Unparked shopping carts and other signs of the times

Abraham Villarreal
3 min readMay 13, 2024


It’s graduation season and twenty-something-year-olds are getting ready to leave college and start something new. They’ve hit the books for years. They’ve eaten Ramen for breakfast and dinner. They’ve slept less than is humanly possible. They are about to graduate.

My grandparents didn’t graduate college, and neither did their parents. They grew up, and before they finished growing up, they started working. Most people have done that for almost all of the history of time.

Little people became bigger people. What they learned was what they saw, what they were told, what they had to experience. People didn’t have too many choices then. You did what you did because that’s what your parents did or what you had to do at that moment in your life. Most people turned out okay.

I wonder sometimes how today’s people are turning out. Graduating college is a big accomplishment. It shows dedication and perseverance. It shows grit. More and more Americans are earning a degree and gaining knowledge. It feels good to know this.

Until I see what we are still needing in this grand ol’ country of ours. I see it in the shopping carts blocking parking spaces in large supermarket parking lots. When shopping carts can’t make it from your car to the cart corral, it says something about us as a people.

I see it in the city council meetings with only one or two people in the audience. The meetings are long, and the agenda items aren’t always attention-getting, but there are decisions being made. The kinds of decisions that shape our community.

I see it when no one wants to wait in line because waiting in line is boring and it’s easier to just sit in your car and wait for the order to arrive to you. I like to wait in my car sometimes, too.

I see it when people try a new restaurant that just opened and the meal doesn’t meet their expectations. Within a day, they become internet warriors doing their best to shut the place down.

In all the things I see, there are things that make me scratch my head and wonder about the future of our society. The future that is graduating.

Then, on other days, I see something that makes me smile. Like the other night when I was sitting with a couple of friends outside of a food truck. The owner Guera said that she had to run off to get some late-night groceries. She was out of tortillas and tomato sauce to make salsa.

She told us to not worry. That we could stick around. No one would bother the place. She trusted the neighborhood. The neighborhood trusted her.

What we see around us, in small gestures and actions, tells us what is happening in bigger ways. How we respect our spaces, and the spaces of others, too. Like gas station bathrooms.

Congratulations to this season’s graduates. Go out and change the world, but also honor what has been good and true to you and to your grandparents who didn’t graduate. They helped shape our society without degrees and you turned out okay.

Push your shopping carts into their corrals. Attend a city council meeting now and then. Wait in line.

You’ll be doing your part.



Abraham Villarreal

People are interesting. I write about them and what makes them interesting.