Grocery Shopping in the Twilight Zone

by gillis

I had the cream cheese in my hand and weighed my checkout options. Better to be the fourth person in the express lane? Or the third person in the regular lane? I took my chances with the regular lane since I saw no grocery carts. Big mistake. Didn’t realize I was lining up behind Angry Right Wing Man and his cousin, Bitter Tax Payer, until it was too late.

Normally I am not treated to the political musings of my fellow shoppers. Normally I avoid shopping in the same town where I teach. But on this lucky night I need cream cheese for the standardized testing celebration breakfast I’m hosting in my homeroom tomorrow morning. Even I see how hideous that sounds. It is hideous, but the test comes whether I want to proctor it or not. Why not blunt the edges with bagels?

In Great Barrington, the town where I teach, voters have recently passed an ordinance banning thin film plastic bags. Shoppers who do not bring their own reusable bags to stores are now given a choice between purchasing the store’s reusable bags or paying a “per bag” fee for paper bags. This new ordinance has been widely publicized, but some folks are still surprised by it when they reach the register. I don’t live in Great Barrington, but I do read the newspaper, and I listen to the radio, and I look up from my navel on occasion so the bag ban has not escaped me. I usually have reusable bags in the back of my Prius (yes, that’s how much of an ass I am, I went there), so the ban has little effect on my life.

On this evening I see that the first shopper in line, Angry Right Wing Man, has no bags. He has purchased a large melon, two two-liter bottles of Dr. Pepper soda, and a package of paper towels. An unwieldy mess it turns out to be when he determines he “will not pay a cent extra for a goddamn bag ferchrissakes in this goddamn socialist store. Didn’t we know that there was more gas and oil being produced from shale underground than ever before? And there’s plenty more to be found? Plastic isn’t going anywhere. Ridiculous.” He walks away clutching his purchases and cursing into the evening.

The next shopper, Bitter Tax Payer, has two large loaves of bread and refuses the for-sale paper bag as well he proclaims, loudly, that he thinks the environmental issues all stem from people having too many children. According to him, if there were fewer children being born, things would be much better. Less tax money for schools for one thing. The schools are wasting our money left and right. And now they want to renovate the high school. It was good enough for him, it’s good enough for all these kids. The cashier says she agrees with him, as she did with the prior customer.

I speak up and say that I am a teacher, that I’m glad there are children to be taught. I further ruin the party by placing my self-righteous canvas bag on the belt, place my purchases in it, and pay for my things with a smile on my face. I fairly skip out of the place, so happy that I don’t feel put upon by the world. At least not at this moment.

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