Saturday, November 13, 2010

Plastic Bag Pariah

I committed a cardinal sin this morning. I forgot my reusable shopping bag when I went to the farmers' market.  I left the house in a rush to get the the market before all the good stuff was gone, and in my haste, I left my bag at home.  They always have plastic bags to put the produce in, but it wasn't until today that I realized nobody ever really uses them. 

As I strolled around the market picking out root veggies and the last of the summer tomatoes (and a few green ones for frying), I began to notice that everyone else had their Whole Foods and Trader Joe's bags slung over their shoulders.  There was even a token bag from The Strand.  What can I say, I live in a hipster neighborhood. And there I was, conspicuously without one.  What had started out as a jolly shopping trip turned into a covert operation as I skulked around the stalls trying not to be noticed.  But the real trouble began when I got in line to pay.

I stood there behind all the bag people, trying to pretend I was engrossed in the items in my basket.  When that didn't work (I swear, I could hear the hipsters behind me snickering), I craned my neck as if I were looking for my companion who was nowhere to be found (s/he had probably made off with my reusable bag).  No luck. The hipsters weren't falling for my act.  Nobody pointed, but I felt their stares and judgement.

When I got up to the table to pay, the woman who was weighing my vegetables looked expectantly at me.  I looked behind me to see if I might see the imaginary companion who had absconded with my bag.  But alas, nobody appeared.  "Do you need a bag?" she whispered, looking disappointedly at me (it was the farmers' market equivalent of "Your card's been declined.").  It was like she didn't want to get stuck ringing up such an environmentally irresponsible ogre.  "Yes, I must've forgotten my bag today," I replied, praying for her mercy.  "They're ten cents," she said, unforgivingly (a five cent markup from the usual five cents the grocery stores charge).  "I don't have a car! My carbon footprint is very small," I wanted to scream, but instead I paid my pennance and slunk off amist the disgusted stares of the more thoughtful shoppers, surprised that they didn't pelt me with organically grown rootabegas as I made my retreat. 

bags
Photo courtesy of velkr0 via Flickr

And as I walked back past the line of shoppers waiting to pay on my way home, I spied one other bagless customer.  A guy about my age who looked just as sheepish as I had felt.  We gave each other that knowing look . . . the look of someone disgraced, someone ashamed, the look of a pariah.  I can't be sure, but I think he stood a little taller after seeing me, encouraged by my fearless plastic-bag-carrying confidence.  I left knowing that perhaps I hadn't left the world a little greener than I had found it today, but at least I made another person feel good.  And I swung my plastic bag full of goodies all the way home.

12 comments:

  1. My boyfriend NEVER remembers reusable bags when he goes to the FM, either. Today, he came home with a giant paper bag filled with bread and eggs, and I'm sure he swung it all the way home, too. ;)

    p.s. I had so much fun last week! Thank you. :)

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  2. The worst is, before we started using Peapod, I'd buy more reusable bags each time I went to the store because I'd always forget. I have so many of them now, I can't believe I forgot today! DUH!

    Was so glad to see you last week. Hope your sis is feeling better. Cocktails soon!

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  3. I can't tell you how many times I have walked into Publix (our very decent chain of grocery stores here), leaving a very large, vast collection of reusable bags out in the car! I get paper but I think they are "out" too because of all the energy used to create them and of course the expenditure of trees. Then with the plastic, I end up with 20 bags, each of which has one item. Grrr......

    Slightly off topic but related - until recently, hubs was a staff director of our state senate's committee on environmental preservation. Do you think I could get Mr. Environmental Policy wonk to put the green bean can in the recycle can? NOOOOO!!! I have to fish it out of the regular trash can.

    Environmental travails for sure - I enjoyed your post!!

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  4. LOL! I love it! Thanks for sharing!

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  5. I wonder how much of this is just your imagination as to what people are thinking about you? I forget my own bag about 3/4 of the time and end up silently cursing myself, but not because of anything like my carbon footprint, but because the canvas bag is sturdier. But I never notice any disdain from others.

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  6. It's possible...but the lady at the counter definitely whispered "Do you need a bag?" I'm certain I didn't imagine that. Oh....the shame! ;)

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  7. I try to keep a few bags at my office, in case I stop at the grocery store on my way home, but I've been known to forget them, or, of course, have them all end up at home, forgetting to bring them back. Sigh.

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  8. haha this story is hilarious. DCers sometimes just take themselves (and their causes) wayyy too seriously!!

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  9. Next time just pop into Giant and grab some from the bag recycling dropoff in the entryway.

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  10. I could do that, or better yet, I could not be lazy and walk the 2 blocks back to my house. Oh, did I forget to mention that?

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  11. The Arlington FM has plastic bags and they don't charge...I have at times forgotten my re-usable bags and had to purchase replacements at Giant, WF and HT. I try to keep one in my backpack, but I don't always do that. Plastic bag pariah indeed...keep em coming Tina!

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  12. This is the most dignified walk of shame I've ever read ;-)

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