Wednesday, February 20, 2002

There is a subtle conspiracy at work in this country. Well, at least at the Albertson's around the corner from my house.

I don't know when it happened. Sometime in the last few years, though, grocery bagpersons have lost any semblance of bagging skills. I would even go so far as to say that they're pretty damn apathetic about the whole thing. First off, they don't ask if you want paper or plastic bags anymore (I myself always opt for the paper when asked. I feel in some vague way that this is the Right Thing To Do, although I don't really have any idea. Since moving to Southern California, where it takes a monumental effort to recycle anything at all, I figure the least I can do is something that is potentially good for the environment, even though I may be totally wrong).

So usually, if you aren't really quick on the draw with a preemptive paper bag preference strike, you end up with the plastic bags. Plastic bags, in and of themselves, are not that bad. But their handles cut off the circulation to your fingers, as you stagger with twenty-seven of them looped over one hand, because the bagperson has kindly ensured that you have at least one bag for each and every item that you purchased. Sometimes they double up on the plastic bags following some nonsensical logic that dictates that one bell pepper requires two bags.

One of the best items for befuddling grocery bagpersons is the Needlessly Large Pack of toilet paper. Watch their eyes widen as they are confronted with the spectacle of a 12-pack of Northern Quilted. They always put it in a bag, even though there is no way the laws of physics can be bent to allow this to occur. What I find they usually do is put one plastic bag on the bottom, and loop another one over the top, making carrying the toilet paper an logistically complicated exercise. I don't know why they want to put it in a bag anyway. Do they think I have some secret shame at using toilet paper? Maybe they think I am a little embarrassed at the sheer quantity of square footage implied by the twelve-pack, that I will lurch home, through darkened, rain-slick alleyways, the 12-pack bulging obscenely from my stained overcoat where I have tried to hide it, off to perform some unspeakable bathroom ritual calling for a herculean effigy of double-ply. Maybe not.

Another good one is putting things that are already in bags into other bags. Large bags of charcoal briquets spring to mind. Or bags of kitty litter. Maybe the kitty litter bagging is based on the embarrassment principle also. God forbid the public at large should think that my cat actually defecates. People, I'm here to tell you he does.

So, I choose to dwell in a happy world where the only choice are the nice, large brown paper bags with the handles on top. The only problem there is when the grocery bagpersons wreak their savage vengeance upon you by perofrming the polar opposite of the one-item-per bag fiasco: the "Okay Mister Smart Paper Bag Guy" put-all-the-heavy-stuff-in-one-bag tactic. I swear they do this on purpose. Maybe the Plastic Commission pays them off to discourage paper bag use or something.

Let's see. What have we got here? Spaghetti noodles, broccoli, 10 packages of Top Ramen, some Kraft Squeezin n Cheezin, and assorted canned and bottled beverages whose total weight is about 47 pounds. Let's put all of the cans and bottles in the same bag! Come to think of it, we can probably cram the broccoli and the Squeezin n Cheezin in there too, leaving just the Top Ramen and the spaghetti in the other bag. This is a great idea, because it's very dangerous that the customer might achieve some sort of load-equlibrium, and we just can't have that.

I'm not saying I have a solution here. I'm just saying thank you to the grocery bagpersons of the world for giving me something to complain about.

Thank you.


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