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It was in 1984, that I was working at a Dealership that was located across the street from Sears. It was on the busiest intersection in town and Sears was the biggest store in the city. Sears was a stand-alone store, as if it didn’t think it would ever need any help. The front of the store faced a giant parking lot. The Sears store was great for entertainment, because it had shopping carts and shoplifters.
Living in the high Desert, the one constant is wind. Not just a 10-15 mph breeze, but real wind; the daily 25 to 35 mph kind with gusts that clocked over 50. The Sears parking lot covered several acres. It also had a substantial downhill slope. We were always amazed that the management of Sears did not put more effort in collecting shopping carts.
A customer would unload whatever goods they had purchased and would then just leave the shopping cart where it was. There were not any collection areas. A good gust of wind would start everything in motion. “There goes another one,” someone would shout. With that kind of wind and a smooth downhill slope, the carts would pick up quite a bit of speed. We saw quite a few of them hit parked cars with a furious crash that definitely left a mark. It was like watching them try to escape. Some of the really lucky ones would be going very fast and actually be aimed at the driveway. Run, little shopping cart, run!
The havoc that a high speed shopping can wreak, when it hits traffic is amazing. I have seen carts that look like they a traveling at over 25 mph go into traffic and get hit by a car. The cart usually goes sailing, the cars skid to a stop and all of the other traffic tries to avoid the collision. And Sears never changed their cart collection policy.
Shoplifters were the best though. The only way we knew that they were shoplifters was because they came running out of the store. They always ran towards our dealership. I guess because it was downhill and with the wind. There were always security personnel giving chase. Two, three or more plainclothes security would make great tackles on the pavement. I guess road rash came with the job. Sometime the runner would get all the way to our lot. We have seen more than a few try to stash whatever they lifted under a car and try the innocent act where they hold up there hands a say “what did I do?” They usually got tackled too.
The one that really stood out was a skinny, shirtless kid with long greasy hair. He came out the door of Sears running full speed with a security guy right on his heals. He had that look in his eyes as he ran without ever looking back. It looked like a scene from a movie because the shirtless kid ran directly into traffic without looking and ran between several moving cars. The guy on his heels stopped at the curb to barely avoid getting run over. We heard a couple of skids and horns honking but the timing was perfect. He never slowed down. The greasy haired kid kept running to the safety of his neighborhood down the street.
More than twenty years have gone by. Sears no longer has shopping carts. Both Sears and the Dealership have moved to malls. That shirtless kid, if he is not currently serving time, has probably gone on to bigger and better endeavors like a meth lab. The security guards are now Mall Cops. And the wind is still blows.