Capistrano has its swallows, Tanzania, its water buffalo. Hell, even the causeway in New Orleans has it’s purple martins to signal the end of winter. Near the end of each February, my neighbors and I here in Baton Rouge get to witness a springtime ritual as old as the subdivision itself, the great shopping cart migration.
As new life springs forth from our gardens, the small-wheeled, wire buggies, begin their trek from shopping centers outside our neighborhood toward their ancestral breeding grounds near the back of our subdivision. How else would one explain the sheer number and variety of specimens found lurking in the overgrown no-man’s-land between our pristine estates and the Section-8 housing units across the fence?
All manner of danger lurks along the ancient migratory path, and only the strongest carts survive. Why just making it off the Walmart lot is grounds for incarceration. Those with the wobbliest wheels are routinely picked off by the neighborhood’s top predator, the bag lady. She’s been known to lie in wait for hours, plastic bags filled with empty soda cans in one hand, week-old bread in the other, and rip the weakest from the heard as it passes.
The lucky ones, she domesticates then fills with all her worldly possessions: 3 left shoes, the 1987 phone directory, rumpled newspaper, 1 mangey cat, 17 chicken bones, vintage fast food wrappers, and a garden gnome pilfered from the yard of the Homeowner’s Association President. It aint easy schlepping all that crap around, but it’s better than the alternative. The unfit, she turns in for 37 cents per pound at the recycling plant.
Then, there are the hoodlums who rope the sturdier of the breeds and ride them bareback down the boulevard, and the handymen who saw off their baskets and use their disc-like appendages to wheel heavy objects around garages and wood shops.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why such noble objects would choose this life — unless it’s not a choice at all. Maybe it’s just the crack-heads living in the Section-8 hotel who can’t carry a handful of groceries three blocks without the help of four wheels and a wire basket, and are too damned lazy to drag their carts around the fence and into their own damned yard. But I’m no zoologist, so what do I know.