Every journalist dreams of uncovering his or her own Watergate story. That one story where clandestine meetings take place with mysterious sources, juicy secrets get revealed, careers other than their own are ruined, and Hollywood turns it into a movie. They could do crap work after that, but if that career defining moment is big enough to bag them a Pulitzer, people will look the other way.
There will be no Watergate moment for Jordan Wynn, at least not today. Today, the editor of the small town newspaper for which he works is sending him out to cover the town’s recent uptake in shopping cart abandonment.
“Shopping cart abandonment? That’s a thing?” Jordan asks Al Morgan, long-time editor of The Lillyville Standard.
“It most certainly is,” his I’ve-seen-everything-including-abandoned-shopping-carts editor replies brusquely.
“And people should care because…?”
“Because it’s a person’s civic duty to return their shopping cart to its proper corral before leaving a store’s property!” Al says as though he had been a shopping cart in a past life left on the steps of a shopping cart orphanage with no hopes of anyone loving him other than a homeless person looking for a way to transport their few possessions in life.
“I’ve heard of people getting worked up over child abandonment, and rightly so, but I don’t know anyone – other than you perhaps – who loses sleep over shopping carts being stolen and then left wherever,” Jordan then says.
“And that’s why you need to interview local shop owners and get the scoop,” Al tells him before shooing him out of his office.
The scoop. Yeah, it would be heartbreaking if some other media outlet got ‘the scoop’ on this groundbreaking story before Jordan. So he heads out to talk to the town’s grocery store managers for a story he will not be including in his portfolio when he applies to nationally distributed newspapers.
It turns out the grocery store managers are even more livid about this grave injustice than Al.
“Did you know a shopping cart can cost well over one hundred dollars to manufacture?” one asks Jordan.
“These thefts cost our industry millions of dollars every year. That’s why food prices are so high. Somebody has to pay the price and that somebody is you,” says another.
“There’s this new technology out, where sensors are installed into the wheels of the carts to prevent them from being able to leave store property, but they cost a small fortune themselves,” a third one tells him.
Jordan still doesn’t care, but he does care that scientists or engineers or whomever it was that invented this space-age shopping cart technology spent time and money on the issue instead of figuring out something more important, such as – you know, ridding the world of disease and stuff.
Jordan then has what he thinks is a good idea. It’s pretty obvious how shopkeepers feel about having their carts stolen, but what’s going through the minds of the people stealing them? Do they realize what they’re doing is a crime and that it costs us all in the end?
He heads to the nearest apartment complex and waits by its back door for one of the residents to return home from grocery shopping. Folks need a way to get their groceries up to their place and hauling eight bags up multiple flights of steps by hand isn’t it.
“Excuse me, sir,” Jordan says as he confronts one of the residents. “I see by your cart that you’re just returning from Mike’s Discount Food-Mart. Did you know what you’re doing is against the law and that it costs a grocery store money every time one of its carts goes missing?”
“Did you know that Mike’s Discount Food-Mart is half a mile away from here and that there’s no way in hell I can carry this much food that far? Now fuck off, Clark Kent,” the resident snarls in return.
Jordan knows that a serious journalist would pursue the story through to the end, but he also knows that a serious journalist would never have to cover a non-story such as this in the first place. He goes back to the office and files his report, because that’s what a journalist with fifty thousand dollars in journalism school debt must do. He then goes home, heartbroken that he wasn’t alive during Richard Nixon’s presidency.