Last week I ran into a coworker I don’t see all that often. He’s lost more than twenty pounds since I saw him last. We stopped to talk and complimented each other on our slimmer waistlines.
We talked about our motivation. Like me, he’s dealing with minor health issues that will either improve or go away all together if he just loses some weight. He also admits that while better health is a good reason, the real motivation for his change in eating and exercise habits is a desire to avoid becoming one of the people you see riding those motorized carts at Walmart.
I’m also motivated by the folks I see at Walmart. However,knowing some of those riders have serious health issues, I’d avoided singling them out for anti-role-model status. Picking on them feels too much like making fun of the kids on the short bus.
We both agreed that there are an awfully lot of morbidly obese people cruising through the aisles of Walmart on motorized shopping carts. He wondered if providing motorized carts prevented the aforementioned fatties from getting a little exercise and hence, contributed to the problem. This got me to thinking, which as you know, can be a very dangerous thing.
Ten or fifteen years ago, motorized shopping carts were relatively rare. A few places had one or two, but I rarely if ever saw anyone using them. When I did, the drivers tended to be elderly and accompanied by an oxygen tank.
Now they are everywhere. Walmart has an entire fleet of them. I still see the occasional oxygen tank, but the overwhelming majority of the drivers are morbidly obese.
After pondering this issue for a while, I wondered if maybe it’s one of those chicken and egg things. Do we have more morbidly obese people because motorized shopping carts are available? Or does the availability of motorized shopping carts encourage previously home-bound individuals to do their own shopping? Inquiring minds want to know.
The most likely answer is that retailers are trying to meet the needs of increasingly obese shoppers. I predict that over time, the number of motorized shopping carts available from retailers will increase. The day will come when the majority of shoppers drive their fat asses through the aisles of retail establishments on motorized shopping carts.
A growing base of wider customers will likely lead to other changes. To avoid motorized cart jams, aisles will need to get wider. So that obese customers won’t have trouble exiting and entering their vehicles, parking spaces will get wider, too. We’re also likely to see big increases in the number of handicapped parking spaces.
The obesity epidemic will place new demands on other industries, too. I heard a report on NPR about the growing demand for office chairs that can handle people who weigh more than four hundred pounds. The construction industry will need to build one-story homes with larger doorways, bigger bathtubs, and big-ass toilets. Airlines will be forced to move to bigger bathrooms, wider seats, wider aisles, and more distance between rows. Amusement parks will figure out ways for motorized carts to drive onto rides.
Or we could figure out a way to tackle the obesity epidemic. We know what works. Eat more of the right foods, less of the wrong foods, and exercise more often. There’s a big push at the federal level to fund projects that encourage these behaviors. Will these efforts be as successful as campaigns to discourage smoking and encourage the use of seat belts? Or will they fail as miserably as the wars on drugs and poverty?
Only time will tell. In the meantime, I’ll keep doing what I can to lose weight and get fit. Barring a major health issue, I don’t think we’ll be needing one of those motorized shopping carts here in…
My Glass House