“Where would you want our new home to be?” My husband asked me over the phone. We’d been separated by his reposting to the United States, and I was still in Germany waiting for my visa. I had the anticipation I wouldn’t hold a job immediately after arriving in the US. And I wouldn’t need a car, then, just for my weekly groceries. I was dead-sure about that.
“Well”, I decided. “Either near a supermarket or on a bus route.”
“Which would you rather have?”
“The bus route, as it makes me more flexible.”
I finally made it over almost a year after that call. My husband had found a nice house near a bus route. The bus stations were located near enough downhill, but I knew it would be still an uphill trip with my groceries. When I first ventured out, I did so with some cotton bags and a backpack. A bit later in the day, I dragged myself uphill loaded with groceries, and I felt as if my arms were drawn from their sockets.
Almost two months after my arrival, my moving container got delivered and along with it a wedding gift that would make shopping so much easier: a sparkling new device that my brother had called “the Porsche in shopping trolleys”. It came with big rubber tires and a blue waterproof cloth container. Even a frozen goods compartment was incorporated in the design. This was the latest model available in Germany obviously – and quite conspicuous at that.
Hauling the thing on the bus was easy enough. But once inside I found it difficult to find room for it. Either it got stuck in the aisle with one of its wheels or I had to sit in the seats saved for the disabled. Its width alone would make it impossible to roll it through the aisle, so I had to lift it to get into the more spacious back. With the groceries inside that would be impossible.
Of course, the design of the trolley made for plenty of conversation. Everybody asked me where I’d got it from. And from there it was only a short cut to talk about shopping opportunities, Germany, the beauties of the surroundings, the weather, you name it. Many also took the trolley for a chic suitcase. They must have wondered what I was doing, pulling it into stores. Most people simply park their cars outside and get their bags inside the stores.
It struck me then that shopping trolleys over here are mostly collapsible wire constructions, rigid and see-through, rather practical than a statement of fashion. They are made for taking on the bus, for being folded up to go in front of your knees in a seat row if need be.
Finally, my husband and I figured a way for me to go to the stores later in the afternoons, so he could pick me up after work. In my favorite supermarket – now sadly gone and with it a lot of neighborly friendliness – you had to deposit shopping bags, rucksacks, or trolleys at the front desk, while doing groceries. For sure, that big, bright-blue trolley was a signal for my husband that I was inside the store, still working off my list. But heaving the thing heavy with a week’s food supplies into our pick-up was not what I had meant him to take upon himself.
My dissatisfaction with this solution coincided with another change. Our busses became a lot slimmer back then. Even passengers in wheelchairs didn’t find them as roomy anymore. Much less was there space for trolleys like mine. I still used the bus – unless my husband was away jobwise and left me our “wheels” to drive. Yet, I gave up taking my trolley along. I still got picked up by my husband after the weekly groceries. He had to search the aisles for me, now, as the bright blue trolley wasn’t parked at the supermarket front desk anymore. I made my environmental statement though. I brought loads of my own cotton bags for shopping. They might not be the latest in fashion statement, but they were sure easier to be loaded inside the truck.
These days, we live near a bus route again, but due to traffic, busses tend to be a bit off schedule sometimes. Quite a bit. I consider to walk to the stores with my bright-blue trolley again. But our neighborhood boasts no sidewalks – so it’s an ordeal, especially in bad weather. I keep thinking of those people who do not even have a chance to ponder when their partner will be able to pick them up or when they may share their wheels. Of those who are doing groceries on schedule in order to catch the next bus, as they don’t have a car. When it’s my turn with our wheels, I surely see these people by the roadside with different eyes now.