Also maybe a helmet.
I wish I could tell you that this:
...was further evidence that I am simply some poor hapless guppy caught up in the powerful circular flush of the universe, but the boring truth is I simply make very bad decisions regarding shopping carts.
There was a brief moment, right as the bag ripped and sent my groceries spilling out across the sidewalk, right as I caught the eyes of the woman who saw what happened and then BOLTED into the nearest Pier One, right as I dove for the back of Noah's shirt to prevent him from dashing out into traffic, when I honestly thought that if I just waited there a few minutes, SOMEONE would pop out with a hidden camera and some release forms, and I was deeply comforted by the thought of not signing those release forms and suing the shit out of them instead.
No hidden cameras. Just the amused look on the face of the guy spinning a big promotional cardboard arrow a few feet away, which: Yes. His life has probably not really gone the way he planned it either, but maybe snickering at strangers in desperate need of just the tiniest bit of assistance has something to do with that fact, you know?
Oh, who am I kidding. Karma seems to be spending a lot of time in the tub these days.
(Also, do I really need to interject a mention that yesterday was Gymboree day?)
The good news is that I drove! My car! I got there in 10 minutes!
Of course, I was also about 10 minutes late. Because...well. Yes. Of course I was.
Since I was late, I decided to just snag the first parking spot out on the street instead of dealing with the adjacent parking garage. Please stick one of those little sticky Post-It flags right here for future reference.
Gymboree was...Gymboree. Our babies must have flunked last week's class because we were "learning about loud and quiet sounds!" for the second week in a row. Which meant activities like, "climbing up a ramp and then rolling different-sized balls back down the ramp!" Which may sound similar to past activities like, "climbing up a ramp and then rolling different-sized balls back down the ramp!" But it's actually totally different, because this time we were listening to the SOUNDS the balls make instead of their COLORS or SIZE or DOWNWARD-ROLLING QUALITIES.
Regardless, none of the kids ever want to roll balls down the ramp because that would require taking them out of their mouths, so the grown-ups roll the balls instead and are rewarded with some polite applause from the 22-year-old teacher.
The good news is I totally scored a phone number and email address from one of the other moms. TOTALLY. SCORED.
Amy: (waving paper) Look! Look what I got! She wants to have a playdate!
Jason: So have you emailed her yet?
Amy: (horrified) Oh my God, no! I don't want to seem desperate or anything.
Anyway, while on this total Queen of the Stay-At-Home Mom With a Working Automobile Universe high, I decided to stop at a nearby grocery store for some milk. And hummus. And yogurt. And crackers, since other than hummus and yogurt, Noah will only ingest food in cracker form. (Oh, and the yogurt must be mixed with milk in a sippy cup and the hummus must be dumped directly on his tray for maximum mess potential, because SPOONS ARE EVIL. Go near his face with a spoon and he'll twist around and scream and then do a faceplant directly into his hummus.)
I ended up with two very full bags of groceries (mostly consisting of stuff Noah has already thrown on the floor because it is NOT A CRACKER). Then the check-out clerk offered Noah a balloon. And I gritted my teeth and said stupid shit like, "SAY THANK YOU NOAH! WHAT A NICE BALLOON!" while secretly thinking, "God, what the fucking fuck am I supposed to do with a damned balloon?"
I tied the balloon to the handle of one of the bags, just out of Noah's reach so he couldn't chew on it and pop it and blow out his retinas or something. (I feel the same way about balloons as I do about free crayons at restaurants -- thanks, really, but you've just now put me the awkward position of preventing bowel obstructions or looking ungrateful, so I generally color a little myself before banishing the crayons to the other side of the table. MY GOD, I am so weird.)
And then I...oh hell, this is so embarassing...took complete leave of my senses and opted to abandon my shopping cart directly outside of the store, since you know, I was parked down the street instead of in the parking garage. (Which was five feet away.)
I knew I couldn't take the cart outside of the shopping center, and this is where my thought processes stopped dead: Don't Break The Shopping Cart Rules, Go To Your Inevitable Doom Instead.
This meant I needed to wrangle the following items:
1) an exhausted toddler who would not relinquish control of his empty sippy cup.
