Saturday, January 7, 2012

624. Bag Lady

I admit that I am one of those people.  The type who cares deeply for planet Earth, so deeply, in fact, that I always bring my own bags with me when I go shopping. I want to set a good example for all those lazy and non-planet-loving people, the ones who thoughtlessly force the poor clerk to hand over plastic bags that will inevitably clog up our landfills and cause a premature and painful death for innocent dolphins and penguins and flamingoes.

Queen Save the Planet
I waltz into the store with my neatly-typed list, because I want to make sure I remember everything. I hate getting home only to realize that I forgot some crucial thing (toilet paper, deodorant, coffee) that was the primary reason I went to the store.

I go to the check-out lane and line up my prospective purchases on the conveyor belt. The clerk and I make small talk about the weather and traffic (these are good things to talk about when someone is scanning your jumbo bag of M&M’s and six different types of European cookies and a pint of gelato and a bottle of Tylenol and a tiny tube of industrial-strength eye-cream and a Star Magazine and a bottle of Chardonnay so she won’t spontaneously decide to comment on the nature of your purchases).

Out of habit, she starts putting my things into the store’s plastic bags when I stop her.

“No! Wait! I brought my own bags!” I smile proudly, then look around to see where I set them.

“Oh, whoops, I guess they’re still in the car. Forget it. Sorry.”

Where I store the bags 
 The clerk shrugs and continues to bag my stuff. I tell her it’s only a few things and really I can just carry it.

Me "just carrying it"
I vow to never ever never no way no how I mean it NEVER let this happen again!

The following week, I am feeling good about my renewed commitment to planet Earth. I am driving to the supermarket, and in my lap is a special canvas bag. It is new, I bought it from the high-end kitchen store, it can hold a lot, and it has the company’s logo embroidered on the front. Before I go shopping, I have a long, drawn-out, internal battle:

Queen Virgo: I want to use the canvas bag, I really do, but it’s so pretty that I’m afraid I’ll ruin it. What if something spills on it? What if I accidentally set it down on the ground where a person had just spit or thrown a cigarette butt?

Queen Save the Planet: You can always get it dry-cleaned later. Don’t be a wuss.

I get out of the car and walk toward the store. Queen Save the Planet did convince me to take the bag. However, it occurs to Queen Virgo that by walking in with a bag, I might look like a shoplifter. Will the store employees think I am plotting to steal merchandise inside the empty bag? Yikes. Queen Save the Planet laughs and points out that I am paranoid. I fold up the bag as small as I can and put it discreetly under my arm.

I amble up and down the rows and put the things I need in my shopping cart. Finally, it is time to pay so I get in line. Queen Save the Planet is so pleased that I brought a bag and actually remembered to bring it in the store for once!

Then the check-out lady squints her eyes at me.

“You need to pay for that,” she remarks, pointing at the folded up bag tucked under my arm.

“This?” Queen Save the Planet fluffs out the bag proudly. “I brought this with me.”

Beautiful bag
The clerk leans over and takes it out of my hands, for closer inspection. “I need to find the price tag,” she says by way of explanation.

“There’s no price tag because I already own it. You don’t even sell bags like this here. See, see the logo? It’s from the high-end kitchen store.”

“Steve?” she calls into her microphone loudspeaker across the entire store, “we have a Code 55 at register 12, please respond.”

Not only does Steve respond, but so do three armed guards and a plain-clothes detective. Ten minutes, one long exasperated explanation (mine), one melted pint of ice-cream (Ben & Jerry’s), and two weak apologies (Steve’s and the detective’s) later, I pay for my purchases, put them in the special canvas bag, and leave the store.

You’d think this experience would make Queen Virgo not shop at that grocery store ever again, and you’d be right.

But there was another little side effect:

Helpful Clerk at Target: Did you bring your own bag today, miss?

Me: (appalled) Oh, no. I am not one of those people.



  1. Ha ha, funny! Everyone can relate to this. I have two beautiful silk shopping bags I take to the supermarket. They're strong as and fit in my fist.

  2. Oh my goodness! That ordeal deserved several pints of free frozen ice cream!

  3. I'm here via Mrs Tuna. I know this experience, too. Even here in Australia we have the same dilemma at check outs, if the new bag looks too new, do you have to buy it all over again? I say, no, and I'd fight for the right as did you, or at least your narrator or alter ego or whoever it is that writes your blogs. Amusing stuff. Thanks.

  4. Indeed it is a slippery slope. What if you bought the bag there? Should we make sure the bags are somehow damaged to prove we are using them to haul crap from junkyards, or should we have another green bag of receipts for every green bag we ever bought?

    It is like wearing clothes from your favorite store to go shopping again, will you have to go home naked?

