Shopping cart moments are the best!


I shopped at my food co-op this morning and rolled the filled cart out to my car parked on a side street.

I’m a responsible kind of gal so, after unloading the groceries, I began to push the cart back up an incline toward the racks in the store. (Puff, puff.) About halfway up, an incoming customer offered to take the cart from me and return it. (Yeah!) I thanked him (profusely). Suddenly, I heard him say, as he turned around and faced me “Two dollars.”

Whoa, definitely caught me off guard, knew he was joking (I thought) but for a moment was completely bereft of a good comeback (Eeeek, I pride myself on comebacks.)

Ah, inspiration. I put my right hand over my heart, bowed slightly, and said “Heartfelt.” Figuratively patting myself on the head for a wonderful comeback, I heard the man reply, “Heartfelt? You can’t buy anything with that.” A few seconds of mutual silence and then we both cracked up laughing. Even if I never see this man again, we built a memorable bridge to each other — a bridge of feeling alive that did not exist previously. Just a wee bit of humor and a shopping cart.

Aha, I have a thing for catchall phrases, and this new one seems apropos — shopping cart moments. I love it! Those times (with or without a literal shopping cart) in which two human beings come together, transforming a moment into unexpected magic, joy, connection, a life essence that wasn’t present before. We could be as different as night and day, but in shopping cart moments, an alchemical reaction occurs and something brand new is created, if only for a matter of minutes. And those minutes, even if brief, continue to resonate, growing and filling us.

Like the following shopping cart moment. Sitting and awaiting a to-go order at my favorite Mexican restaurant. Another to-go customer joined me at the long bar-like table. OK, I admit it, I was initially in judgment overdrive (I’m human!!) about her artfully decked-out appearance (jealous?) and possibly Botoxed lips. (Mea culpa.) But once we began talking about her passion for fostering dogs, all my judgments melted away. Gone. I was in thrall. As Aretha Franklin sang,  R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

As another lover of dogs who does not have the fortitude to do rescue work, I walked away from the restaurant feeling grateful for this woman’s presence in the animal world. Poof, my initial judgments went to the dogs!

So, you may ask, why am I so enamored of the catchall phrase “shopping cart moments,” aside from the fact that I made it up? The term reminds me of how the ordinaryness of everyday life — shopping carts, for heaven’s sake — have such capacity to lift us up and contribute to our overall aliveness. Shopping carts are everywhere! So is aliveness and wonder. Ready for my next shopping adventure…

Jan Hutton is a retired hospice/hospital social worker who believes in living life with heart and humor. She has happily lived in Chatham for 20 years.


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