Chris Johnson

You drive to grocery store, but it’s the kids who drive inside it – or so they think

We took my nearly 3-year-old grandson to the grocery store this past weekend because we had allowed our pantry to run out of a few of life’s necessities — like miniature Nilla Wafers and Goldfish, the crackers not the fish. Normally, we like to avoid going out and instead stay home with the young’un while his parents go to the store and shop in peace — although I suspect it’s more likely they merely park in store parking lots and catch up on sleep.

The grocery store trip sure has changed for kids over the years. At some point in the past 20 years, some genius came up with the idea of turning some shopping carts into little toy cars which kids could pretend to drive while parents race against the clock to fill the buggy portion with food before the kids get bored and/or realize they are not actually steering the cart — something they figured out when they clearly made a sharp left turn for the Oreos only to find out the buggy’s alignment is so out of whack that it instead made a hard right turn for the vegetable aisle.

The genius who came up with that idea was me … a long time ago. Unfortunately, some marketing genius obviously found out about my idea and acted upon it. Apparently, there are steps beyond simply coming up with an idea that I’ve yet to master. What to do with this cold fusion device I perfected yesterday using a Slinky and an old Keurig, I’m not sure. I think I’ll put it in a box in the attic and save it for later just in case it seems useful.

There is one way to keep the kids in these carts with steering wheels just a little bit longer — you can get them a cookie. Some grocery stores will give kids a free cookie in the vain hope that it will keep them satisfied for at least 15 minutes while they lick the sprinkles off or drop it on the floor to test your moral compass: “Is it right for me to ask for a second free cookie?” Meanwhile, the kids is wondering, “Is this grown-up going to literally let me starve to death right here in front of everybody?”

When I was my grandson’s age, I was lucky to get put in those uncomfortable front seating areas of traditional buggies. Those seats still exist today, though many of them have seat belts, which makes me wonder just how fast parents today are going through the grocery store stocking up on frozen pizzas and beer. I realize many adults today are looking at their phones as they race through the store, but if they are going so fast that collisions cause toddlers to go flying from aisle 3 to aisle 4, that’s a serious problem.

“Clean up on aisle 4 — little curly-haired blonde kid.”

What happened to the good ol’ days when parents were not looking at their phones as they pushed you and the cart through the grocery store? Back then, parents actually looked at their kids. Granted, they looked at them with exasperation, confusion and complete exhaustion, but at least they knew what their kids looked like without having to check a photo album on Facebook called “My Kids.”

These pampered, grocery cart-driving toddlers don’t even know what “grocery store feet” are. If you’re my age and still somehow alive, you know exactly what grocery store feet are — those dirty soles kids get from walking around the store barefoot. Apparently, a lot of us kids actually walked around back then — in the yard, around the house and in the grocery store. Our local IGA back home used to clean their floors in the 1970s exclusively by dousing barefoot kids’ feet with Pine Sol and telling them there were free cookies on one of the aisles and they had five minutes to find them. By the time the kids realized no one gave out free cookies at our IGA, the floors were spotless and shiny while the bottoms of their feet were jet black but had a nice woodsy smell.

Of course, we spent so much time outdoors back then that we all kind of smelled a little woodsy anyway. I prefer the term “woodsy” to “stinky.” Still.

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