You Can Draw Your Own Metaphorically Resonant Conclusion

My town has recently banned one-use plastic bags. There’s now a 10-cent charge for paper grocery bags and you can’t get the plastic flimsy things at all. This has fundamentally changed the transaction at the check-out counter.

It used to be that, if I wanted to use my reusable bags, the onus was on me rather than the store. I had to be aggressively proactive by making sure that the string bags were the first thing on the conveyor belt. Even then, I had to be sure to use my words and make sure I said, loudly and clearly, to the bagger that I’d brought my own bags, please use those and only those.

Any number of things could screw this up. Sometimes I was tired and forgot. Sometimes the line moved fast and I couldn’t get the bags on the belt in time. Sometimes my bags had gotten buried under groceries and by the time I dug them out, often I’d get a few plastic bags before I managed to stop it. The failures were always MINE.

And, of course, when a failure happened, I rarely asked them to take the groceries out of the craptacular plastic bags and put them in my string bags. It was rude and awkward and the bagger was just doing their job. Trying to do it efficiently, even! They didn’t know any better. People in line would glare at me for taking more time. It just felt weird.

But now, everything has changed.

Now, before anyone starts bagging, sometimes before they even start the transaction, the cashier will ask, “Do you need a bag?”

And I can say yes or no. If I say no, they don’t just stuff things in a plastic bag willy-nilly. They will let me fish around under the lettuce or grope blindly through my purse to drag out my string bags. Or, they will just let me carry my gallon of milk home without a bag! The one time someone accidentally bagged my stuff in a 10-cent paper bag, she apologized right away and stopped doing it the moment she realized what she was doing.

The onus is now on the grocery store and it’s taken all the pressure off of me. The culture change caused by this one law has made my whole shopping experience much easier. They ask first, every time.


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