For NaBloPoMo Nov 6, 2008
"I'm used to bagging my own," I'll say with a smile and a shrug, and I'll start in. If the bagger is not charmed, or easily put off or offended, they will sidle away with a barely-suppressed "Okay, lady, it's all yours." If they are persistent, I'll show them my canvas bags and tell them, "This one works better for heavy stuff." This gives them the hint that I can actually tell if they throw squishables in with canned goods. Most baggers are okay with this kind of indirect direction. If they are not, I'll suggest, "Let's put the squishables in here..." This lets them know that they should pay attention, dammit and Not Squish My Stuff! I have no patience with baggers who sling things in with no thought of safe and efficient packing.
When I was growing up, my mother always told the baggers at the grocery store: "I prefer to bag my own." I think that was partly out of being particular about how things were thrown in after she had spent tens of precious food-budget dollars on our weekly trip, and partly new-found assertive directness, still a rarity among women.
Back then, you didn't bag your own stuff. Nobody did. So this was still a radical thing to do, and you really had to assert yourself. This was even before the advent of plastic bags. Brown paper bags all the way, yes, and we *saved* those suckers. So my mother would watch the whole thing go through the scanner (oh, I'm sorry - that was before scanners too, so you had to watch the check-out clerk), pay, and and then she'd bag up the huge pile of groceries in her precise way. Then we'd go to the next store on our list (each item was ranked by which store it could found most economically) and do it all over again.
So as I began to do my own shopping, I saw nothing odd about bagging my own stuff... or letting someone else do it, either. The one Summer I spent in Europe felt familiar to me; there, everyone not only bags their own, but is expected to bring their own bags. "How cool is that?" I thought. But that was around the time of the advent of the plastic bag, so American were all about the disposable. It was like swimming upstream to reuse bags.
In the last decade, as I began to acquire my first canvas bags (my first ones were a surprise gift from my Sweetie), I learned a whole new way of store-interaction.
a bag of bags
Especially in food co-ops or smaller less mainstream groceries, it was typically expected that each person bag their own purchases. My growing collection of canvas bags didn't stand out so much. Even when the canvas was looked at as unusual, I could get by without too much comment, although they were still a novelty to most people.
DH used to complain that baggers or checkers would become angry and defensive when he pulled out his canvas bags, but I suspect that may be more from a perceived superior attitude. if you pull them out saying, "I have canvas bags," like store bags are the plague, I'm not surprised if the store personnel feel slighted.
My strategy is to be more light-hearted about it. "I prefer to use my own bags," I'll say. "I already have enough of a bag collection at home!" I'll joke. Even in the most mainstream store, they will often laugh along. Yeah, we all have too many bags, really.
I simply reset the parameters a little. If I have two sturdy bags, well, surely we can pack everything in without resorting to another bag.
And now many stores have started to offer their own reusable cloth bags. How cool is THAT? Not that I really need any more cloth bags!
But this is not why I started to write this post.
Now that I have become used to bagging my own stuff, it's hard to break the habit. I *like* packing my own bags. I like the satisfaction of doing it well. I have my strategies and preferences for packing the puzzle. I like my varied bag collection.
I have to admit I love those new self-checkout lanes at some of the major grocers and retailers. Zip, zip, easy, peasy. Especially now that I've learned to alert the monitoring clerk that I will place (for instance) two bags on the bag shelf so they can reset the bag-weight-gauge-thingie. I get satisfaction from my packing strategy.
But some places still have baggers. And they are not gotten rid of so easily. And in some places, why should I get so bent about someone else bagging my stuff if they do a competent job? That is their job, after all.
I've realized that sometimes it's a gift to let someone else do something for you. No, no, I'll bag my own! I don't need to say that automatically. Why not let the baggers feel good about doing their job well (if they do it well)?
Last night, I simply handed the bags to the young man and let him do his thing. I still kept half an eyeball on how he was proceeding, but he seemed to have enough alertness and strategy (keeping some things aside for the top of the bags, etc) that I had confidence that nothing would get squished. And as a bonus, we got to chat a little and enjoy a little social surface-conversation. And I thanked him afterwards, because I have to acknowledge the gift.
Why has this been so hard? To let people do what they can do? As long as I and my groceries don't suffer (too much), why try to control this so much?
I like to think it's more practice for letting my child(ren) practice their competencies without me hovering over them, picking at their performance. It's more practice for me living a more relaxed life with less need for control, less need for perfection, and more appreciation.
Although, still, I love to bag my own stuff.