We went to Wal-Mart the other day with our neighbor. Don't even ask me what I was doing there... I hate the Wal-Mart store in our area and will avoid it at all costs, but the KingofHearts needed a crabbing license and Target hasn't yet ventured into that foray.

While we were on our way there, he was extolling the virtues of the mobility scooter. His wife, who is in her 70s and has respiration problems, had recently discovered that most large chain stores have a small selection of electric carts that they make available to people who lack the stamina to walk around what would in some cultures be called the City of Wal-Mart. His suggestion was that I too should use the cart when we got to the store because he is quite familiar by now with my ability to get winded and begin wheezing while walking from the living room to the bathroom then require an extended resting period before returning. I jokingly agreed with his suggestion in the car, with no intention of ever actually doing it.

Anyway, by the time we got to the store, I had completely forgotten about this conversation and started walking past the door to our intended destination in my usual manner: the most direct way possible and scoping out the area for chairs to sit in along the way. He, however, had not forgotten and stopped, asked the first clerk he saw to relinquish a cart and gestured to me like a knight waving me to the white steed he'd brought to carry me away from the jousting tournament. Now I won't say I haven't thought of doing this about a hundred times in the past few months, but never had the guts to actually go through with it. So I thought, what the hell? No one else is using it and I do feel like I just might pass out before I get to the department I'm looking for in the back of the store. Plus, he insisted. What can I say? I caved to peer pressure. Peer pressure from my 70 year old neighbor. How pliable am I?

Yes, I was this guy. (By the way, I have no idea why this link sometimes works and sometimes just skips over the video I want to play and goes on to the next one, which has nothing to do with scooters... go to Comedy Central and choose the Jon Stewart video "High Rollers" and it will make more sense.)

So here's what I discovered about the scooters. And why, unless you do really (really) need them, they simply aren't worth it:
  • Simply sitting down on the thing makes you feel at least 42 years more decrepit than you are.
  • Able bodied people (and most non-able bodied people) can walk faster than this thing moves at top speed.
  • No slow down button - there's the button you hit to go and when you take your thumb off of it, you jerk to a stop. Suddenly. With no warning.
  • At the end of every aisle and when going around any corner, you need to stop and check for cross traffic. Otherwise you'll run smack into anyone who might be walking in a perpendicular direction. But you can't see further than the basket of the cart, so that sequence becomes difficult.
  • No brake lights - so when you come to a sudden dead stop in order to slow down to merge into traffic described above, no one who has been walking behind you will have any notice of your intentions and will create the pedestrian version of a rear-end accident.
  • Wal-Mart has so much crap parked in the middle of the aisles that you have to get out of the cart to get to the merchandise you want anyway and don't even think about doing anything but making a wide circle around each of the clothing areas, because you will not fit inside. So as long as anything you need is displayed conveniently on the edge of a large walkway, you can get to it. Anything else is a crap shoot.
  • When you do get out of the cart to look at the merchandise you couldn't get to before, you feel all eyes in the store are on you, wondering who that jackass is who can walk but refuses to do so.
  • Also, any merchandise in the store that is stacked higher than waist high will be out of your reach, requiring you to do the above.
  • If you want to back up, even a couple of inches, you are serenaded with a loud beep, beep, beep, which further serves to ensure that all eyes in the store are on you.
  • Your daughter will want to ride on the cart with you and then when you're stopped looking at a shirt to determine if it's the right size, she will grab the cart controls and move it forward, giving you whiplash.
  • She will also randomly grab your hands and change the direction of the cart while you are trying to maneuver store traffic, nearly running down a woman and her teenage son.

All in all, it's a great idea if you don't have any other option, but don't think for a minute that it's the lazy man's way out. Me? I think I'll just avoid Wal-Mart until I'm no longer pregnant.