Death Cart at Walmart

Anyone who knows me, knows that I detest shopping at Walmart. Before I continue, I feel I need to put a disclaimer here:

Disclaimer: Walmart is a fine company, I’m sure, and it’s employees of fine quality as far as I know. In no way should my story be an indication of what may or may not happen should you choose to shop at Walmart. My story is true, but I am providing visuals through my writing which may or may not portray Walmart in a light they may or may not appreciate.

Whew! Now that that’s done, let’s get to what happened to me on Wednesday March 6, 2019 in a local Walmart (I’m not even going to name the location).

The reason I loathe shopping at “super stores”, or one-stop shops, is because I have difficulty walking ten miles on hard concrete to pick up something from a pharmacy aisle only to trek to all four corners of the known universe within the structure to find five other items I need. It’s not laziness, but more of a sense of dread that I will spend an hour (or more) in one location and still not find what I need.

Set aside my generalized anxiety over potentially running into someone I’ve been trying to avoid, the rattle of carts whose wheels could fall off at any point and time, the press of sweating bodies in a single checkout lane (even though 20 lanes are available, yet unmanned by an employee), and those in society who chose to potentially infect the masses with heaven only knows what kind of communicable diseases and/or viruses that keeps them home from work or school yet motivates them to mingle in public.

My parents can attest to the fact that if I had any luck, it’s bad luck.

So, March 6th – I have a list of about 20 items I decide might be cheaper to pick up at the previously mentioned store. I hunt for a parking spot not located a mile away because I’m prepared for that 10 mile trek indoors. Everything seems relatively normal for the location. Being mid-day and mid-week, I am aware that the majority of the fellow shoppers are people my age or older (so, 46 and up who are still ambulatory enough to dare traversing this mega shop). There are a couple people who are utilizing electrical carts because they are unable to ambulate. There are perhaps a dozen employees scattered about.

I grab “that cart” – the shopping buggy that has been out in the elements long enough that it has one wheel that does not want to turn and another wheel that makes a clumpity-clumpity sound even over a completely smooth floor. I head for the pharmaceutical area first, just inside the doors I parked nearest. I’m happy to find everything I need quickly and head to the back of the store to gather items from my list.

I’m not sure why the potato chip and snacks aisle is a log jam, but nearly 10 percent of the shoppers had congregated here and are all trying to use bifocals and trifocals to scan products for various ingredients and price savings. I’m there to grab a big bag of greasy, salty, heart attack inducing plain potato chips.

I was waiting my turn to grab a bag when chaos ensued.

Suddenly, from around the corner, a woman on an electric cart zoomed into the crowd from nowhere. Decked out in her Betty Boop pajamas and red fuzzy slippers, ensemble complete with a winter coat, the woman demonstrated that not all electric carts run at 1 mph or die before you complete your shopping (which is usually want happens whenever I’ve shopped with someone who required the assistive device).

Like Moses parting the Red Sea, she hurtled forward completely oblivious to those seeking an early death via chips of various flavors. Abandoning their regular carts, the shoppers pressed themselves as close to the shelving as the woman zipped through with zero regard, swaying in and out in a slalom pattern that could have won her a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

Gasps were audible as she careened through the aisle without stopping and disappeared out the other end and out of sight. As shoppers recovered, I grabbed a couple of bags of snacks that are not what I wanted, but I was distracted by what had happened and opted for a nearby bag of baked chips and a box of Wheat Thins so I could escape.

Feeling the danger had passed, I decided moving to the food section might be wise and it was less crowded. All was safe as I grabbed liquids and placed them into my cart.

My next stop? The bread aisle. I had just stopped to bend over and grab some white sandwich bread that is nothing but empty calories when I heard the whine of an electric cart. To my horror, here came “Betty” around the corner.

A poor, older man was in her path. With a shopping basket in one hand and a few random items in the other, “Betty” knocked his legs out from under him and kept going with a scowl on her face. Horrified, fellow shoppers abandoned their carts to help him up and try to recover his items which had scattered across the floor. I stood in shock. I should have grabbed my cell phone to capture the violence, but I went into survival mode.

