Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Regarding stores that rent shopping carts for a deposit that is refunded when the carts are returned: Sure, a quarter is not much to some people.

But to others, it may cover the price of a candy bar. Kids may round up roaming carts just to collect those quarters. The problem of loose carts in the lot is solved either way.

Bob Weber


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You asked whether other people know of stores in the Washington area where employees will push your cart to your car, unload the bags and return the cart for you [Dr. Gridlock, March 18].

I am under the impression that all Safeway stores offer this excellent service. Our Vons (Safeway) in Santa Monica, Calif., did it, and so does our Safeway in Olney.

Susan Phillips


I have heard the same from around the area. Good for Safeway!

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

It is certainly true that, for a mere quarter deposit on a shopping cart, many "busy commuters would simply leave their cart in the parking lot, forfeiting the coin," as you suggested in your column of May 6.

The beauty of the system is that many arriving shoppers would be happy to corral a "free" cart and then earn a small profit by returning it to the proper place after use and collecting the deposit.

Or kids with a little free time might score some pocket change by rounding up abandoned carts and returning them to the nest.

Either way, the carts find their way off the lot and back to their proper location.

I've seen this system used in Wilmington, Del. A common occurrence there is for an arriving shopper to hand a quarter to a departing shopper in exchange for the cart that has just been emptied, bypassing the nesting and un-nesting process altogether.

Charles Luckett


Makes sense. Thanks for the report.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Shopping carts for rent can be found not only in San Francisco and Philadelphia but in our own area.

Aldi, a grocery store in the Mount Vernon Shopping Center in Fairfax County, has carts that can be used for a quarter. In my five years of shopping there, I have yet to find a stray cart in the parking lot.

Michael J. Guignard


That sounds like a helpful solution, until grocery stores begin sending helpers to unload our shopping carts and return them, a practice that can be found at some Safeways here, and elsewhere.

Better Place to Park

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In response to Steve Rothenberg's letter regarding parking space pilferers at Tysons Corner, I would like to suggest an option [Dr. Gridlock, May 13].

About two years ago, at Christmastime, an employee at one of the large department stores in the mall mentioned to me that rather than wait for a parking spot right in front of the store, which can be extremely frustrating, he heads up to the top floor of the parking garage, where he never has a problem finding a spot.

I've been doing it ever since, and it makes all the difference in the world.

Joseph E. Young


Less stress, too. Thank you for that tip.

All in One

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Is there a way on The Washington Post's Web site to merge all your questions and answers for the week into one column? I know you zone different ways for each of the Extras, but it would be nice on the online site to have a consolidated column so that I don't have to read through multiple versions.

Rick Pike

Charles County

Bless your heart. I've sent your request over to the people at, and I'll get back to you with the answer.

Road Hazards

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The inner loop of the Beltway from just before the George Washington Parkway exit to the American Legion Bridge is growing a large crop of deep potholes that are getting worse by the week. Cars are swerving and weaving to avoid them, making a bad situation even more dangerous.

Does Virginia have any plans to fill these hazards anytime soon?

Robert Villeneuve


This should qualify as an emergency fix for the Virginia Department of Transportation, which should have been out there already to make at least temporary patches.

Maybe VDOT doesn't know about it. To report potholes, call 703-383-VDOT.

Officials promise to send workers immediately to emergencies and to respond within 72 hours to lesser problems.

Calming Solution?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Road rage is one of the area's most dangerous problems. I think drivers are listening to the radio and hearing the latest news, weather, stock market and traffic conditions -- generally all bad situations. Is it any wonder that drivers are in a rage?

Let's lobby for some soft, soothing commuter music. Who can be angry listening to Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett? Everyone will relax, calm down, smile at the driver in the next car and enjoy the ride.

Helen Heneghan


If only it were so simple. Maybe that's one way to enjoy our commutes. Others say audiobooks can be a pleasant diversion.

Just Back In

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I continue to be amazed at the folks complaining about how hard it is to back out of a parking space when surrounded by larger vehicles. If they run into that situation often, why do they continue to pull into the spaces front first?

The answer to their self-described "dangerous" situation is rather obvious. It is far easier and safer to pull out of a space moving forward rather than backward. So, why don't these people either pull through to the adjoining spot or just simply back into the desired spot?

Both methods allow for a safe and easy exit. If they find that too hard to do, they probably shouldn't be allowed a driver's license.

I almost always back into parking spaces and have never had a problem pulling out of one because of limited visibility. I've heard people complain that they can't do that, because as soon as they pass the space to begin backing in, another car behind them just pulls into the space. That can be avoided by making your intentions very clear: using turn signals or hand gestures or blocking the space until those behind you have gone around.

I'm not a big fan of SUVs, either, but it appears that people are using any selfish excuse they can find just to join the SUV-bashing fad instead of using a little common sense and adjusting their own habits slightly.

Stephen Pfeiffer


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

When I was a college intern, the company I worked for had only back-in parking lots. You were not allowed to park your car by driving straight in. The result: When pulling out of a parking space, you are always looking through your front windshield and able to see any potential hazards.

I have continued the practice of back-in parking for 15 years and have not had any problems leaving a parking space, even when flanked by two large SUVs.

Marybeth Henry


Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers.