Friday, June 19, 2015

Thoughts on Bad Juju and Grocery Bags

It was my first sleep-until-you're-done day in many months and I woke up at 6:03am. I blame the sun. At least the people in Alaska have it figured out. When we went there once in June, I slept like a baby because all of the hotels have black-out shades. Oh, I have it figured out, but I haven't replaced my blinds yet. I'm too tired.

I'm doing laundry right now.

Lovely, you might think. She's going to talk about laundry.

Worse. I'm washing grocery bags today so, yes, I'm going to talk about grocery bags instead.

Seriously? Grocery bags?

A few years back, I was accosted by a woman I know who was selling grocery bags and coffee cups as a fund raiser. And I mean accosted. She worked me until I bought a bag, wrung me out. She wasn't done with me after I bought the first bag at $5 a pop. No. A short period of time passed and another fund-raising moment came and there she was at it again, serenely smiling in that high-pressure-salesman sort of way. She could have sold cars. I tell you, I felt the fear in the back of my knees the minute I saw her standing there with that smile on her face, with her table of grocery bags and coffee cups. I decided to do an end-run and immediately bought another $5 bag. At least I would use the grocery bag even if it cost five times what other ones cost. And then, I could relax and smile back at her whenever I ran into her. Not exactly. Before she was done with me, I bought one more grocery bag at five times the cost of an ordinary bag. And she's still out there, selling coffee cups and grocery bags whenever she has an opportunity. It's like knowing that Jaws is in the water. Somewhere. Just waiting. With that toothy grin on her face.

Fast forward six years. I now have a collection of grocery bags that can't be beat. I have the bag I bought in France because my sister didn't like my backpack for some of the more high-end restaurants. I bought it because it could pass as a purse but labeled it in my mind as an expensive grocery bag. It's so nice that cashiers don't want to use it for groceries. Explaining it to the grocery store clerks always makes me think of the incredible restaurants in France. I have the bag I bought at the dime store in Hawaii with the cheerful old woman at the cash register. While Mike and Nick haggled over some trinket, she smiled and taught me a bunch of words in Hawaiian and nodded her head sagely when I repeated the words she'd taught me and told her my favorite word was 'ohana,' family. I love that grocery bag for the inclusion into the Hawaiian family that I felt that day. I have the '12' grocery bag I inherited from a football fan that incorrectly identifies me as a mutual football fan, though that may have to change now that Nick is signed up for his high school football team. I get a lot of incomprehensible chatter from cashiers whenever I pull out my '12' grocery bag, especially before the Superbowl. I try to smile and look as though I belong in this conversation, but despite my '12' grocery bag, they soon understand that I do not because I have a dumb look on my face. That bag entertains me for the damage it does to true '12' fans. If you're an avid football fan, sorry for that.

I also have the ratty old bag I bought in the days when Whole Foods first opened in my neighborhood. Whole Foods cashiers keep trying to replace that bag because the plastic coating is peeling off and getting all over my groceries and black pants. I keep politely telling them that my ratty old bag is fine, that it's still holding groceries well. The funny thing was that one overly-enthusiastic cashier just gave me a new grocery bag one day despite my protestation. I tried to tell him that I didn't need anything for free, that my ratty old bag was fine, that I even liked it's abstract patterning since the plastic had nearly finished peeling. I told him that my ratty old bag had survived two or three trips through the laundry and it was still working fine. He gave me a bright shiny new bag anyway.

And do you want to know what?

That bright shiny new bag lost its stitching within two months and some apples fell through a hole and got bruised. It made me mad. I returned that bag to customer service. Oh, I didn't want a new bag, I told a woman at customer service. I didn't want a refund for something I got for free. I have plenty of bags anyway including the ratty old bag that I held up for the woman to see. I just wanted them to see the irony in what they'd been trying to do. I wanted them to think about the environment when they looked at that new useless free grocery bag that was now headed for a flotilla the size of Texas. I told them I could have stitched the thing on my sewing machine but that this was beside the point. Oh, I was an old crabby bitch that day. Can you picture me, standing there with bad hair and red-rimmed eyes from lack of sleep, holding my ratty old bag in the air and shoving the shiny new bag across the counter to the nice customer service woman?

If you're a customer service woman for Whole Foods, I apologize. In fact, if you're a customer service person anywhere, I apologize for all of us crazy people who show up at your counter and give you grief over stuff you have absolutely no control over. You customer service people all over the world are going to heaven for all the ration of shit you have taken in regarding ridiculous stuff us crazy people bring back to you. Saints, you are. Absolute saints that should stand with Ghandi and Mother Theresa in heaven.

And so today, I'm washing half of my grocery bags. You can never wash all of them at once. Then you're sure to get stuck in the store with all your grocery bags hanging on door knobs in your house and coming home with six or eight brand new plastic bags that will work twice before they tear and end up in the flotilla the size of Texas that is clogging the Pacific ocean. Remember the flotilla of plastic the size of Texas clogging the Pacific ocean? I've read that all the oceans are getting them.

I'm washing the ratty old grocery bag from Whole Foods with abstract art on its sides, my ohana grocery bag that always makes me feel warm as if I could be a grandmother in the Hawaiian culture if I were dropped there one day by mistake, my '12' grocery bag that makes me feel like a bit of a fraud but is entertaining nevertheless, my French grocery bag that no one seems to want to use because it's too nice.

And I'm washing the three grocery bags that cost five times what they should. As I stand there shoving them into the washer, just touching them gives me the impression that that woman is going to show up in the middle of my tiny laundry room pressuring me to buy yet another one. Still, those grocery bags are holding up, looking almost as good after heavy loads and extra bleach as the days I crumbled under the pressure and bought them from her. On the day when that smiling woman finally convinces me to replace all of my ratty old comfortable grocery bags with her bags that are five times the cost of an ordinary bag, I may never have to buy another grocery bag again.

And that would be sad.

Thank you for listening, jb

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