I turned to see where “Betty” was headed. She flew around the corner, backwards, in what can only be described as high-high gear, amazingly missing all abandoned carts – her vehicle of death beeping the entire time. I was about to exit the aisle when she suddenly flew past the end of it in forward mode.

Let’s stop and think about that. She disappeared backwards and somehow threw this electric cart of death into forward gear in a fraction of a second and I could have walked right into the path of a potential vehicular manslaughter.

Over the public announcement system, an employee announced that help was needed in the bread aisle. I assume it was to render aid to the poor soul who had been run down. Within seconds, however, as I moved to the frozen food section another announcement was made that security was needed.

I grabbed a couple of items and was about to exit that aisle as “Betty”, now with three bottles of red wine, a gallon jug of fruit punch and some bagged snacks, zipped past the end of the aisle in blistering speed. I watched her pass, shaking my head, then witnessed two employees in yellow safety vests and walkie talkies trying to pursue her without running. In fact, the older of the two looked like the last time he ran may have been in the 1940s.

As I stood there trying to wrap my mind around what was going on, “Betty” drove into the menswear section and promptly smashed into an entire metal rack of clothing – and knocked it to the floor – before backing up long enough to alert us of her location (sans beeping) and navigate a new path.

Intrigued, I watched her go into stealth mode by steering into the maze of womenswear, where she could not be seen because the racks were taller than she was as she sat upon the cart of death. The two employees attempted to follow in a flanking maneuver.

I hurried into a clear area and began heading toward the relative safety of the check-out. To my horror, as I sought out a free lane and potential exit, “Betty” burst free from the clothing section in reverse, once again looking like she was in a driving course for the Indy 500. Helplessly, the “security” could not reach her before she re-engaged into the forward gear and sped away towards the greeting cards.

I began looking for school supplies with horror in my heart that I might have to go full “John Wick” and stop this woman’s rampage with a #2 pencil.

If you’re not sure who John Wick is, he was a famous (movie) assassin feared because he could kill with a sharpened pencil (as the image above illustrates, to a point).

Thankfully, my checkout lane was empty. I practically threw my items onto the conveyor and quietly prayed the employee scanning my items would hurry and that someone else would enter the lane behind me to shield me from potential danger.

I escaped unharmed, but as I headed out to the parking lot, two police cars showed up. As a man who looked homeless panhandled in the lot near me, I threw my items into the back of my vehicle, jumped inside and locked the doors.

It took me maybe 30 seconds to get out of the parking lot, ignoring those “suggestion” stop signs with caution, and burned rubber to get to the highway and home.

I think “Betty” may have come out of things okay. She wasn’t on the 10 o’clock news.

From now on, I refuse to leave home and visit Walmart without carrying a pre-sharpened #2 pencil.

I highly recommend to anyone reading this that they conceal-carry writing devices or know where every store’s school supplies are located.

Just in case.

How I nearly killed my grandparents

Before I can dive into the juicy parts of how I nearly killed my grandparents, a little back story is needed. Every summer, for as long as I can remember before my maternal grandparents became unable to do so, they would rent a cabin at a Minnesota lake resort near Ponsford so they could spend their days fishing and their evenings visiting with friends – many of whom were people they knew from our hometown or were people who visited the resort at the same time of the year as they did.

In the early days, they didn’t have their own boat, so they’d rent one from the resort. It was an old Alumacraft with an outboard motor. Grandpa Chuck’s position was always at the motor. My position was typically in the very front, or prow. Grandma Elaine would take a seat near me but offset so that grandpa could see to steer.

Grandma Elaine and I having a cold pop on the lake

My grandpa was one of those guys that if you did something, you did it “right” or you didn’t do it at all. And I have to admit that my summers spent with my grandparents at the lake are some of the greatest – and most traumatic – memories of my life. Grandpa didn’t care whether I was a girl or a boy. If I wanted to learn how to do something, he was willing to instruct.

Instruction, however, was almost entirely a “show you once” affair and if you didn’t understand something, you were almost afraid to ask questions. He wasn’t a grouch, but he was… well, no-nonsense. Especially when it came to doing “things” and doing them correctly. 

