Friday Firesmith – Geezers and Plastic

A guy was two people ahead of me in the store today. He looked a lot older than I am, but that might be because he was bent over, seemed mildly confused about what was going on, and the Geezer kept looking around as if there was something happening around him, and maybe there was. He grinned at me and waved, and I waved back and looked around to see if it was really me he waved at.

I got up to the cashier, and I had about five items, and this Geezer comes up and starts asking me where I’ve been, how am I, and the first clue that I get that I might not actually know this person is he didn’t ask me about my dogs. Everyone always asks about my dogs, really. He doesn’t seem to understand that I’m trying to conduct a business transaction and the cashier, despite having my cloth bag right there in front of her, is putting one item in one plastic bag at a time. I have five items. She is using five plastic bags. I think I understand now why there’s a floating mass of plastic trash in the Pacific the size of Texas.

She revving up to check the next person out, I’m rebagging my stuff, and the geezer is standing there talking to me like we’re old friends and I still have zero idea who he might be. Worse, infinitely worse, as I’m trying to get my stuff out of the plastic bags and into the cloth bag, he reaches over and grabs me by the arm.

Okay, he’s old, and he’s clearly a little over the hill when it comes to his memory, or I am, one of the two, but at the same time, damn, man, who just reaches over and grabs other people? I’m not a touchy-feely type man to begin with. So, there’s the check out chick, who reaches over and puts something in my bag the guy behind me just paid for. There’s the old dude, who is still talking to me like he’s known me all my life, and then there’s the dude behind me who suddenly realizes that he and I are both trapped in some sort of weird alternative universe where no one really knows what’s going on. The cashier arches a brow at me, as if to tell me that my Senior Citizens Convention needs to meet elsewhere.

I get my stuff situated but the Geezer is just standing there, not letting me move, and I have to start moving forward to nudge him. There isn’t an easy way to tell someone to get the hell out of the way, so I just nod and tell him why yes I remember perfectly that time in Charleston when the gorilla… wait, what?

Another man, much younger than the Geezer, and for that matter, me, comes along and herds the Geezer away from me, and rolls his eyes at me. I’m not sure if he was eye rolling because the Geezer had trapped yet another person in conversation, or if he thought there are two Geezers, who can’t stop yapping.

So I’m left there, and I wonder if I heard the man right, if he said something about a gorilla in Charleston, or if he noticed I wasn’t paying attention and messing with me, or if my hearing, which has been bad for decades, decided to interpret something he said wrongly.

The guy that was behind me walks by me and I see he’s carrying ten items in about eighteen different bags, and it doesn’t register with him that he’s doing anything at all wrong, because paper bags were so last generation, and cloth bags, well, you know, I have no idea why they haven’t caught on, but suddenly I realize that he’s a lot younger than the Geezer and I.

I still remember when bottles, from shampoo (now that was a long time ago) to soft drinks, were all glass, and I remember when all bags were paper. I miss wooden boxes and the feel of a glass bottle when pouring a liquid. It was more stable than the light plastic stuff. The manager of the store comes over and speaks to me, because I’m just standing there lost in thought, and I realize, she too, is a hell of lot younger than I am.

I remember listening to old people, in their forties, when I was a kid, talk about how my generation was going to ruin the world with rock and roll and long hair. But I think we’re doing it with plastic instead. Our revolution wasn’t some dramatic change in the way things were run, but a very subtle insertion of a toxin, that took the place of nearly every container and packing material we once knew.

Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

31 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Geezers and Plastic”

  1. the plastic bags really get me mad the stores need to train the people better ,one bag for one small thing uggh just like what happened to you I have 20 bags for 6 things ,I would think that the stores would not want to have to spend the money on all those bags,I will start bringing my own cloth what will you do when you see him next

  2. The one that gets me is when they put a gallon jug that has a handle in a plastic bag that is going to bust. We use cloth bags. When we can we move the bagger out of the way and do the bagging ourselves. It’s obvious they get no training. Some simple regulation could solve a lot of the plastic problem but I’m sure capitalism will handle it.

    • Chris, I was once a bagger, and dammit, I was a good bagger, too!

      It’s an odd thing that there are people who cannot bag well, and I know it isn’t a big deal, like rocket surgery or knowing how to operate a blinker, but at the same time, so few people do it the way it should be done.

      I like that you bag your own stuff.

  3. The plastic bags beat paper when you carry your groceries into the house. With paper you can carry two, hoping they don’t rip, but with plastic you can carry a bunch of bags in each hand. The problem is with the store thinking the shampoo must be in a separate bag from meat, and meat in a separate bag from ice cream, etc. Plastic beats cloth bags for cleaning the litter box.

    By the way, in Ireland, feral plastic bags caught it trees are called Witches Britches.

      • In Ireland if you need a plastic bag then you have to buy it for 20cent. Bag for life (cloth) is an euro or more. The amount of plastic bags has been cut down drastically. The fruit or meat bags are free but they are tiny.

  4. Why didn’t you stop her from bagging your stuff in plastic with the first article she bagged? My local Publix has a container for recycling their plastic bags. I stuff one with all the others and then drop them off on my way inside the store. That way, I can carry stuff in the manner that Bruce talks about.

    • Paul, I was being accosted by an generatric arm grabber. Usually, they know me well enough to know that the cloth bag with their name on it means that’s where the groceries go.


