Reusable grocery bags and I have a somewhat tumultuous history. For years, I spurned them in favor of disposable supermarket plastic bags, which played a critical role in my daily cat litter scooping routine. But then I switched to a different cat litter disposal strategy (I’ll spare you the details), broke free of my plastic bag dependency, and bought a couple reusable bags.
We got off to a great start, those first two bags and I. They came from Trader Joe’s, purveyor of fine foods and superior grocery bags. Approximately 92% of the reusable shopping bags you’ll see in Southern California are Trader Joe’s bags — I’m not sure how much of their popularity is due to actual bag quality and how much is due to the image they project. The Trader Joe’s bag is little classier than a regular supermarket bag, but less pretentious than a Whole Foods bag. It shows up in supermarkets, pet stores, and farmer’s markets. It’s Everybag.
My reusable bag honeymoon didn’t last long. I began to neglect the bags I’d once adored. I’d leave work at the end of the day intending to stop at the store on my way home, and then realize I didn’t have any bags with me. I’d postpone my shopping for a day — but then I’d forget the bags again the next day, and the next. Eventually, I’d run out of toilet paper or peanut butter or Sharpies or something, and I’d be unable to put it off any longer. In my despair and confusion I’d accept whatever bags they wanted to give me: plastic, paper, whatever. Once, I wound up with disposable bags made out of unicorn skins and industrial waste, assembled by 6-year-old girls working 18-hour shifts by candlelight in an abandoned coal mine. Clearly, something had to change.
My solution was to buy so many bags that there would always be some in my car. But then I discovered that I had a more serious problem: Grocery Bag Dysmorphic Disorder. I can never correctly estimate the number of bags I’ll need for the groceries I plan to buy. Often, I’ll bring in one bag and buy 2-3 bags worth of stuff. Once when I did this, a bagger actually managed to get everything into one bag — he approached it like a particularly challenging game of Tetris as I watched with ever-increasing fascination. I was amazed when he managed to get it to fit, and we shared a celebratory moment before I left the store. It was the high point of my day.
Other times, I’ll make the opposite mistake and bring in four bags when I’m buying three items, leaving the bagger to wonder whether I want them to stack the bags together to form one quadruple bag, or make two double bags and put some items in each, or leave the bags as singles and put the milk in one, the cereal in another, and open the egg carton and put six in each of the other two bags. I’m never quite sure which of these alternatives I want, either.
Very little is known about Grocery Bag Dysmorphic Disorder; in fact, a Google search for it returned literally no results. If anyone out there also suffers from this affliction, I just want you to know that you are not alone.
Check out today’s Dear Good Greatsby, in which my favorite advice columnist helps me out with an unrelated personal problem.