Psst – Know Where I Can Score Some Contraband?

Safeway BagLook, man, I can quit anytime I want. I don’t need the stuff – I just want them, you know? They used to be all over the place – people were just giving them away, free!

Then some government a*****e decided to criminalize them, and I’m stuck without a reliable supply, and I’m goin’ a little crazy here, you know? I’m not even sure where or when I can get my hands on another shipment, and it’s making me … well … cranky.

I’m not talking about LSD. I’m not talking about meth. I’m talking about those formerly ubiquitous, seemingly indestructible plastic shopping bags (see photo). In some places, you now have to pay for them. In others, including the city where I live, they’ve been banned altogether. Instead of contraband, they’re contrabags. If you need a bag at my local Safeway, you pay a dime for a rectangular-bottomed paper bag. Other places, you pay a dime for plastic.

This situation frequently leads to outcomes that would be hilarious if they weren’t so idiotic: when we hosted ten friends who came to Hawaii for our vow renewal for dinner at a Chinese restaurant, the bill included a fee of 20 cents for the two bags with which we carted away leftovers. Kind of like buying a car and being charged for the pen you used to sign the contract.

I’m all for recycling. Nobody can deny my cred in this area. When I was a teen-ager, even as an incipient Republican, I was so aghast by the number of tin cans that were thrown out by my high school cafeteria, I cobbled together an elaborately logistical scheme to get them recycled. At my urging, the cafeteria staff washed them and set them aside in boxes. I would come in after classes ended and meticulously cut out the bottom of the cans, flatten them, and put them back in the boxes. I would then get the car keys from Mr. Mayberry, an English teacher who lived in my condominium complex, put the boxes in his car, and return his keys. After he got home, I would retrieve his keys, transfer the flattened cans to our car, return Mr. Mayberry’s keys, and drive the cans a couple of blocks away to the local recycling center (where I also volunteered).

I’m equally committed to limiting the use of plastic grocery bags. I was aghast the first time I used Safeway’s home delivery service and discovered that they used at least twice as many plastic bags as necessary to pack my order. I hate the idea that sea turtles think they’re jellyfish and choke on them.

But as it happens, those little bags fit perfectly in the woven Cost Plus wastebaskets we have. The bags keep the wastebaskets clean. They are also the perfect size to use when scooping out the cats’ litter box. Now that we have five cats, that’s a lotta scoopin’ goin’ on. Paper bags just don’t do the job as well, because they can’t be tied shut.

I’ve long gone through our stash of plastic bags. I hate digging in those containers some stores have for recycling plastic grocery bags, because people put all sorts of small, unusable plastic bags in there. It really dilutes the supply.

Talk about the law of unintended consequences. I’ve now resorted to begging friends and relatives in outlying areas without such restrictive bag policies to save theirs for us. This seems to be feeding the habit pretty well, but every so often, like Don Birnam in The Lost Weekend, I check my stash to see how long I can go without cadging another swig – or hit, or whatever … I feel like I’m mixing my addiction metaphors here.

I feel like I’m this close to finding some store where they’re still using plastic bags. I’ll go in, furtively put down a dollar bill, and ask in a whisper for ten of them. And hope to heck the authorities don’t bust me for the crime.

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About middleagecranky

The Middle-Age Cranky blog is written by baby boomer Howard Baldwin, who finds the world, while occasionally wondrous, increasingly aggravating.
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4 Responses to Psst – Know Where I Can Score Some Contraband?

  1. Larry Marion says:

    simple soluton to the cat litter problem–use paper bags and then staple them shut. works fine.

  2. Carley says:

    Big Lots still uses/gives them: they fit my under-sink garbage can!

  3. Sassy says:

    We use them in our pooper scooper — something we found years ago, apparently invented by a ten year old boy to make it easy to clean up after the dogs in the back yard and specifically designed for those plastic bags. I got pretty darn upset the last time my husband carted a bagful off to recycle.

  4. Barbara says:

    Ironically, we now buy them at PetSmart. Somehow I don’t think this is what the lawmakers intended when they decided to “go green.”

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