The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Michele Bender

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
Michele Bender
  • Michele Bender Licorice lends a paw

    I bet you expected to find Michele Bender’s column here today.
    She just came home from the hospital. She’s doing fine but resting, so I thought I’d lend a paw.

    June 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • 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

  • Bender_Michele Those oldies, but goodies

    Twice yearly Hollywood marches out a platoon of war movies.

    May 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Michele Bender Living life out loud

    “If I make it to Medicare,” I declared, “I’m going to throw a party people will not forget! It’ll be something no one’s ever done!”
    Well, I made it to 65.

    May 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Watch the stars come out

    Every spring, I catch drive-in movie fever. We are blessed to have three outdoor theaters in a 30-mile radius. Movies under the stars … heavenly!

    May 3, 2014

  • Michele Bender Bye, bye, Easter birdies

    Animals fascinated my mom. Riding the train between Johnstown and Philly, she saw horses, pigs, sheep, cows … a Mattel See ’n Say of farm critters.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bender_Michele.JPG MICHELE M. BENDER | Whisper sweet nothings in my ear

    “Your call is very important to us,” growled the crabby lady at the utility company. “Please wait for the next available representative.”

    April 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bender_Michele MICHELE M. BENDER | Sock it to me


    March 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bender_Michele.JPG MICHELE M. BENDER | What happened to Christmas?

    Headaches rarely bother me. I always felt sorry for folks trapped in the Advil/Dristan web.
    I woke up at 4 a.m. Dec 17 with a headache that probably registered on a Richter scale. (People in New Zealand experienced aftershocks.)

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bender_Michele.JPG Judge Judy’s tough in any language

    In her relentless effort to “correct and serve,” Judge Judy Scheindlin is “on the road” promoting her new program, “Hot Bench.”

    February 8, 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