Grandpa Chuck holding me and my brother in his favorite chair

Grandpa wanted me to learn how to “drive” the boat and one day he decided it was the time that the lesson should be given. We’d been out on the lake for most of the day, fishing of course. In fact, on both sides of the boat, we had metal baskets full of the fish we’d caught. The idea was that I would be shown how to drive the boat and get us back to the resort before the sun went down and then he and I would go up to the cleaning shack and clean the catch of the day.

Motioning for me, grandpa had me climb over the seats, past grandma, and move into the back of the boat. Now, anyone that has ever driven a shallow aluminum boat with an outboard motor knows that balancing the boat is important. The sides are pretty low and it’d be easy to fall into the water. They’d also know that you should always have life preservers on board and that an outboard motor can be tricky because the throttle is on a handle that also helps you steer the boat. Unlike modern boats with inboard motors, there was no steering wheel, so you needed to understand that there was balance in how much throttle you used as well as the fact that the front of the boat moved in the opposite direction of the way the throttle handle was aimed.

For those not familiar with boating, if you move the throttle handle away from you (assuming you are using your right hand), you turn the prow of the boat to the left. Moving the handle towards you, you turn the prow of the boat to the right. It seems very simple…

So, I sat down for my lesson. It consisted of grandpa making sure the motor would start by priming it from the portable gas can, then choking it and pulling the starter (think gas-powered lawn mower pull starts) as he used the throttle. Once it started, he turned off the choke and the engine was in idle.

What grandpa did not teach me (and this is where lessons are important) was how to make the boat do anything but move – forward. 

He had me take his usual spot at the engine and climbed to the metal seat in front of me. Grandma slid to the other side, per usual, to give me maximum view of what was ahead of us. 

My grandparents never had life preservers. They chose to use floating boat cushions instead. I wore a life-preserver because I was a kid, I suppose. So, grandpa sat down on his floating cushion and I put my hand on the engine, put it into “forward” as he had shown me and I twisted the throttle.

Here’s the part where I nearly killed my grandparents…

I completely blame the poor instructional guidance given to me at the age of around 7 or 8 for what happened. Since grandma and grandpa aren’t with us anymore, that may be unfair and I’m sure grandpa would insist that he had no responsibility in the ensuing chaos at all. Nope, it would have been all my fault because I didn’t “do it right” the first time.

Being the first time I’d ever been given control of the boat, I opened the throttle to FULL. Yep, wide open. The little aluminum boat suddenly hurtled forward, the prow popping up into the air. I know I had the biggest smile on my face because we were flying over the surface of the water! I’d hit a small wave and the spray would come over the sides.

There was a small issue. With the boat going so fast, and the prow in the air, I was too small to see what was in front of us, so I began turning the throttle arm side to side to see what we were headed towards. Suddenly, over the roar of the engine, I faintly hear grandpa cussing as grandma is white-knuckling the side of the boat and trying to stay seated on her cushion.

Grandpa started waving and pointing, but I couldn’t see what he was pointing at as he was trying his best to stand. Futile, his face red with anger, he was screaming as he fell to his knees as I zig-zagged the boat at high speed and finally began clawing his way over the metal seats to get to the back of the boat.

Meanwhile, I just keep driving. I mean, isn’t that what he wanted me to do? To get us back to the resort docks before dark? Plus, we were really going fast!

On hands and knees, the angriest I had ever seen my grandpa, he finally reached me and pushed the emergency stop button to kill the engine. Without the high-pitched whine and grumble of the outboard, I could clearly hear every curse word spilling out of his mouth. I knew I was in trouble.

He grabbed me by my shoulders and began pointing in front of us. There sat another boat, the passengers horrified that we were about to capsize them. In fact, their boat rocked from our wake as it caught up to us. Grandma looked like she might faint.

I was used to the cussing when things weren’t done the “right way” the first time, but when grandpa really lost his mind because I hadn’t given him time to pull in the baskets of all the fish we’d caught that day (likely causing them to sink to the bottom of the lake with the fish trapped inside), I got stone-cold sober.

All the way back to the resort, I am sure I cried. No one spoke a word. 