  5. Weird story. Anyway: I remember when they banned paper bags in favor of plastic ones in order to save the trees. Now they have a problem with polluting the planet with plastic bags. Seems to me that, whenever the government gets involved trying to ‘save the planet’, we the people pay the price (along with the planet). Bottom line: has no one heard of the word ‘recycling’?

  6. Perhaps the old geezer picked you to have a conversation with, because, being a dog person you maybe have that look about you that says you can spare 5 minutes with a chap who is lonely. Could be the only time he gets to talk to people is in a store, and pretending to know you his preferred way of starting a chat.
    Here in Aus, single plastic bags have been banned in all major supermarkets, started on July 1st. They had a cool of period of a week when they gave reusable plastic bags for free, now they are selling reusable plastic bags for 15c each, or cloth ones around $1. The public had months of notice before hand about the changes, yet long suffering cashiers are still getting ear bashings from disgruntled customers. So much so that one chain has extended their free useable plastic bags for another month.
    How sad it is when wild life is choking to death for the sake of human convenience.

    • SandG,
      More and more cities around the United States are banning them but I live in a fairly backwards part of the world. The people here consider plastic bags as “free” because they might be able to use them in some other way.

      Yet the bags all, sooner or later, find their way to the side of the road, or the landfill, or in a tree.

      The sooner we’re done with these things the better.

  7. At the Aldi stores, you can pack your purchases in cardboard boxes left over from stocking the shelves. When you get home, the cardboard can go in the recycle bin. Win-win.

    • Richard, I haven’t thought about getting a box to put my groceries in.

      But you know, you put the box in the cart, you put stuff in the box, you take it out and out it on the belt and then back in the box. I think it would work very well. I have to think about this.

      • Years ago when I was buying large quantities of canned alpo, I would go to the store after midnight on my way home from work. I’d take one or two cardboard boxes, fill them with cans, and wheel the cart to the check out. I’d tell her how many cans and she could count the top layer then easily see how many layers deep, and ring them up. Only handle the cans once, quick and easy.

  8. Starbucks to the rescue! No more plastic straws (which cost them money) but they still sell all those plastic bottles of water (which gives them a profit).
    I use the self check so I get to bag my frozen foods together, the refrigerated foods separately and the rest in yet another bag. Bringing all those bags each time is a bother but it’s worth it.

    • Barb, I think if nothing else the Great Straw Debate brings into focus the problem with plastics. I think straws are a good start but bags would be a better target.

  9. I worked in a grocery store back in the early 90’s when the question was paper or plastic? Or, as one of our bag boys used to put it: kill a tree or choke a fish? He was WAY ahead of his time.
    I also lived in Germany in the 80’s and everyone had their own bags. You had to pay 5 pfenning for a plastic bag. They were ahead of the times as well, they were already recycling then. Don’t get me wrong, their emission standards for the cars they were driving were not up to par, but they were only polluting the air, not the ground or the water.
    Austin is a bring your own bag town, and has been for years, we all should be.

      • I live about an hour north of Austin. I do have the spare room. As far as the dogs, it would be a tight fit. But I know you’d never be at peace away from Hickory Head. It’s a quiet little town where I live, but I know it’s not as quiet as your little slice of Heaven, nor as secluded.

  10. Here in Ontario, most stores charge 5c for a plastic bag so most people bring their own cloth ones. At my neighbourhood grocery, we earn 10 points for every cloth bag we use, which doesn’t sound like much but it all adds up to free groceries over time. And it’s good manners to help bag your own groceries especially if there’s a lineup behind you.

    • Mini,
      I’ve been bagging my own forever. I can’t, or I won’t, wait for someone to do something for me I can be doing myself.

    • Hi fellow Canadian!
      Yes, most stores now charge 5c for a plastic bag and strongly encourage cloth sacs. However, at one point, plastic bags were outlawed. Toronto then got a mayor who was Trump before Trump was elected. [His brother is now the premier (like governor) of all of Ontario – we’re screwed!!] Anyway, he believed that no one should be telling other people what to do (huh?) and so canned that idea and allowed plastic again 🙁
      Now stores try to enforce the 5c a bag rule, but it’s amazing how strongly people push back on that. It’s really sad.
      People are definitely becoming more aware of environmental destruction and what is needed to help Nature survive. Some are finding such unique ways to help the Earth! Others are being dragged along, kicking and screaming. But thankfully many, some begrudgingly, are becoming aware of the need to save our home. Using cloth bags is, at least, a beginning.

        • The only, and obvious, obstacle is getting people on board. Once the citizens feel that it’s a worthwhile cause, politicians will act on it in order to save their behinds at the next election.
          If you have active environmental groups in your area, they often begin by publishing articles highlighting the ‘Great Garbage Patch’ in the ocean, or print photos of birds who have become hung up in trees due to bag handles around their neck, or a sea creature with a belly full of bags causing it to starve to death. Sometimes people to rethink plastic bags when they realize that plastic sitting on the ground for a while creates a great environment beneath it for vermin to burrow. Even if the bag decomposes, the resultant micro-plastics are full of toxins which harm both the Earth and any creatures who rely on it.
          Anything is possible! I hope your community listens!!

  11. Everything’s plastic now, even our money.

    California has outlawed plastic one-time-use bags. Now we have heavy duty plastic and cloth bags, both of which last a long time.

    One of these days kids will see an old movie or TV show where the kid bagging groceries asks “Paper or plastic?” and they’ll have no idea what that means.

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