2) an overpacked diaper bag, because you know, what if someone invited me for lunch somewhere and I had to decline because I didn't pack enough crackers? Just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it won't, some people actually find me kind of charming you know, GOD.
3) two paper bags of groceries, only one of which was double-bagged because the goddamned hippies have taken over the food industry.
4) a balloon. Argh.
Through the following obstacles:
1) an elevator back to the street level of the World's Weirdest Shopping Center (seriously, the Gymboree is like, UNDERGROUND, BELOW SEA LEVEL, and there's this weird subterranean courtyard thing and I'm sorry, I'm making this whole operation sound incredibly sketchy, like I'm taking Noah to some knock-off JIMBOREE in the hood or something).
2) a walk to the main street spanning the length of one Halloween Superstore and one Healthy Back store (which was having a sale, by the way, according to the big spinning cardboard arrow guy).
3) approximately seven steps up from "street level" to "actual street level."
4) a walk to my actual car spanning the length of about three or four other storefronts, including Pier One, alongside a major road with very fast-moving traffic.
I made it to the elevator when the first bag handle broke. It was the handle I tied the balloon to, and I had this frantic moment of panic as I lunged for the balloon -- THE BALLOON I DID NOT WANT -- before it flew away.
At this point, my shopping cart was less than 10 feet away. The grocery store AND EXTRA BAGS THAT I'M SURE THEY WOULD HAVE GIVEN ME were 12 feet away.
I got in the elevator instead. That's when I smacked my forehead and realized that I see people bring their shopping carts in the elevator all the damn time.
That is also when the other handle broke.
Back at street level, I retied the balloon to a different bag handle, wrapped the diaper bag around my torso, hoisted the broken bag up on my hip, grabbed the other bag by the handles and...stared after my toddler, who was running off in the opposite direction, like: I KNEW I FORGOT SOMETHING.
May I remind you: At this point, my shopping cart was one elevator ride and 10 feet away. The grocery store AND EXTRA BAGS THAT I'M SURE THEY WOULD HAVE GIVEN ME were one elevator ride and 12 feet away.
Noah's sippy cup? Hurled 15 feet away. The boy has an ARM.
I kept walking towards the car, pleading with Noah to follow me before more bag handles gave out.
(Number of months before issuing a complete retraction of every mocking word I've ever said about toddler leashes: 13, on the nose)
We got to the steps and bumped into someone else's empty shopping cart. I would have smacked myself again but by now my aching, burning arms had completely locked up at the elbows.
Out on the wilds of the sidewalk, I tried to do some fancy jockeying: put ripped back of groceries down, pick up Noah and other bag, dash to the car, drop groceries on ground, dash back to other bag before...I don't know...roving bands of teenagers stole my yogurt and frozen chicken taquitos?
Problem was that I was still carrying Noah when I dashed back to the handle-less bag, which required two arms to pick up.
I tried using one arm anyway.
And...this is about where you came in, with the snickering cardboard arrow guy and the woman with some sort of dire rattan furniture emergency.
I left the groceries lying there and put Noah in his carseat, then BOLTED back to collect everything while keeping a frantic eye on my car because I AM NOT ENDING UP ON THE NEWS for letting my baby get carjacked because I refused to leave my chicken taquitos behind.
(Bonus Extra Laugh For Local Readers: I swear to God, this is BETHESDA I'm talking about, not Anacostia.)
I shoved everything (including the balloon, which was now tied to a lone bagless bag handle) into the car and took a few deep breaths.
That's when I saw a woman breezily pushing her shopping cart down the sidewalk to her car, which was parked behind mine. And I remembered about the...ramp. On the other side of elevator. The one I'd used every week before with Noah's stroller.
The Invisible Shopping Cart Enforcement Police were nowhere in sight, and I wondered if it was time to maybe consider getting a CAT scan or something.
I drove home and fried up a couple taquitos. They were gross so I ate a box of cheese crackers instead.
The balloon lasted about 12 hours, and was disposed off after I caught the dog trying to ingest the string.
The end, oh my fucking lands.