No bag left behind: Why I bag and you should, too

When I go food shopping, if circumstances allow, I bag my own groceries.

What are the necessary circumstances? First and foremost, I must be shopping alone. If I have my girls with me, I’m sorry, but all of my attention and energy on the checkout line is focused on keeping their hands off the candy and trying to prevent them from repeatedly asking the cashier for stickers. Not that I succeed at this, as I typically leave the store with two girls plastered with stickers on their body and faces that read “THIS ALCOHOL IS PAID FOR.”

Second, there has to be no store employee available to bag. I wouldn’t want a grocery store employee coming to my job, pushing me out of my chair and sitting down to write a rambling column about my family, so I won’t impose. This rules out shopping at Safeway, which usually has baggers. By the way, I’m pretty sure Safeway baggers are obligated to ask, “Do you need help out with this?” which is embarrassing for everyone involved when I’m declining while being handed a single bag that contains a pack of gum and French onion Sun Chips. I think I got this.

Lastly, I must have brought my own bags, which I try to always do. Why? I generally am unaware of where the store’s paper bags even are, and feel as though any attempts to locate them would be an invasion of the cashier’s space. And I’ve never in my life operated the Lazy Susan of plastic bags without leaving one behind. Basically, I need to be familiar with my bags, which sounds like something a pimp of mature women might say. (For more pimp/grocery jokes, please log on to my blog.) As a side note, I never feel as Caucasian as I do when I walk up to Trader Joe’s wearing my work khakis, holding my own reusable grocery bags and, after selecting a cart, wiping it down with a disinfectant cloth. High school me would hang his head in shame. What can I say? I keep it real.

Speaking of Trader Joe’s, my weekly trips there typically involve all of these circumstances coming together to form the perfect storm of me bagging groceries. What has surprised me—and what has inspired me to write this column because, you know, I DO have a point here—is how surprised the cashiers are at this simple act.

I pretty much have the same conversation every time:

Cashier: Wow, have you thought about filling out an application here?

Me: After the day I had, I think I might! (side note: my day was fine)

Me and the cashier, in unison: Ha, ha, ha …

(awkward silence)

Cashier: Seriously though, thank you. Not everyone does this. (nods head toward adjacent aisle, where cashier is furiously scanning and bagging while 50-something woman waits, holding credit card, staring into nothingness)

It’s possible the circumstances are not just not ideal for all the non-baggers I see out there, but … there are a lot of non-baggers out there. And, you know, it’s really not that hard. There are only three things to remember when bagging groceries:

•    Put the items into the bag, not the other way around.
•    Don’t put heavy stuff on top of light stuff.
•    Save the eggs for last.*

*This would make for a good Weird Al parody song of Vanessa Williams’ “Save the Best for Last.” That song came out in 1991, so I may have missed the boat there.

It’s that easy. Plus it keeps the line moving, makes the cashier’s job a little bit easier, and, if you are physically able to stand at the credit card swiper while texting, then you have passed all physical qualifications for bagging groceries.

Oh, and then go can go home and enjoy the fruits—literally—of your labor. Despite the “literally” I just used there, by fruits I mean beer. After all, it’s paid for.

Note: This column appears in the 10/30 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/31 issue of the Peoria Times.