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When I stand in the checkout line at my grocery store, I scan the 46 varieties of high cocoa chocolate bars, finally settling on the sea salt, habanero pepper version to toss in my cart. Followed by, “Oh shit, I forgot my grocery bags.” Again. Cue the cashier: “Did you bring your bags?” Followed by me mumbling no, I forgot. Followed by the stink eye from the cashier.

You can tell a lot about people from the bags they use to tote their groceries home.

Reusable bag is a relative term. Mine reflect the microcosm of the cesspool of life that is the backseat of my truck. It’s one of those cheap fabrics—not found in nature—that are magnets for dog hair and yellow souvenirs that happen when Buddy or Tenzin get excited when they spot one of their kind in a passing car. Occasionally there’s a dirty sock clinging to my bag or shriveled lettuce and cheese shards from Taco Bell. Fling one of those babies on the checkout counter—along with your organic produce—and it’s like “why bother with organic?”

The looks of disgust from people behind you in line make it clear not everyone has dogs. Or lives in their car. With their hair on fire. What?

Then there are those reusable bags, women take home from luncheons, filled with magnets and tiny perfume samples. They’re usually pink, purple or gold (because all women love these colors, right?) and are branded with sponsor logos and taglines. There are some you’ll never find me carrying like the ones for the varicose vein clinics. I can practically jump rope with the veins seeking exile from my legs, but am I going for a spot light dance on that topic? Or the ones for laser hair removal, specializing in upper lips and other facial hair. These companies need to skip investing in branded bags. Doing anything with them but toting donations to the thrift store is just not going to happen.

Recently I subscribed to the New Yorker, and they sent me branded tote bags. Now those I will use. Perchance, I think, those bags will self-select someone in the grocery line who enjoys the magazine. As we wait, we’ll chat about the weekly cartoon contest in the back of the magazine. We’ll share captions we’ve submitted that didn’t make the cut and laugh at our small circle of cleverness. Ha, ha, ha. Maybe he—or she—will invite me to my first book club ever. Perhaps I’ll enjoy too much pinot and over share. I’ll insist the club read a self-help title, because I’ve read thousands and they’ve helped me SO much. As I head to the parking lot with my groceries all cozy in my New Yorker bags, I realize I didn’t toss that fancy chocolate bar in the cart. Whose errant, melty parts will not end up on my treasured totes.

I’m getting better about remembering to bring in my bags. That light pat on the back for doing my part for the environment is nice. Sometimes they’re branded bags from another grocery store. I feel a little subversive. They announce, “I shop around, you know. I’m not just your bitch.” That’s a good feeling, too.


  • Esther Zimmer July 6, 2017 at 8:23 am

    What a clever piece of writing! And you made me laugh at the end, thank you! Esther x

  • M P Mueller July 7, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Thanks so much Esther! Have a lovely weekend.

  • Brenda Coffee July 11, 2017 at 11:24 am

    In addition to cellphones and TV remotes that seem to be the dirtiest things we encounter all day, it sounds like we need to add grocery bags to the list. xoxox, Brenda

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