Opinion: The shopping cart parable

Andrew M. Santos

Everyone who lives in Juneau is familiar with the Taku Winds, but especially residents of Douglas and the downtown area. They are fierce.

Early on a January morning a couple years ago, I went to Foodland. It was still dark and the Taku Winds were blowing. I needed pellets for my pellet stove. I had made my purchase and was in the parking lot loading the bags of pellets into my car when I heard a noise. It was the noise of a shopping cart being blown across the parking lot. I didn’t see it, but I could tell from the noise that it was picking up speed. Then, it crashed hard into a nearby car. I walked over to view the damage. It had crashed into a fairly new pickup truck and there was visible damage. Then, it occurred to me: Not that long ago this never would have happened because until some years ago everyone dutifully returned the shopping carts to the storage area inside the building. This is how I know that our society is going in reverse.

In my view, the most fundamental measure of a society is how we treat each other — especially people we don’t know. The simple act of returning a shopping cart to its storage place shows respect for other patrons and to the managers of the store. Shopping carts left in the middle of a parking lot is one example, but there are many others, like being polite to the cashiers in the store, and by not throwing trash in the parking lot or onto our streets.

One can Google questions like “Is society regressing?” or “Is society devolving?” or “Is society going in reverse?” and find erudite articles which approach the question from some macro level. But I say the answer is not found at the macro level. The answer can be seen in grocery store parking lots, right here in Juneau Alaska.

• Ray Preston is a longtime Juneau resident and self-identified “retired guy.”


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