A TWO-BIT VERSION OF THE FALL
If God had to do the Garden of Eden over again, He/She would
ask Adam and Eve for a security deposit. That's how far mankind has
We all know the biblical explanation of our common guilt.
Adam and Eve tried to stiff God, but they got caught and had to pay
dearly for eating one little applevariety unknown. And since I am,
presumably, being held responsible for Adam and Eve's reckless
endangerment, I now have to pay up front before I pump gas and at the
supermarket I have to show my check cashing card which is backed up with
my driver's license, my telephone number, my VISA, and the identifying
scar on my thigh.
Recently I suffered another lesson in collective distrust.
My wife had dragged me off on a shopping pilgrimage, while
assuring me that she wasn't planning to buy anything; she just wanted to
"look around." I wasn't taken in by this; I knew the effect of holiday
fever on her psyche. But I was certain that our fiscal condition wasn't
going to lead to any shopping spree. Yet as we approached the gaping
opening sucking us into Price Club's discount warehouse, she said, "Get a
cart." I reminded her that we were just going to "look around." Without
arguing, she, assertively, took herself over to the neat rows of yellow
carts. In the semi-darkness of dusk and distant lights, she was unable
to separate the carts, so we went inside, cartless. When she picked up a
case of 48 AAA batteries and a six-pack of videotapes, she said to me,
"Get one of those carts."
Since there are marital situations worse than shopping, I went
outside to fetch a cart. I was surprised by the neatness of the yellow
carts, wedged together, organized under a canvas tent. But it was dark
and I couldn't figure out how the carts were chained together.
As I was going back inside, happy with my failure, I saw a
family shifting a cartload of purchases to the trunk of their car. Then
as the son, about 12 years old, guided the newly emptied cart across the
parking lot, I flashed the best smile I could under the circumstances and
said, "I'll take that from you." He gave me a quizzical glance and
started to swing wide around me. "I'll take the cart," I repeated.
"What about my quarter?" he asked, glancing toward the family
car for help
I was about to learn that the mystery of the chained carts could
only be unlocked by the insertion f a quarter. When you returned your
cart to this ingenious roundup, you got your quarter back. This insight
into human nature was apparently sound. The system worked. But
I resented the implication that I couldn't be trusted to return the
cart. The young mangrateful that I hadn't mugged him for the
quarterleft me to deposit my two-bits. With the freed cart, I hurried
inside furious that I was still paying Adam and Eve's debt
My wife was not where I had left her. I parked the cart next
to the toasters and went off to find her. When I returned to get the
cart, it was gone. Stolen. I was beyond furious. Had I fallen beyond
Genesis to the Book of Job?
I wanted to talk to whoever was in charge. But in an
operation this size, stumbling upon a wandering clerk is as rare as
finding the Holy Grail in a box of Cracker Jack.
While dazed, adrift somewhere between the gallon jars of
mayonnaise and the 52-inch Sony, I suddenly found a clerk hiding among
the watchesa minor deity in charge of Time. "Somebody took my cart,"
I said calmly.
He didn't even look up, or if he did, he only glanced my way.
"Take somebody else's," he said.
Now he looked me straight in the eye, measuring me as sine
child who needed to be guided to the "little boys' room." He led me to
an unattended cart. "Take that one," he said. Together we noticed the
cart's contents: a carton of Hershey bars with almonds and a six-pack if
white tubular socks. "Just put that stuff out."
I found my wife among the avocadoes sitting on a year's
supply of Dash. Mumbling to myself, I grabbed her had and dragged her
out of the warehouse. She didn't resist. Either she didn't want to
question the anger in my eyes or she too realized the insignificance of
AAA batteries, a case of Dash and a gallon of apple sauce. Later, my
tranquility restored, I tried to explain; but she said I was confusing a
discount warehouse with the Garden of Eden.
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