Look at this. Do not avert your gaze. This. This is what greeted me when I came out of the grocery store today:
It's not about the car. It's not about scratches and minor dents. I don't care about these things. And that's not because I abhor materialism (although I do abhor materialism), it's primarily because I'm incredibly awkward and clumsy. Due to my clumsiness, all of my physical possessions will, probably within 45 minutes of their initial purchase, be broken, battered, bent, scratched, dented and/or otherwise ruined by me.
I've had to adapt and grow accustomed to damaged goods, because I am so inclined to damage them. But, notice, I only damage MY OWN goods.
This isn't about the car. It's about the principle. For many years I have used every platform and every tool at my disposal to fight against the terrorists who leave their shopping carts chaotically strewn about the surface of the Earth. Every time I drive into a supermarket parking lot these days it looks like 9,000 people were raptured into heaven right as they put their last grocery bag in the trunk. Or maybe they're all bomb technicians and they had to go diffuse explosives somewhere. Or maybe they're Batman. Yes, maybe they saw the Bat Signal and had to go find the Penguin and foil another of his dastardly plots. They must be SOMETHING important if they couldn't carve out the requisite half-minute to shuttle those cart back from whence they came.
Or, or, or maybe they're just lazy.
Look at this:
That's called a "cart corral." That's where people put their carts. You see the bars? Those bars are designed to contain said carts and stop them from causing damage to somebody else's property. Most parking lots have dozens of these strategically positioned throughout the premises so as to assure that nobody ever has to walk more than 27 feet to return their carts.
Twenty-seven feet to save your neighbor's vehicle from sure destruction. Well, maybe not destruction, but real damage that can be measured in hundreds of dollars.
Yet this small sacrifice for the sake of your fellow man is too cumbersome for many of us. The average American watches 30 hours of TV a week, and he can't shave about .00001 percent off of that and allocate it towards returning a shopping cart to a structure specifically constructed to hold shopping carts?
It's the principle. I don't care that a cart flew into my car; I care that it offended my principles, and the principles upon which this country is built. This is more than just shopping carts and scratched panels, people. How can we ever expect to survive an apocalyptic disaster -- when civilization is brought to its knees, the power grid fails, our infrastructure crumbles, and governmental institutions are disbanded -- if we can't even figure out how to work harmoniously with one another IN A PARKING LOT?
You can't escape this, my cart-deserting friends. You can't hide from this, leavers-of-shopping-carts. You can't pretend your actions do not have consequences, perpetrators-of-vandalism-by-shopping-cart. When you say to yourself, "Hmmmm it would take me 12 seconds to put this thing back in the corral, but I think I'll just leave it here, on a windy day, seven feet from that dude's vehicle," what you're actually saying is, "I am willing to cause destruction to another's property for the sake of saving 24 seconds (round trip)."
When you make that calculation out loud it sort of makes you sound like a sociopath, doesn't it?
Well, if the shoe fits wear it. Or take it off and fling it at my car, as you are wont to do.
Oh, I know people have excuses. They take great exception to the idea that anyone would expect them to find a way to return the cart they somehow managed to retrieve in the first place. But before you spew your ifs, ands, and buts, let me ask you this: what if an insane and generous billionaire offered you SEVENTY BILLION DOLLARS, and, in exchange, all you had to do was personally return your shopping cart to the corral a few spaces away?
I bet you'd find a way to make it happen, wouldn't you? Against immeasurable odds, in spite of sore feet, in the face of vast distances, you would SOMEHOW manage to get that cart into that corral.
I can't offer you seventy billion dollars. But I can offer you the satisfaction of knowing that you have done your small part to clean up America's grocery store parking lots, and set an example for all of the other potential cart-ditchers who would be tempted to follow your kind down this dark path.
Please, don't attempt to excuse your behavior by insisting that you're simply giving the parking lot attendant "something to do." Would you jam a rusty nail into an artery just to give your doctor "something to do"? Would you set your house on fire just to give your local fire department "something to do"? No? Then stop acting like your laziness is really a job creation strategy.
Your laziness is laziness, and it's very unbecoming.
You can ask my wife. Shopping cart etiquette is an issue which I have long since championed. I spoke passionately about the subject on our first date, and it was then that she fell deeply in love.
Most of us will rarely be put in a position to exhibit extraordinary heroism. Most of us lead ordinary lives and so our strength of character manifests itself in ordinary ways. That's why we can not falter in these little moments. We will be defined by the doors we hold, the shopping carts we return, the garlic bread we forgo because we know we're going to be sitting in a crowded movie theater right after we finish dinner. Let us no fail when the spotlight, however dim, however seemingly insignificant, shines upon us.
This is my rallying cry. Return your carts. Return every cart.
In this life we will never achieve Utopia, but we can at least fix the parking lot situation.
Matt Walsh is a talk radio host, father of twins, and blogger at the popular themattwalshblog.com.