the grocery-bag thing

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I figure it’s a good time for me to rant about one of my biggest pet-peeves, which, fittingly, often results in me making a fool out of myself more than it contributes to the betterment of man-kind.

It’s the grocery bags.  I don’t like grocery bags. I hate them. DESPISE them.

I’m allergic to them.

I know that, for some reason, in some circles, this is an emotional, political, tender issue that gets people feeling all defensive and angry. I’m not one of those “hippies” who thinks we ought to charge people $.03 per bag or something; I’m one of those hippies who thinks we should not have disposable grocery bags. I don’t know the statistics off-hand, (you can look them up if you want) but I figure, however much plastic is in the ocean now, or burning up energy in a recycling plant, or however many trees it takes to make paper bags, if I don’t use any of them, that’s less. That’s how I do math. Sometimes, citizens of the country in which I live get very worked up about things they think are God-given rights, dammit, like that we should get to use as many plastic shopping bags as we damn-well please, and don’t you even think of suggesting we live any other way than what we are comfortable with and used to.


So, anyway, I use the handy-dandy reusable bags we have collected over the years for my groceries. I haven’t even had to buy one with my own money. We’ve gotten them either as gifts, from family who has accepted our hippieness, or from the stores, who give them away because they are happy to get our money for their stuff. We have a pretty good stash at this point. One is even insulated.  But they don’t count as “reusable” if you don’t remember to reuse them and I, like lots of people, have done the thing where I forget to bring them with me and then tell the grocer, “I’m so sorry. I have bags but I left them at home/ in my car/ in the washing machine.” (If you remember this post, you know why I wash them now.) Then, despite my good intentions and a dozen cloth bags not with me, I still have to decide if I would prefer paper or plastic.

I came up with a solution to the forgetting-problem by utilizing the same sort of action/consequence conditioning I use with the kids. If I don’t remember my bags, I just don’t use bags, period. There’s nothing wrong with me having to haul everything around with my bare hands every once in a while. And, sure enough, a few times of transferring my things one-by-one from the cart into my car and then bagging it in our driveway to get it from the car to the kitchen, broke my habit of forgetting them in the first place.

But I often forget how other people, who are not used to living in the wackiness that is my head, might assimilate to this conditioning. Once, at the hardware store, the conversation went like this:

Me: “Will you please put everything back in the basket? I have reusable bags.”

Grocer: “Where are they?”

Me: “In the car.”

Grocer: “Why didn’t you go back to get them?”

Me: (Nodding toward the 3-year-old who is jumping all over the indoor display of their outdoor furniture, swinging on the plants from the Garden Center.) “It’s sort of hard to take her all over, you see?”

Grocer: “Well, then, why didn’t you remember them in the first place?”

Me: (Now the 3-year-old is tap-dancing naked on the conveyer belt while eating five candies from the shelf placed at her eye-level.) “Well, it’s kind of hard to remember everything at this point in my life.”

Grocer: “Where do you plan to put the basket when you’re done with it? You can’t just leave it in the parking lot. That’s not our policy”

Me: (Going from a bright-eyed environmentalist full of compassion to an impatient bitch who needs a Xanax and some personal space.) “I guess I’ll leave my 3-year-old in the car, in the parking lot, with a firearm and a whistle, to guard these light-bulbs and scotch tape, while I make sure that this basket arrives safely back in your hands.”

More recently, at a heath-food store, where they’re used to my kind, I did the same thing. I told them to put everything back in my cart. But I lied. I knew I didn’t have the bags in my car, becasue I took the mini-van and I keep my bags in the Prius. (How’s that for hypocritical? Nothing like ranting against waste while I have two cars to drive.)

But, this time, the grocer said, “Let me help you out with that food.”

Of course there is food in this bag from a week ago.

When we got to the van, I acted surprised: “Oh! I guess I don’t have the bags after all. It’s OK. We’ll just use my son’s backpack.”

I put my hand in and quickly threw the bag on the floor, the contents being perishables at least a week old.

“Nevermind. Let’s just use the car-seats.”

“That chicken needs to be strapped in!” the grocer said.

He was being a very good sport.

So, he helped me out and I drove away with the groceries in the carseat, like this:

Yes, that’s detox tea next to a bottle of wine. It’s all about balance.

And a few more things in the console, next to the pine-cone. Because you never know when you’re going to need an extra pine-cone.

Happy Thanksgiving…..and remember your bags!



17 thoughts on “the grocery-bag thing

  1. Maria, I love this! Especially your photos (and especially the pine cone). I also HATE disposable bags. The co-op where we grocery shop here in Corvallis doesn’t have the option of disposable bags; you can use a cardboard box (they have a bin of them they save for customers to reuse) or you have to bring your own bags. I’ve also gotten some attitude from some checkers when I don’t have cloth bags with me and ask them for no bag, and to just set everything aside and I’ll carry it. Oh well.

  2. I try to at least have a crate in my vehicle and some back up bags if I can remember to put some back after the last trip I forgot bags for – ha! I do not ask for help out to my vehicle because the way my doors open on my truck take people by surprise and then they usually ask you can fit all that back here. Yes I can!

  3. I keep a veritable mountain of bags in the trunk of my car. I can go for almost two months without remembering to put them back in the trunk before I actually start running out and have to haul the whole mess back out. That’s usually when they start to build up in the dining room. It suits my combined nature of forgetfulness and conscience. 😉

  4. Oh you would fit in so well in Austin! They are passing a law soon outlawing plastic bags in all grocery stores. While I have to admit, I use the plastic and re-use them for dirty diapers, I will buy the reusable ones and try not to complain about forced hippiness. Bonus, maybe I’ll get the kiddo potty trained while I’m at it. Great post!

  5. Oh my gosh, this is hilarious. I forget the damn bags too. All the time. I admire your consequence mentality but don’t think I am capable of allowing others to see me being quite that neurotic. But I love, love, love this story. And your comfort level with revealing your quirks in public!

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