Target introduced tiny shopping carts for tots, then realized that everyone over 3 feet tall hated them, and the carts were removed. Good. Now let's work on getting them out of other stores.

Some have little signs on the carts: I'm shopping too! Really. I can't tell you how many times I've bent down to get the child's attention and dealt some facts:

Actually, kid, no, you're not. You are engaging in imitative behavior, a meaningless simulacrum of consumerism. At best, you are being trained to accept the current paradigm of food distribution as the only conceivable model, and when you grow up the idea of locally produced food distributed by a loose network unaffiliated with corporate chains will seem alien. So, no, you're not shopping. You're pretending, and no one's fooled.

They always look at me like, "Whoa, that strange man laid down some hard, burning truth right there." Sometimes as I walk away, I see the moms talking to a manager and pointing at me, as if to say, "What a public service he performed! Give him some free ice cream." No thanks. All in a day's work.

I do understand why parents would be annoyed by the cart. The kid loads it up with boxes of Cap'n Crunch, and you have to put them back, and — hey, where'd she go? Now you have to find your kid, who's gone off to the toy department loading up her cart with licensed merchandise from a TV show.

And then you have to have THAT conversation, you know, the one about the subjective nature of possession, the one that always starts with: "I put it in the cart. It's mine."

"Let's break this down conceptually, my sweet. Is something yours because it is in the cart? In a way, yes; a temporal, conditional type of possession has ascribed itself to the object, because if anyone took the item from your cart, it would be seen as a violation. Our carts are, in a sense, extensions of ourselves — which is why it is so disconcerting to find yourself pushing someone else's cart by mistake. You have a simultaneous sense of panic over the location of your own cart, and a sense of shame for unwittingly violated someone else's."

"I put Dora in the cart, Daddy."

"That's what I'm trying to tell you. Physical relocation of an item does not convey ownership. In the end, nothing in the cart is yours until you're handed a receipt, a legal document that testifies to the mutually satisfactory conclusion of the transaction. Even then, as you push the cart to the car, looking at the items you have come to believe are essential to your existence, you will wonder if you own the items ... or if they own you. Think about it."

"Dora has a monkey friend, Daddy."

So you put it back, muttering: "What's the point?"

Anyway, parents are happy the carts are gone, because no longer will you find your child blocking the aisle, forcing you to once again utter the phrase: "Look out, sweetheart, the man needs to get through. Remember what Daddy said about situational awareness." Leaving your cart, walking away, staring with interminable indecision at bottled pasta sauce while carts back up like 35W in a rush-hour snowstorm — that's grown-up work.

Then again, parents remember the first time their kids pushed their own cart: It was adorable. Seemed like just yesterday they were in the seat of the cart you pushed. For a while you popped them in, threading the legs through the holes, making funny faces. That's the way things were. Then they were too big for that and insisted on toddling along.

And then they were too big for that, too. One day you said, "Going to Target, need anything?" Nope. And there you were in the store all by yourself, looking down at the seat where the kid once squirmed, and it's empty. Now it's the first part of the cart you fill up. For some reason.

Years later you read about parents complaining about the little carts, and laugh: Hah! Glad we're way past that. On the other hand, it seems like it was just yesterday when you threw a bale of diapers in the cart for the first time.

The next time the kid goes with you to Target, it'll be a trip to the Dorm Room Must-Have section. She'll probably want to push the cart. You'll probably have a basket, in case you need to pick up something. Look at old Dad, he's shopping, too. Isn't that cute?