“Sorry I'm late,” said my patient. “I was caught in a pile-up in Woolworths and now I've got trolley rage!” Could it be the heat gone to her head? Perhaps not. Being bumped and blocked while trying to shop with a deadline is known to do dangerous things to otherwise normal women.
My problem with grocery shopping, and trolleys, in particular, starts at the entrance to the shop. I can't dislodge them. They jam and bond and after four attempts and a dislocated shoulder, I'm ready for a fight. (In fact, as a physiotherapist I'm treating many complaints of ‘trolley shoulder' – a condition soon to be documented in medical journals.)
Next, I experience the wheel alignment problems. We have no choice but to use large trolleys these days. (Rumours have it that they want us to buy more groceries). There's not a small trolley to be found. Except the other day when I walked off with a smaller size. I couldn't believe my luck. Only later did I realise it was a wheelchair-friendly trolley. Large laden trolleys with wheel alignment problems are a physio's dream (except when the physio is shopping, of course). They're impossible to negotiate around a corner without causing sciatica. Patients walk into my practice, clutching their backs. “I have no idea how this happened. I was just doing a little shopping!”
I've watched shoppers changing aisles. Some swing straight into oncoming trolleys. It makes me wonder: Who has right of way? And when drivers and pedestrians are involved? There should be road rules. No one should be allowed in the shop without a licence. Perhaps a code of conduct, signed on successfully completing the licence. Rules such as “stick to the left, pass on the right”. The supermarkets could employ marshals who would view the aisles from hidden cameras. If someone breaks the rules a voice will boom: “Will the shopper in the tight jeans and red sneakers please stop staring at the new Vegemite jar! You are blocking aisle number five.”
Instructors could teach us the correct handling techniques. Techniques could be written up in Successful Shopping: The Manual. When pushing a trolley these would include: Mostly elbows out and charge. The secret is in the momentum – once lost, it's a battle to regain. Shoppers must know the rack layout and produce their route at the entrance. No absent minded dawdling or peeping at others' shopping lists for tips on what's for supper.
I feel sorry for the pensioners. They loiter near the fridges, chatting about the heat wave and their grandchildren. In fact, I had to check on one the other day. He had drooped into his Arnott's biscuits at the top of his trolley. When asked if he needed help, he replied: “I just need a little rest.”
Then there are the gossips. “And then she said...” I'm dying to know the end of the story, but interrupt and launch myself at the lettuce on special lying between them.
Perhaps I'll send my recommendations to parliament. Perhaps Kevin Rudd will address the nation: “Regulations controlling grocery shopping are receiving urgent attention. We need to address the high levels of absenteeism resulting from this everyday activity. Productivity is down due to strained shoulders, aching backs and mental fatigue.”
For now, the only way to survive grocery shopping is to have patience and a sense of humour.