Before you read this and get the wrong idea, let me make one thing clear. Unless you have a disability that prevents you from doing so, you should always push your shopping cart to a corral after you have loaded your groceries and sundries into your car.

I don’t want to hear any yapping about how the store employees get paid to retrieve the carts from the parking lot. You know what? They don’t get paid to keep stray carts from banging into unsuspecting cars and causing damage. They don’t get paid to immediately sprint from the store every time some expletive leaves a cart in an otherwise empty parking spot.

Just be a decent human being and push the cart to the corral.

Now I’m going to step down from my soap box and stroll into a gray area because I don’t know what shopping cart etiquette dictates about returning the cart into the store. Allow me to explain.

I’ve been placing online orders with the Supercenter for the past few months. Back in the day, however, the sisters, nieces, and I used to engage in girls’ days trips to the store. Once the shopping was complete, I would pull up to the store and we would fill the trunk with groceries and sundries. Then I would push the shopping cart to the side of the store, and one sister and one niece would lose their minds.

They argued that I was as bad as the expletives who left carts in the parking lots. I countered that I had pushed the cart away from cars and literally so close to the store that customers entering said store would have a fresh cart waiting for them. This explanation never placated Sister nor Niece, so even when they were not around, I made sure I returned the cart into the confines of the store. It’s as if I could feel their eyes watching me.

Shopping cart etiquette entered my mind again last week when, on a trip to the Food City, I parked on the side of the store. For those of you unfamiliar with this area, it’s not in the store’s regular parking lot. No corrals reside out there in the hinterlands, which is so far away that I feel sure you could make an Olympic sport out of running from the lot to the store.

I don’t always park in that lot when I visit the store. What’s more, I usually purchase only a bag or two of groceries at the City, so I don’t have to worry about whether I’m going to disappoint Sister and Niece if I decide to leave the cart on the side of the store. Of course, I’m proud to say that on the rare occasion that I have bought more than a couple bags of groceries and have parked on the side, I’ve pushed the cart all the way back into the confines of the store.

Yes, I have not been an expletive…until last week.

Here’s what happened. I found a five-for sale item. And just as I finished putting the groceries – no sundries were purchased — into my car, the rain started falling. I scrambled into my car and decided to listen to Waylon Jennings as I waited for the rain to slacken, but it only rained harder. Then I noticed that another cart was already on the sidewalk.

So, you know what Sister and Niece? An employee would have had to come out there and retrieve that cart anyway. So quit looking at me like that! It’s a gray area!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.