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Woster: A solution to that squeaky shopping cart

Just the other day, I came up with a real Crackerjack of an invention. This one really could help people.

Terry Woster
Terry Woster
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Decades ago, when I regularly spent time on Missouri River beaches with a couple of good friends, we sometimes dreamed up inventions to change people’s lives.

We never got around to building our dreams, not even a prototype. We never applied for a patent. We just had all these great ideas. In our daydreaming there on the sandy shore, we could see a wealthy investor or a handy builder turning our vision into a popular product, after paying us handsomely for the rights to the idea. We may have been the inspiration for the saying, “A person can dream, can’t they?’’

I always thought one of the best ideas was a combination speed boat-pontoon boat. We envisioned a large pontoon boat that would carry a couple of dozen people out to the middle of a huge lake, like Oahe north of Pierre. Once there, the center section of the craft would detach and become a sleek speed boat, capable of pulling several skiers or wake boarders. We would only need one motor, see? That alone would save thousands of dollars.

We never got as far as to draw an actual plan for our craft. Well, we did make some rough sketches in the sand, but those washed away when the wind blew waves onto the shore. I still think the idea had merit, but not for me and my pals.

That was a while ago. Just the other day, I came up with a real Crackerjack of an invention. This one really could help people. It’s simpler than a speed boat-pontoon boat, too. Listen to this:

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You know how you sometimes go to the grocery store and must go all through the store pushing a shopping cart with squeaky, wobbly wheels? I do, too. I don’t shop all that often, but every time I do — every, single time — I get a cart with at least one bad wheel. I am reserved by nature, and I hate to be scurrying up and down the aisles with a cart that sounds like the windmill on our farm after half a century of neglect. When I round a corner, people in the next aisle are already looking, kind of like deer in the ditch when a car pops a hill at sundown.

Whenever I went to the Walmart in Pierre, I got a cart with bad wheels. Squeaking is the worst, but wobbling is almost as bad.

“Did you know your cart has a wobbly wheel?’’ a fellow shopper once asked.

Well, of course I did. That’s why I was trying to push the thing and carry it at the same time, to keep the wobbly wheel off the ground. Once I had a cart and both wheels on one side wobbled, loudly. I walked alongside, trying to hold that whole side off the ground. Less than optimum shopping experience.

As time has passed, more social media content has become toxic, antagonistic and deliberately provocative, intended to do little more than anger those with different thoughts and opinions.

I often try half a dozen carts before I shop. I never have gotten a perfect one. I used to wonder if the store had facial recognition and lined up all the bad carts on the premises when the camera saw me walking toward the entrance.

Frustrated with being unable to get a quiet cart, I used to plot a route that would get me in and out with the least possible distance traveled. That worked until the store got wise and changed every shelf in every department. Great customer service, folks.

My solution to that issue is a collapsible shopping cart. It would be constructed of light-weight, space-age polymers, whatever they are. I heard the term on a TV commercial, probably right after one about the Popeil pocket fisherman.

My invention would fold like a beach chair. Equipped with a carrying strap, the cart could be slung over one shoulder and taken into any store. High-tech wheels could be oiled at home. A reserved guy like me would be sure to do that every time. It would take the noise, the wobbles and the stress out of a trip to the store.

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I haven’t patented the idea. In the spirit of Christmas, it is my gift to the world, which can have the speed boat-pontoon boat idea, too.

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Opinion by Terry Woster
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