We men, ugh, used to be hunters. No longer. Anthropologists have a new label to describe married men: we are homo freakinus cart-pusherus.
My woman companion and I coast along a busy city street on our way to seasonal hunting grounds. Whispering heat from the sun oscillates strangely just above the road in the distance—a prairie mirage never quite reachable. The woman with me is a gatherer and I am the cart pusher.
Centuries ago my forefathers hunted in the ancient green and rolling hills of Southern Ireland. They hunted potatoes. Today I hunt groceries. Like my ancestors I have learned to recognize the varied smells of my surroundings: in my case I occupy an urbanscape—a sterile world of asphalt, natural gas, Kentucky Fried Chicken, bright lights, and the enigmatic smell of Chinese food. I have also learned to recognize patterns in nature: the sun rises and it sets; seasons change according to the will of spirits; I am wrong; she is right.
Wisely my woman breaks at the first sign of a red-light. A rattling and muscular four-wheeled blue beast pulls up beside us bellowing em-psst-em-psst-em-psst in full bass. We are on the move again. Grasping my black rectangular spear possessed by the goddess Siri I ritually slide my right fore-finger across the screen. Double-tapping the application I half-believe I may force Nature to divulge some of her secrets. The map application isn’t working; therefore, I am forced to rely upon my wit and skill alone for the day’s hunt. No poison tipped coupons for me.
I tell my woman to take the next right. She protests. Though possessing a woman’s instinct she lacks the male’s natural sense of direction which made maps moot long ago. After wandering aimlessly for five minutes she manages to get us back on the right path. Her brow is furled for some reason. I recall seeing the full moon in the sky the previous night: perhaps she is receiving a visit from her grumpy aunty? Her brow indeed furls with great frequency around this time of the month. I utter an incantation familiar to all cart pushers since the dawn of history: I am wrong. Miraculously the incantation’s power works as her brow unfurls.
Arriving at the seasonal hunting grounds, she pulls the vehicle into a subterranean cave below Superstore. The cave ceiling is suspended by natural columns of concrete and rock. The ashen coloured floor bears yellow parallel lines. These lines are obviously spiritual markings, an attempt to appease President-Choice, the patron god of caves. Finally our vehicle comes to a full stop. Without saying a word my companion gives me a circular flat and shiny stone and looks at me expectantly. She wants me to do something.
I crack open the passenger door stepping outside cautiously and with great purpose. Crouching down I kneel to the ground finding it warm to the touch. Raising my head slightly I close my eyes, sniffing, searching the wind for any trace of potential predator or prey. Meanwhile my mate has taken a shiny stone of her own, inserting it into a metal basket on wheels, and she has made her way through mysterious automatic doors. She waits for me tapping her foot as is the custom of wordless and perturbed women everywhere. I rise running to my position of honor—behind a wheeled cart exactly four paces behind my wife at all times. Though fate has determined I be a cart pusher I am hunter still.
Passing through parted automatic doors we ascend a concrete ramp. Cave paintings adorn the halls. The hunting grounds are occupied by other roaming hunter-gatherer pairs. We enter the store itself. I am compelled by some strange unknown force towards the technology aisle where movies, video games, computers, digital cameras and flat screen televisions abound. The female leading our expedition has other plans: pursing my lips I peer over her shoulder in cautious curiosity. She has spotted the ripest possible fruit: children’s clothing on sale.
Her pace quickens while my sense of dread increases. All hunters know to avoid the clothing aisle. We also avoid Tupperware, shampoo and feminine hygiene product aisles. I veer right hoping to draw my mate magnetically in that direction to avoid tactile dangers; it is no use for both her maternal and gathering instincts have kicked in. This is a powerful, inescapable combination. I let out a manly sigh, stick my tongue out in fake fatigue, and follow her dutifully.
We arrive at the clothing, pants to be precise, and my companion initiates a ritual clearly designed to torment cart pushers. She holds up a pair of pants, inspects them for the least sign of a flaw, and then places them back in the bin. She grabs another pair, appraises these and then places them back in the bin. She grabs yet another pair repeating the process and so on and so forth. I am filled with a co-mingling of anxious dread and a desire to thrust myself upon the nearest possible spear. Due to the absence of available spears (or conveniently placed cliffs) there is no respite. Finally, she decides on the ripest pair and places them into the cart. Suicidal feelings diminish slightly but not completely, never completely, not here, not in this unholy place.
We move on to the next aisle on the right. At the far end of the aisle I see an attractive woman-gatherer from the next village over. She is approaching my cart. I cease slouching over the handlebar. I stand straight, proud. I suck in my stomach shaving years off my frame in just moments. I flex the bicep on my arm facing her trying to look as burly and virile as possible. Four children suddenly appear from around the corner. I slouch back down on the cart’s handlebar, I stick my stomach back out, and my arm returns to its rest position.
In an act of deference, my mate bonks me on the head to get my attention, “Pick the type of cereal you want.” I stick my chest out proudly grabbing three boxes of family size brown sugar Kellogg’s Miniwheats. I drop the boxes—clang! clang! clang!—into the cart from a great height. Another successful hunt!
The Miniwheats were no match for my superior intellect. I return to my position of honor behind the cart moving forward at a snail’s pace following the gatherer. I have made my kill; it is time to leave…?
“No,” my woman responds. To complete this marital ritual of doom I, like the male Black Widow who is devoured by his mate during love making, resignedly respond, “Oh, okay.”
We turn and then turn again finding ourselves in the chip aisle. I envision tackling a bag of dill pickle chips and tearing it open on the floor. Then I dream of placating the dill pickle spirits by uttering the following sacred words of appeasement as the chips breathe their last breath, “Dill pickle. You ran with strength and speed. You were courageous and powerful. Go now brother to rest in the next world.” Then I devour its heart so that I might make use of its strength. A smack on my shoulder from my woman friend draws me out of imagined ceremony. A recent vaccination shot in that arm has left my shoulder raw. The blow causes me discomfort. I hide the pain because on the savannah weakness means death.
“Go get some nachos,” she says.
“Yes dear,” I say with great braggadocio.
I leave the cart behind scouring the shelves for my unassuming target. I kneel to the ground looking for signs of my cheesy quarry. I stalk it slowly all the while looking for signs of potentially cute gatherers from the next village over. I find nachos but see no woman worthy of my velvet and gold-encrusted marriage sack. I make my way back to my place of honor. My gatherer companion stands there, fists at her sides, she is tapping her left foot impatiently.
“You left my purse in the cart again, didn’t you?” she chastises me while pointing out the obvious, “What if someone came by and took my wallet?”
I calm her down by practicing the ancient art of playing dumb (making plaintive and inaudible noises). Another hunter-gatherer pair—one male and one female—approaches. This hunter, too, is in a place of honor four paces behind his gatherer pushing his cart. We pass one another—we two—sharing an knowing glance, connecting only as cart pushers can.
Do you have a spear? No? Too bad.
We both let out manly sighs while continuing to search for our prey.