Conventional wisdom says the melting pot is working--we’re becoming homogenized Americans.
We’ve gone through a half-century of population mobility, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion. Few stayed were they were born. The young went off to pursue advanced education, promising jobs, or both. The old sold the family home and moved to enjoy final years in kinder climates and with other oldsters in communities built just for them.
In the process, we’ve been losing those charming regional accents along with differences in manners and traditions. We increasingly find the same big-box stores in every state. The Golden Arches loom everywhere, and their proprietors go to great lengths to fry the stuff the same way at every location.
Knowing all this, we were surprised to spot a cultural difference the first time we made an extended visit to southwestern Michigan in 2006. It was no fluke. We’ve verified it hundreds of times since we moved here from Utah three years ago.
People in southwestern Michigan put shopping carts in the racks after they unload the groceries. Empty carts are rarely seen scattered about in parking lots.
In Utah, carts are left all over the place, and some abandoned ones are spotted blocks and even miles away from the store.
|Place in rack, please.|
The signs imploring customers to put the empty carts in the racks are the same. Literacy rates are equal. The weather is similar, and thus not a factor. We’d even give Utah an edge in that department. The stores and lots are virtually identical. So why do almost all the people here pay attention to the cart-return signs, while so many in Utah do not?
We’ve pondered the cart corral question at length without developing a glimmer of a theory for the cause. Any ideas out there?
We do know that if you’re a parking lot neatnik, southwestern Michigan is the place for you. You may get the bonus of seeing a gray haired geezer wearing a Packers shirt launch his empty cart at the rack and raise his hands to signify three points whenever his cart splits the uprights. It causes a lot of laughs in Michigan parking lots. Bet you won’t see that elsewhere in the U.S.A.