Finding the funny in parenthood before somebody loses an eye...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Paper? Plastic? Or perhaps you'd prefer to kill a Polar Bear with your bare hands?

So the continued shock to my system of being back in Los Angeles after weeks in the mountains continues - and the disparities between life here and there - hit me at every turn.  The most glaring of which happened yesterday at the market.

In LA, when you buy groceries, they ask you, "Paper or Plastic?"  We (meaning me and lots of other people I know) usually say "Both, please."

The concept behind this is that you have a more secure and stronger way to carry your heavy groceries and then once you get home you can use the paperbag for trash without worrying about leaking because it's covered with plastic.  Convenient right?  OH, and when you bring food to a friend's house for potluck?  You have a great, safe, clean way to carry your offerings.  Yes indeed, paper AND plastic together are a reliable, convenient and multifunctional option.

However, this combination is environmentally frowned upon.  Or so I discovered.

When I tried to use my "Paper and Plastic" combination this summer in Woodstock I was almost burned at the stake.  Good thing we weren't in Salem.

The first time I went food shopping at a supermarket there the pimply faced teen behind the register asked me "Paper or Plastic?"

And I reflexively said, "Both."

"Excuse me?" 

"Both paper and plastic."

"Together?" The confused look on the check out girl's face told me she had never heard of this before.  Her tone implied she couldn't have possibly heard me right.  My instincts signaled "Alert! ALERT!" and told me to abort my paper and plastic plan. 

"Oh NO...not TOGETHER.  I mean, if you could put the plastic around the cold stuff, that would be great.  Just so it doesn't make the bags wet.  Then the rest in paper.  So I can RECYLCE it.  Of course, not "together."  Save the planet!"

I had obviously read her right because the next words out of her mouth were confirmed enthusiastically by the equally pimply faced boy bagging my stuff.  "You know, I've heard of people actually doing both!  They take a paper bag and THEN they use a plastic OVER IT!  Isn't that STUPID?!"



I stood there.  Silent.  Guilty.

It was obvious they felt that any person irresponsibly and needlessly using that many resources at once might as well have been wrapping their hands around a baby polar bear's neck.  Or biting the head off a live Pacific Sea Bass. 

"Yeah! Wow!"  I tried to sound shocked too.  I think my guilt worked in my favor.  They bought the act.  I watched him put two cartons of milk into a thin, flimsy plastic bag I knew would rip before I even got it to the car.  The eggs and cereal went into paper bags with no handles.  The ones they used in old movies?  The ones you can only carry two, MAYBE three at a time?   Most inconvenient. 

I took my flimsily packed groceries and wheeled them to my non-hybrid car.  Bags ripped.  Paper tore.  I had to make a ton of trips back and forth from the car to the house in the rain - which did nothing to improve the strength of my poorly bagged groceries.  A bag tore open and a couple cans of Spaghettios fell out of a bag, rolled under my car and kept going till it fell in the stream next to the house.  "Oh yeah...Save the $%&&^$%# planet!"  That's what I was thinking.

So you can imagine, that when I hit that market here in LA for the first time since I got back, it was not entirely without relief (and a sense of guilt) that I had them use paper, foil, plastic, frozen storage bags, and WHATEVER else it took to keep my groceries insulated, manageable and safe.

So here's what I'm thinking.  YES, being eco-conscious is extremely important.  We only have one world.  I TOTALLY get it!  I ABSOLUTELY want to save it!  And I'll be happy to get reusable canisters and lunch box containers for the coming school year;  I'll clean my pasta sauce jars and milk containers thoroughly before I throw them away; I will make sure to not mix my recyclables with my garbage.

I'll do ALL of this, if I can just say "Both, please."

Yeah, yeah, I can hear those polar bears groaning.


  1. I lived in California for years and honestly I never thought about the logic of using BOTH paper and plastic. You have however convinced me so now I will go ask SPECIFICALLY FOR BOTH and see what the checkout people do! Thanks! W.C.C.

  2. Okay, I can agree with the wet stuff being in plastic but as a cashier-if you ask me for "double-bagged both" I would be thinking - "psycho and drives a Hummer!" I will admit that the cloth bags people bring me hold more but take 10X longer to fill because they flop over if I don't hold them with one hand while I scan with the other. It's a no-win situation so just say "both" and look over at some imaginary person and wave frantically, distracting the cashier or bagger until they finish up!

  3. i think you should just get your own shopping bag..the cloth kind which won't tear. every coupla MONTHS or YEARS (depending on how fussy you are), toss them into the washing machine. :-)

  4. You know that's how they used to bag our stuff here in Northern CA, but now, they give you the "eye" if you don't bring your own bags. I went out and bought a bunch of reuseable ones (25) and get to watch them moan and goran when they have to take them all out to bag..LOL You just can't win really. I think mine are called wasteless bags, anyways, they hold ALOT more, but the baggers still have no idea how to bag. My fruit is alwasy smooshed :(

  5. I think it's hilarious that the packing of groceries is apparently a hot button! I had no idea there were so many other people out there totally irritated by the poor packing skills of grocery baggers! It drives me CRAZY!

  6. This post cracked me up. I'm seriously LOL. Thank you for bringing some humor to my day. I found you on MBC and I'm going to follow.

    Come visit when you can...
    Aimee @ Chickenville

  7. Ok I bring my own bags and I bag my own groceries most of the time. We have checkout lanes for do it yourself. Sometimes I do go to regular lanes and I still help bag my own - yea I have had too many smashed loaves of bread and veggies. I have a couple bags that are canvas tote bags, not grocery bags, the ones they sell in the grocery store tend to get messed up after you wash them.
    I made a couple bags from the legs of Tech jeans. . cut off enough to make a tall bag.... Just turn the pant leg upside down, the finished bottom is now the top and sew the bottom together add straps and you have a grocery bag!!

  8. I agree with Melanie- no matter what you use, those sackers have no idea how to bag groceries. Bruised fruit every time. I always have to rebag everything myself when I get out to the car. Okay, maybe I'm a little particular.

  9. New follower from MBC. Come visit me,

  10. Ha! So many issues with groceries!

    I bought a couple of cloth bags from Aldi (not sure if you have those discount grocers by you). It a great, cheap grocery store. Once you check out, they just put everything back in your basket and there is a counter at the front of the store where you bag your own groceries (one of the ways they keep the prices down, I guess). The Aldi cloth bags are very large and have a flat, solid bottom (shaped like a brown paper grocery bag). I love it! They also have a reusable insulated bag you can buy for frozen items.

    I am not a paid spokesperson for Aldi - just a mom who hates smooshed groceries and likes to save money *grin*

    Great post!

  11. What a great idea! Paper AND plastic! I don't even think paper is available anymore where I shop. I shop at "WE HATE POLAR BEARS grocery store", so maybe that's why?

  12. It's been so long since a store bagged my groceries in "both" that I had forgotten about that option. I received four large, thick, woven plastic coated bags by giving a small donation to an env. org. Picked up a flimsy cloth bag at an Earth Day exhibit. Farm Fress gives you a nickel off for each bag you bring. Trader Joe's gives you a ticket to enter a drawing for free groceries. They haven't drawn my name yet. DARN!

  13. Hi! I'm your newest follower! I read your write up in L.A. Magazine and absolutely loved it. Like you, I'm in L.A. blogging about raising my daughter who has Asperger's. My blog is called Little Bit Quirky. Check it out if you ever get a chance!


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