Wednesday, March 17, 2010

the stolen shopping cart

by Carlos Camara

The Stolen Shopping Cart

The original intent of shopping carts were to transport a person’s bought goods to their car in the parking lot, juxtaposed to the place of purchase. Recently I have noticed shopping carts outside the property of where they were intended for.

I have noticed that in community neighborhoods of low income families, buildings, and apartment complexes, shopping carts are being used for the quick transportation of goods from the store to the home. For example, the Safeway half a mile from my Nothgate apartment houses two Safeway shopping carts (15-20 years old), stored inside the building on the bottom level. The residents of my complex not only push the cart to and from the Safeway, but also take it in the elevator to their specific floor for unloading. A shopping cart I spotted at an apartment complex next to Northgate Mall, was being used by the grounds maintenance man to transport light bulbs and WD40. This particular cart was from the Toys R Us in the neighborhood. Another more clever use I found, were carts being used as columns for a shelter constructed by the older homeless woman living outside the Blockbuster on Lake City Way.

These uses illustrate the community’s ability to improvise in a place designed without their needs fully being met. Near my apartment, there are many apartment complexes with large families and retired residents. Both groups live here due to financial constraints in an expensive city. Many rely on public transportation instead of owning their own vehicle. When store locations aren’t located close to home, it is difficult to grocery shop and transport goods back without a car. Without a personal vehicle, it’s almost impossible for the elderly to transport their weekly grocery shopping to their home on a bus. The weather of Seattle does not make this process any easier. Thus, the stealing of shopping carts makes perfect sense.

The homeless woman’s use of several carts is multi-purposeful. Not only can she store her belongings and transport them wherever she needs to go, but they also serve as a portable home. Her resourcefulness shows how she has recycled the city’s leftovers to fulfill a lack of homeless shelters in the area.

What is this a reflection of? In Seattle there has been a huge push to make Seattle a more walkable city. But more walkable for whom? Large families and elder families with financial limitations aren’t often found in the heart of downtown. We focus a lot of attention on improving the commute to and within downtown – but there seems to be an oversight when it comes to those living on the outskirts.

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