A few years ago I made a New Year’s resolution which may seem like a funny thing to bring up this late in the year, but how many of your resolutions do you remember and even if you do how many have you kept? This was my resolution: always use reusable bags when going to the grocery store. And I’ve done a pretty good job, keeping to it about a quarter, maybe as much of a third of the time and I always get a kick out of going into a grocery store with their competitors’ bags. To be clear I don’t live in one of the few areas of the United States where you now have to pay if you want to use the store’s plastic bags. In fact I’m pretty sure the people where I live will only give up plastic grocery bags when they’re pried from their cold, dead hands—which will be pretty easy given how slippery plastic bags are. Also I’m not sure how this applies to paper bags which they still have but which nobody seems to use anymore.
I also remember a time when grocery carts had numbers on the front and when you were done paying for your groceries the checkout person would write your cart’s number on the back of the receipt. You could then go out to your car, drive up to the front of the store, hold the receipt up to the window, and a couple of guys would load your groceries into your car for you. What made this even better was they once slipped up and gave us somebody else’s groceries and for a week we ate like kings, or at least like people who buy those shrimp cocktails in a jar which I thought were the epitome of haute cuisine at a time when I didn’t even know what haute, cuisine, or epitome meant. And not to sound snobbish but I’d rather have as few strangers as possible touching my groceries which is why whenever the person who bags my groceries asks if they can help me out I say “No, thanks” and when they say “Are you sure?” I have to point and yell “Is that the Hindenburg?” and then grab everything and run for the door and hopefully not have to tell my wife that I don’t know what happened to the mayonnaise, but that’s another story.
In fact whenever I can I use the self-checkout at the grocery store. Yes, I worry it’s putting someone out of a job, although with every other item the machine stops and yells “Please wait for an attendant” possibly because it’s just not gauged to measure a single bulb of garlic, but there are times when the self-checkout is just faster and more convenient, and I don’t need some high school kid who’s just working there for the summer to drop that two-pound can of diced tomatoes on top of the eggs when I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself. And it brings back memories of when I was a kid and the grocery store we went to installed those new laser scanners and I thought those were so cool. The woman checking us out noticed me staring at it—not directly into the beam, but at the scanner itself—and she said, “Would you like to try it?” And I did and checking out groceries turned out to be even more boring than it looked.
Anyway the other day I was going through the checkout line with an actual person and as I started bagging them myself in my reusable bags she handed me a tiny little nylon bag. It was a miniature version of the reusable bags the store sells, but on the back it had printed, “Don’t forget your bags”. This as a little promotional reward they were doing for people who brought in reusable bags, although I thought they were aiming it at the wrong people. They should have given them to the people who are still using plastic bags and maybe changed the note to, “Start using reusable bags before we pry the plastic ones out of your cold, dead hands, which will be pretty easy…”
Although I do think it’s nice that they encouraged me to recycle by giving me something to throw away.