The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local Columnists

October 26, 2013

Clear the aisles! I’m back in the saddle again

— Study this face carefully. If you ever … EVER … see me in your checkout line (with my walker or an electric cart), RUN … do not walk … RUN the other way.

My checkout curse surrounds me like buzzards in the desert. It affects everyone near me. Indoors or out, I’m a checkout scourge.

In a line, the first shopper would lose her coupons. The next customer’s check would bounce. The soul right in front of me would discover she had only 11 oranges instead of 12 (“Assistance on Aisle 4!”),  but by then the paper tape on the cash register would have run out anyway.

Our first Wal-Mart was roughly the size of Delaware, but I could still navigate with my cane or walker. Then they announced plans to construct a Supercenter with the acreage of Nebraska.

Many stores provide electric carts for seniors like me who are fast approaching our expiration dates.

When I realized “carting” would be inevitable, I chose Somerset (where no one knew me) to “train.”

Like now, it was almost Halloween, when stores can’t decide whether to put out witches, turkeys or Santas. The aisles overflowed with merchandise.

I made a discovery … NO BRAKES!

There’s “go” and “don’t go.”

I crashed into at least half a dozen displays before I learned to back off “go” and coast the remaining 6 or so inches to “stop.”

Then my purse strap tangled around “go.”

Full throttle and unable to steer, I careened toward the snack bar. Terrified diners abandoned burgers and fries to flee from my path. My rampage ended when I slammed into the service desk.

For the past three years or so, illness prevented me from entering the “Giant Eagle 500.” But I’m getting stronger and sensed the time had come to climb on again.

The carts stop quicker … but still no brakes.

Someone thought it would be a swell idea to decorate the carts with pennants on flimsy flagpoles.

Shelves have awkward paper tabs hawking “specials” about every foot or so.

I tore off about 10 tabs during my journey, and my pennant knocked four cans of Libby’s green beans off a corner display. (“Attention, shoppers! Scratch and dent sale coming next week!”)

My exit was even more memorable.

We hadn’t shopped in a month. My friend Leanne had already pushed a regular cart to the hatch of my car, Bailey, where a bagger helped her unload.

The electric carts have only bike baskets. For three weeks of groceries, you need both that and a regular cart.

All done, I happily headed for the handicapped ramp. Neon yellow guide lines had been freshly painted.

Leanne watched helplessly as I obliviously steered toward the high-curbed, unramped and unpainted ledge and crashed the front end smack in the parking lot.

A bagger and a stranger lifted the vehicle from its crouched position.

They examined the cart and ruled it safe.

It’s nearly Halloween, and I’m supposed to write a scary column for you.

Did that do it?

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and a member of  The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local Columnists
  • Local Columnists

    Robin L. Quillon
    Chip Minemyer
    Tom Lavis
    Mike Mastovich
    Cory Isenberg
    Zachary Hubbard
    Michele Bender
    Bill Eggert


    July 6, 2010

  • Michele Bender MICHELE M. BENDER | Time to can clutter

    I’m “downsizing.” Sixteen years ago, this house was perfect for me. I gave parties. Friends came and stayed for weekends. Great insulation protected visitors from highway noise.
    Yep, I had the time of my life.
    But I’m 16 years older, and my friends are, too.  They no longer travel like they did. Parties wear us out by 10 p.m.

    June 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Siehl, Jim color JIM SIEHL | Richland student excels in class, on field

    Ben Verhovsek is a humble, soft-spoken young man who by his nature resists all forms of public adulation.

    June 14, 2014 2 Photos

  • Music, comedy on tap for pre-Thunder bash

    With Thunder in the Valley right around the corner, organizers are hoping to make this year’s event the best yet and are holding a launch party to get people in the mood for the motorcycle rally.

    May 10, 2014

  • Jim Siehl JIM SIEHL | Music to my ears

    Seldom has $15 produced such a high level of entertainment as it did a few weeks ago when I found myself in the second row just left of center keeping back the tears once again during my third live performance of “Les Miserables.”

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Curtis, Shawn SHAWN CURTIS | Pirates win has familiar feel

    As much as all the fuzzy feelings of the 2013 season came to an end when Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano fired a first-pitch strike to Emilio Bonifacio at 1:14 p.m. on Monday afternoon at PNC Park, the 1-0 win took the shape that many Pittsburgh wins did a season ago.

    March 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Eric Knopsnyder ERIC KNOPSNYDER | A fresh take on funnies

    Did you notice some funny business in our comics pages recently?
    Many of you did and contacted the newsroom to ask why “Doonesbury” and “For Better or For Worse” were no longer appearing in our publication.
    There’s a simple explanation: They are no longer being produced.

    March 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Siehl JIM SIEHL | Basketball officials never win

    Today’s column bounces from local politics to basketball after two previous articles concentrated on Jesse Topper’s successful launch into a new career as a state representative.

    March 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Michele Bender Michele Mikesic Bender | Playing the name game

    So, did you decide on the ‘popcorn dress’  for the church dinner?” asked Judi, my Communion Lady.
    “No, I think the ‘hydrangea dress’ might be better,’’ I answered.
    “You name your clothes?” Denise’s jaw dropped.

    February 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert Columnist Photo Bill Eggert | A heartfelt message of thanks

    February is the month the medical community sets aside for matters related to heart health. That makes sense, given that Valentine’s Day is right in the middle of the month. So it was ironic that I found myself dealing with the matter of the heart in a serious way this month.
    This column is a valentine to the staff of the Conemaugh Health System.

    February 22, 2014 1 Photo


What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads