My first Minnesota grocery-shopping trip was in 1998.
We had just moved to town from Washington. I made a list, located a local store and headed out.
I was able to navigate the aisles of a west metro grocery chain easily enough and felt pretty good about the whole experience until I checked out. I patiently waited for my items to be scanned. Watched them roll down the conveyor to the bagging area.
Paid my bill. Then looked at the cashier. Awkward silence.
“What, do I have to bag my own groceries or something?” I asked the cashier.
She smacked her gum and nodded her head. A blank look of unconcern on her face.
I’d never bagged my own groceries in any of the three states and multiple cities where I could recall buying food. I fumbled with bags and jammed my items into them in frustration. I was so slow that annoyed and more experienced grocery bagging customers went around me to expertly bag their Cocoa Krispies and Ragu spaghetti sauce.
Later, I learned that most Twin Cities grocery stores required customers to bag their own groceries at that time. WHAT?!
But I’ve actually become a proficient grocery bagger. Only now, I’m annoyed by another cultural shift in the grocery bagging landscape: bringing your own bags. WHAT?!
Would I rather not have a heap of plastic bags on my kitchen counter after unloading my broccoli and beer? Yes. But I need those bags for picking up dog droppings and keeping dirty shoes and wet bathing suits separate from other packed items on road trips. I could recycle extra bags by bringing them back to the store. But I often forget.
I have accumulated a few reusable grocery bags so that I can look like a haughty Earth-first kind of shopper. But I often forget those too. Maybe if Woodbury banned plastic bags like other cities have done, I wouldn’t forget. But then I’d get my big government crank on.
A friend once said, “I get so angry when I see people using plastic grocery bags. Don’t they even care?”
I wanted to say yes. But the truth is mostly, no.
I want to care. I want to be with the “in” crowd carrying stylish mesh bags. But then I get indignant when thinking about cashiers who look at me with distain when I don’t help bag my own groceries. Or other customers who judge me if I use a store bag.
I don’t even know which kind of bag to request when asked: paper or plastic? Anxiety overcomes me and I just blurt out, “Whichever is easier for you.” Because who would want the grocery shopping experience to be easier for me?