by Larry Teren
It wasn’t in the bag. Really. I’ll explain- in August, 2015, a certain suburban board of trustees decided to go west coast on its residents and nearby patrons. West Coast is double speak for enacting wacky laws that small time legislators feel will improve the quality of our lives better in the long run. In this situation, it had to do with not allowing retail outlets that have at least 10,000 square feet the right to dispense cheap plastic bags for carrying the product to the car and then the house. You know what I mean- the small bags you hang onto for a week or so and then conveniently place as liners in the small wastebaskets in various rooms of your abode. You see, even though these bags are actually being re-used (and in my dictionary, that also means recycled), the local authorities believed that too many were being dispensed and not deteriorating soon enough.
One of the stores- a grocery emporium, decided to replace these thin bags with one that is slightly larger and sturdier. They said that the bag may be re-used up to ninety-nine times. They gave them out freely so those who didn’t want to buy an even sturdier bag for much longer re-use could avoid spending a couple of bucks.
Still paying attention? For the record, I bought one of the real sturdy bags and it lasted about seven uses before ripping at the stitchings. I complained at the service desk and they gave me a replacement bag fearing I would otherwise make a scene. Me? C’mon! The replacement bag lasted three uses before ripping at the same stitchings. Ergo, I elected at that point and on to only use the free semi-sturdy bags.
I was able to collect two of these tougher portable storage devices and made a habit of bringing them into the store for the up to 99 more uses. The checkout clerks would first thank me for remembering to bring my own bags and save them having to keep handing out new ones. But last week, I went into the store with only one of the bags. I had no more than a dozen items at the checkout counter. The lady dutifully rang them up and put all but one of the items into the one bag I had brought (for which she thanked me). The last item was sitting on the counter, bag-less. She then looked at the area behind me and motioned for the next person to come up. I asked why she didn’t put the item in a second bag. She replied-
“I can’t. There is only one item. We cannot waste another of these nicer bags on just one item.”
Me: “So, take an item out of the first bag and pair it with the last item and now you can put it in another bag.”
She: “Sorry, I can’t but I can give you a paper bag if you like.”
I told her I was not interested in paper bags. Otherwise, I’d expect her to total up the bill using a pencil she kept secured over her ear writing chicken scratchings on the bag. But since we were in the 21st Century, and she had grabbed my money instantaneously from my bank after I keyed in a special code, I was entitled to two semi-sturdy bags.
Naturally, she won the debate and I ceremoniously placed the last item in the one and only bag which was the bag I brought with in the first place. Progress. Yeah, sure.