Several years ago, we saw the birth of the "Start Seeing Motorcycles!" campaign. I'm thinking of launching one of my own - "Start Seeing Ridey Carts!"
Nearly every grocery store has them - motorized shopping carts with dreadfully uncomfortable seats. They allow impaired customers to get their shopping done, and they really are a blessing. My kids and I have always called them "ridey carts" - it's a little more fun to say, I guess. At any rate, they're very common where we live, and I imagine they are where you live too.
As common as they are, though, a rather astonishing thing happens when you sit down in one. You suddenly disappear. It's like you're not even there anymore. A spotlight shines on you just long enough for people to wonder why you're using it, and then they can't see you anymore.
The things I'm listing in this post are true of everywhere I've lived and of every store where I've shopped. I'm not pointing fingers at any one town or demographic - I'm saying there are some universal issues to be explored.
Allow me to share my story just to illustrate the points I'm going to make. We all enjoy a good story, right?
I have sacroiliac syndrome. In layman's terms, this means that at any given moment, the nerves in my hip will go numb and the muscles will stop working, and I have to drag that leg if I want to keep walking. This happens a lot when I've been sitting too long, standing too long, lying down too long . . . basically, it just happens whenever. I've learned to cope with it. I just limp a lot. :) It's one of those invisible ailments that doesn't have any outward manifestations except that oh, I'm limping again.
That's one of the first things I want to discuss - the stigma of the ridey cart. I've heard it plenty - other shoppers speculating as to why someone is riding instead of walking. Usually their comments have to do with the other person's weight. "Well, if she wasn't so fat, she wouldn't need that cart." There's judgement attached to it, an indication that the person in the cart is somehow less valuable.
A couple of years ago, I had a cast, and when I'd go out shopping, I finally felt legal, like I had a genuine reason for being in the cart. That's just silly - outward evidence of an injury shouldn't be the determining factor in whether or not you need one, but psychologically, it did made me feel validated.
Thing is, I don't have to prove to anyone that I have a disability, just like someone with lupus or depression shouldn't have to prove that they are struggling. We don't have the right to require that of people. We don't have the right to judge them or say that they're fine just because we can't see what's wrong. I'd have to say that the vast majority of ailments are invisible, and if we base our opinions solely on what we can see, we're being ridiculous.
And yes, very often, the people who use ridey carts are overweight. That's because their disability makes it very hard for them to exercise, and then it becomes a cycle, with the lack of exercise and the disability playing off each other. But we can't point fingers and say, "Well, if that person wasn't so fat, they wouldn't need the cart." We have no way of knowing those kinds of details about someone else's life, and frankly, it's none of our business anyway. Going back to the previous paragraph, they shouldn't have to explain why they're overweight. There are a million different reasons why, and none of them are anyone else's concern. In my case, it's a combination of the disability, thyroid and adrenal problems, some underlying emotional issues, and the fact that chocolate is a thing. I told you that because I wanted to, not because I needed to. Big difference.
So, that's part one of the Stigma of the Ridey Cart - the judgment and the speculation. All very delightful, as I'm sure you can imagine. Now let's discuss part two - being invisible. Yes, you can be judged and be invisible at the same time.
Again, using myself as an example because I'm only qualified to share my own experiences, when I sit down in the cart, I immediately go on my guard because I know that no one can see me now. I have entered my own invisible plane, just like Wonder Woman. As I come around a corner, I'm the only one paying attention, so I must be the one to dart out of the way. People will park their carts smack dab in the middle of the aisle, making it impossible for me to get around. They frequently think they can outrun me, so they'll cross the aisle right in front of me, believing they can make it to the other side no problem.
But there is a problem, which is that ridey carts don't have breaks. The only thing I can do is let go of the handle, and then I coast to a stop. If you dart out in front of me and I hit you, I'm sorry, but there wasn't one thing I could do. Even if I had Fred Flintstone feet and could step on the ground and come to a stop, you'd still get hit, and let's face it - if I had Fred Flintstone feet, I wouldn't need the ridey cart.
In so many instances, I've had to back up and go around because of ladies who have stopped their carts to chat with each other and don't scoot out of the way when they see me coming. On the occasions when they do hear me excuse myself, I get one of those "looks." When I'm walking and pushing a regular cart, I'm able to go down the aisle because people move for me. I'm a real human then.
As I look back over this long post, I realize that I sound very bitter. I'm not, really. These are just experiences I've had that I don't think I would have thought about unless I were personally going through them. It's my hope in sharing this that others can become more aware. If I were to sum it all up, I'd say:
1. When you see someone in a ridey cart, please don't rush to conclusions. They are struggling with things you can't see, and they shouldn't have to prove their right to be in the cart.
2. When you pass them on an aisle, smile and be friendly. Let them know you're aware of them. Don't ignore them or duck around them like they're not even there.
3. Move your cart to the side if they're trying to get past. You'd do it for a regular cart - this is no different.
4. Please, please don't play chicken by trying to cross the aisle right in front of them. Remember that they can't stop quickly, and they would feel terrible if they hit you.
Please start seeing ridey carts. Understand that the people using them wouldn't be using them if they weren't experiencing some kind of difficulty - they're hardly the cool thing to do. Know that everyone has sorrow that the eye can't see, as the hymn says. And maybe share this link so others can start becoming more aware and we can all peacefully shop together because American consumerism is awesome, yo.