Bemoaning the environment’s single-use plastic bag baggage
Now that Connecticut is banning single-use plastic bags, I’ve been trying to avoid prosecution, fines and spilling my groceries all over the parking lot.
I’ve collected about 40 bags of assorted sizes, shapes and colors in the trunk of my car — those large tote bags, traditional paper bags and reusable plastic bags designed to transport rotisserie chickens and nuclear waste. I also have bags in the back seat, the front seat and under the hood, but it doesn’t help. The problem is I keep forgetting to bring my bag collection into the store. As a desperate measure, I may have to cut two holes in a paper bag for my eyes and put it on my head as a reminder. (Safety alert: You should never put a plastic bag on your head.)
My kids have started calling me “the bag man,” a derisive reference to the Mafia guy who collects the payola. Since I’ve never been a member of the mob, I take offense at that term the same way Chris Cuomo of CNN freaked out when someone called him Fredo. I never saw “The Godfather” movies 1, 2, 3 or 33 so I didn’t know who Fredo was. I thought they were calling him Frodo in tribute to that munchkin-like hobbit in the “Lord of the Rings.”
But back to plastic bags. The truth is I’ve acquired more bags than I can ever bring into the supermarket, enough bags, I calculate, to take home the entire produce department of ShopRite, well at least the organic produce since that’s all my wife lets us eat.
Like a lot of other people, I have this mental block about bringing bags into the store. Old habits die hard. Pretty soon, there will be bag scalpers outside Whole Foods, trying to sell illegal single-use bags for a nickel. (Psst. Hey, lady! Need a bag or two?)
Maybe we should have a public-service message at the entrance of every store with a video from our governor and a friendly reminder that says, “Good loyal taxpayers of Connecticut, be sure to bring your bags into this establishment because if you don’t, I’ll be forced to tax you even more! Haha hoho!”
It’s politically incorrect to admit I loved those single-use bags ... even though they usually fell apart in the Walmart parking lot. Nevertheless, they were great in case of emergency. I used them when the dog pooped in front of the neighbor’s mailbox or on his driveway. I even wrapped my lunch in them when I had a lunch to wrap.
For a few weeks after the law was passed, I joined the resistance and didn’t use any bag at all. When I went to Target and bought a fan, paper towels, dark chocolate, Swedish Fish, Coffeemate and an extension cord, the cashier asked, “Do you want a bag?”
“Not if I have to pay,” I replied, in the tradition of Henry David Thoreau and Scrooge McDuck. I figured I could make it 30 yards from the cashier to the car, but I was wrong. There was a major spill. The chocolate landed on the hot pavement, the Swedish fish got squished, and the Coffeemate went rolling down the sidewalk and would still be rolling if a kind young woman didn’t stop it for me.
I have a modest proposal to remedy this crisis. The state of Connecticut and the Chamber of Commerce should chip in and pay for our bags. That’s the least they could do for our loyal patronage over the years.
Think about the way life has changed for consumers. In the good old days, customer service was the hallmark of institutions like A&P and Caldor. Now, you have to use your own bags, you have to bring a shopping cart in from the parking lot, you have to scan your groceries and check yourself out. Then, you have to put your groceries in bags you bought. What’s this world coming to? That’s how they live in communist countries ... not capitalist countries.
Joe Pisani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.