on my left pinky, and the remaining three fingers and thumb held the eggs and bag of bananas. The other hand held the two gallons of milk. Use of the hands to hold more than one diverse object each is probably what befuddled my observers the most - read on.

I do this quite frequently. I only take a shopping cart if I know I'm going to get something heavy or too much stuff to be easily carried. As always, I noticed an interesting sociological phenomenon - people (always in pairs, never single individuals) wait until they think I'm out of earshot and make snide comments about how I'm not using a cart. "Why is he making it hard on himself?" and "Wouldn't it be easier to just use a cart?" are the two most common remarks.

Folks, there are two reasons: speed and efficiency.

  1. Speed. I don't want to take time to find the carts, jimmy one out of the stack, and then have to slowly push it around, unless I need to. I also don't like the hand baskets; they're ungainly and painful to hold heavy objects in, such as two gallons and one quart of milk - the metal handles tend to foul up on the tops of cartons and dig into my fingers.
  2. Efficiency. When I walk into the store, I already know whether or not I can carry the stuff I need. If I know there will be enough stuff to make carrying inefficient, I will locate a wheeled cart and use it instead. If, however, I can carry all the stuff in my hands, why bother? I sometimes see people roll up to the express line with a bottle of wine, a block of cheese, and French bread, all in the "purse/toddler holder" area of a roll-around basket. Some of these people might take a while to locate the above items, but if you live in the area and shop there frequently, you know where the stuff is, so where's the advantage to using a cart at 9:30 at night when the express line is short or nonexistent?
I guess the grocery store is a sort of microcosm of society in general; nonconformal behavior results in varying degrees of chastisement. Demonstrating some pre-planning and dextrousness amid a sea of slowly-meandering shoppers will get you offhand comments, whereas chucking eggs and fruit over the meat counter at the poultry would probably result in more severe chastisement, such as beatings, laughter and possibly police intervention. (If anyone has tried the latter, I'd be very intereststed in reading about it here.)

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