Today, I think about the incident and crack up laughing. Etched in my mind forever are the faces of my grandparents, the sheer joy I felt at being able to make that boat fly over the top of the water, and that fact that grandpa seemed more livid over the lost fish than the possibility that I could have either crashed the boat into the shore, a sandbar or the other boaters or just dumped us all into the lake with every piece of fishing equipment we had.

That’s not the only experience I had that summer or any of the other trips with my grandparents. This one story just seemed the perfect way to start out what is a collection of tales collected from memories of my childhood summers in Minnesota for “Throw Grandma Off The Boat.”

And I’m sure members of my family, especially those who spent any time with my grandparents at the lake, can attest to the fact that this memory is highly accurate.

And yes, to my cousin Teresa, grandma’s nails were long and painted bright red. As red as grandpa’s face, for sure.

Narrow Escapes

I can’t say that I have the best of luck. In fact, there are times when the only luck I feel I have is the worst kind. On the bright side, I’ve survived most of the things that could have killed or maimed me, so maybe I shouldn’t complain too loudly.

Was I Dropped As A Child (book cover) by Christina L RiversAs the first post under my “Was I Dropped As A Child” project, I thought I would share with you a little video that… well, it sort of explains itself. After you watch the video, scroll down to read the real story.

The Real Story

Just a couple weeks ago, maybe not even that long, I decided that the lawn at my Ranchero needed a good trimming. Those of you who are friends know that before the summer really got going, I was the recipient of a fantastic new riding lawn tractor. I love the thing. It’s true. I’ve never loved a tool as much as I love this mower.

I had invited friends and neighbors to come out to the wilds of our little ghost town to pick pears from possibly the tallest pear tree I have ever seen (and it’s in the yard!) The pears tend to attract insects, especially bees and wasps, so I wanted to make sure that the grass was trimmed short so that anyone who came to pick would be able to clearly see the insects and pears that had already fallen and turned to mush so that they could walk around in relative safety. I’m funny about safety. When it comes to my own, not so much. A visitor? Absolutely.

I started mowing on the south side of the property, but I wanted to make a couple swipes along the south side of the garage before I mowed under the pear tree so that things would get mulched up good. Plus, there were some obnoxious (and possibly noxious) weeds that had sprung to great heights that were bothering me. I figured it’d be easier to just plow over them with a double-bladed mower deck from the comfort of my seat that buy a machete and start hacking away by hand.

My first mistake? Thinking.

My second mistake? Not looking at the area before I set the blades to maximum overdrive, engaged the transmission and began my mission.

I was possibly 20 feet into the beginning of my morning mow when the blades hit something relatively solid. Because I was attempting to really whack away at these weeds that were pretty woody, I didn’t stop. Then I hit another similar semi-solid object. At that point, my brain pondered whether the blades of the mower hadn’t just torn the tops off of a couple mole hills. We get moles and they love to tunnel looking for grubs and worms or whatever it is that makes them party underground.

Suddenly, something VERY hard hit me nearly in the center of my forehead. My brain said, “dirt clod or a rock that ricocheted off the garage siding,” until it instantly began to BURN! I mean, really, really burn. My left eyebrow was on fire. I reached up to feel if there was a knot and heard an unmistakable sound: the buzzing of a billion bumble bees.

Ok, maybe not a billion…

Truthfully, I have no idea how many there were but it quickly became apparent that I had mowed over two bumble bee nests in the weed patch and they had sent out their hormone message that I needed to be unseated from the mower at all costs — right buzzing now!

As these one-inch flying and stinging insects swarmed me, I hurried to get the mower to the driveway, disengaged the blades and emergency killed the engine. As my brain registered “extreme danger”, I practically fell off of the tractor and bent over, wildly brushing both hands past my face, nose, mouth, ears and hair. As I did this, the swarm continued their kamikaze-like attack, dive-bombing me stinger first.

There was a can of DEET-infused OFF insect repellent on the porch. So, doubled over and using my jazz hand action around my head, I hurried over to the porch and grabbed the can. I began dousing myself as quickly as the aerosol would exit, but apparently bumble bees do not mind DEET. In fact, they continued to attack and lance me.

I could feel them in the collar of my t-shirt and all over my head despite my rapid hand movements. So, closing my eyes (and having no time to see if any of the neighbors were watching), I opened the screen door and proceeded to rip off my t-shirt and bra. Yep, topless!