    My last trip back to China I had a baggage dilemma and decided a Trader Joes insulated bag would solve my problems and work for shopping in Shanghai. They do not give out free bags in China. You should have seen her face when I told her, no you cannot put the groceries in the bag.

  5. I completely avoid this problem by making sure each of my bags has huge stains of grossness in the bottom.

  6. I went so far as to special order bags that I liked because they are pretty without being too girlie (my husband also does grocery shopping). Half the time I forget them at home. Ugh. I have had them stop me at the door and check the bags. I suggested to them once that a special check out lane for people using their own bags would give incentive for more people to bring their own - putting less of those awful plastic things out in the environment - my suggestion was completely ignored. Oh well.... :o) Im the crazy bag lady. I can live with that.

  7. True confession: I'm not a 'save the planet' type girl but rarely forget to take my own bags to the grocery story. Mainly because I find it wasteful that they will put ONE item in one of those plastic bags and hand it to me. Then I put the gazillion bags of 'one item each' into the back of my SUV. It seems like always, ALWAYS, I go around a curve and all those one items, leave their bag and roll around the back of the SUV, crashing into the eggs, bread, tomatoes and other items that are destroyed by the banging.
    I don't have that problem with my cloth bags.....

  8. That's why I always go through the self-checkout with my own bag. However, I HAVE always had a fear that a store employee was going to confront me in a similar fashion, and even though it's never actually happened to me, I'm going to be a little jumpier from now on.

  9. I never remember to take the bags into the store with me! My solution...I have them put the groceries back into the shopping cart, roll it out to my car, and unload said groceries into a)the bags I really did forget to bring into the store, or b) into the car in various places and/or boxes with which I'm on my way to the recycling center. If it is just a couple of things, I use a huge bag for a purse, anyway, so I just dump everything into that.
    Bottom line. If all else fails, and I've had to chuck everything into the trunk and back seat, my punishment for being too proud to admit I really did forget the stupid bags, is to have to do my exercise by schlepping the groceries into the house trip after trip until I've traveled my 10,000 steps for the day!
    I love your blog BTW!

  10. How will you get the ice cream stains out of your High End Kitchen Store bag? This is a tragedy on many fronts.
    I try to bring my own bags, even though I often forget. My favourite bags aren't being manufactured any more and I've yet to find a reasonable replacement, so I am very paranoid about somehow losing my "good" bags at the store. It's next to impossible to find big flat bottomed bags that cat and dog hair isn't attracted to like a magnet.

  11. We have to bring our own bags to our Aldi store. If you don't, you have to pay for bags or chuck your stuff in your trunk/back of your van and have it migrate all over the place while you drive home.

    Are those bags in the 2nd picture levitating? Impressive!

  12. That sucks! I have almost been given bags I have been trying to buy. They just assume when you hand them the bag that it is yours. There are very few stores here that don't expect you to have your own bag. Rule of thumb when coming to Vancouver or anywhere in the lower mainland -bring your own bag.

  13. I can so see this happening to me.... Love it! I saw your post on Mrs. Tuna's blog...

  14. I've been really faithful about bringing my own bags for the last couple of years. Last week the sacker actually complained to the cashier about having to use my bags. In front of me. Evidently, they require a little bit of extra effort and he felt that was just too much to expect of him.

  15. I always wonder what they think when they ask if I want my meat in a plastic bag and I say NO...go ahead and throw it in with the soap. I'm not 80 you know.

  16. julie--silk?! I'm envious........

    andrea-- might have to upgrade to quart sized.


    nola-- it is indeed a vicious circle, isn't it?

    kirby-- that will be my next solution. But they will be NEAT stains, as I am a Virgo.

    haley-- hey, that's what my blog is here for. To make you jumpy.

    tucson patty--thank you for reading! so glad you love the blog! (and I love your nice comments)

    kay-- see what I mean? the "good" bags for the grocery store.......

    couse-- welcome back! did you have a nice vacation? and of course the bags are levitating. They are magical.

    kait--I will remember that next time I am in Vancouver (a city I love by the way, went there with my dad once and we went on a sea plane ride-- so fun! great views! also rented bikes and biked all around).

    hilary--welcome to my blog! hope you like it and have time to read a few older posts. :)

    le'ann--because of course you can't hear him, he talks in special tones that only store employees use and understand (and also you are invisible, ha-- I have felt like this many times and want to say I CAN HEAR YOU, I AM STANDING TWO FEET AWAY!!!).

    patty--maybe they want you to wash the meat with the soap? maybe the meat will migrate into the soap?



When you write a comment, it makes me feel like I won the lottery or at the very least like I ate an ice-cream sundae. (This has nothing to do with the fact that I did just eat an ice-cream sundae.)