I have never been so grateful to live in a real “ghost town” where the neighbors are few as I was at that moment. I really did not care if they saw me half naked because all I wanted was freedom from the pain and continuing assault.

I got the front door open and ran to the bathroom, feeling somewhat confident that I’d left all the bees outdoors. I began running a brush through my hair, silently thankful that I opted to keep it short for the summer, making sure there were none still wrapped in between the strands. Satisfied my head was free of bees (even though I could feel every spot where they’d stung my scalp), I checked around my body.

I looked at the waistline of my shorts. Checked my legs. Patted at my pockets. All clear.

Then I saw one lone bumble bee crawl out of my t-shirt that had been flung on the floor. I’m sorry bee lovers, but the nearest shoe was brought down with great force upon that insect before he was deposited into the toilet and flushed to the septic system to rot.

How do I know it was a “he”? Well, Google bees and you’ll figure it out.

So, I was safe. Sort of. I had been stung enough times, however, that although I am not allergic (thank goodness) I did acquire quite the headache. In fact, after checking online to see if I was going to die or not (thank you Web M.D. although this is not a plug for your site), I was having a hard time seeing out of my left eye. I had a huge welt on that eyebrow. My head was pounding. Two dozen spots, mainly above my shoulders, were throbbing.

So, what did I do?

I went back outside and finished mowing. Yes, I had to lean over the steering wheel and kind of squint in the sunlight, but I finished the lawn. And when I came back inside, the job finished, I didn’t care one bit if I got a letter in the mail telling me to finish remediation of the weeds that are likely an ordinance violation – or at least close to being an offense. In fact, I almost welcomed a letter so that someone else would have to take care of the bees.

So, narrow escapes my friends. Once again I cheated Nature and her cruel ways. And a little bleach and water on the area seemed to make the bees look for a different spot to hole up, at least temporarily, so that I could figure out my next move in what is sure to be a bitter war between human and insect.

I hope you enjoy the story… and I especially hope you like my re-enactment via video. Thanks to one of my Steel City Underground compatriots Brian Roach for the voice-over work. For my parts, well… LOL … let’s just say that I had a little fun with an audio mixer.

Until next time, when I once again ask if I am cursed because I may or may not have been dropped as a child, keep smiling and enjoy at least one laugh a day.

Revamp without the fangs

I had spent all summer working on different projects this year, and I realized, “Hey, I never really worked on my website to update it!” Preoccupation by occupation, I suppose. Alas, I have now set aside the time to do the updates and that includes introducing former and new followers to some fun things besides just life updates like whether the cat has a hairball, the dog refused to go to the veterinarian, how many fish I nearly caught, etc.

The first thing you might recognize if you’ve been to my site before is that there are books and stories that weren’t available before. My books page will tell you the status of those projects (and Rogue of Polaris is in a bit of a limbo mode at the moment).

The second thing that has been added are two stories. This requires some explanation.

My mom has been encouraging me to write about some family stories, especially in relation to her mother. While grandma has passed, she (and grandpa) provided some of the greatest, and funniest, moments in many lives. So, “Throw Grandma off the Boat” may sound absolutely horrible, but it is actually called that after a poem my grandmother wrote. And the stories under that category will all be related to family tales.

Friends have been encouraging me to write about personal experiences. See, I am not a person I would consider “lucky”. In fact, although I have had many opportunities to explore and learn and be exposed to new things, I tend to have some rather bizarre, and at times hilarious, episodes that pop up. For some reason, these tend to be the kind of things people beg me to talk about. I’d been reluctant to share because some of the stories paint me in such a bizarre light… but if I can make one person smile, then it may be worth it to share. These stories will be under “Was I Dropped As A Child? : A Humorist’s Memoir”.

Meanwhile, I’ll still be busy doing my freelance sports journalism, designing graphic arts projects, taking care of the homefront and just generally being, well…. me!

I hope the revamp of my website helps people navigate easier and find what they’re looking for. And by eliminating the bite, you’ll get a chance to see some all new things without having to mortgage your house.

Official site of Christina L Rivers – writer, journalist, artist, photographer and owner of Rivertiger Arts