I’m not a fan of going shopping at the best of times, to me buying groceries is a necessary chore. I don’t have a car, and this means going to the supermarket several times a week to buy just what I can carry. I have found that, at least in my neighbourhood, very few supermarkets have baskets and rely on trolleys. This doesn’t make one bit of difference to people who have their own transport and buy enough food to feed a family, but for us single people who only need a few items is a bit annoying. No big deal, I’ll just grab things quickly, carry everything in my hands, pay and be out of there in 15 minutes, right? Wrong.
People have an astonishing tendency to leave unattended trolleys rights in the middle of the aisles. Not to the side, letting people through, but right in the middle. Often you find trolleys double parked, effectively blocking the whole aisle and magically transforming your quick supermarket outing into an obstacle course. This, coupled with many people’s inability to walk on a straight line makes something simple into, quite frankly, a pain in the butt.
When I have everything I need and I’m ready to pay I generally join the fast lane since I don’t have a lot of stuff. There are two or three tills on the fast lane at my local supermarket, and for a reason I can’t quite fathom the first person in line always waits until the person in front has finished paying and is on his merry way bags in hand before laying down his stuff on the belt, thus holding up the whole queue and making people who are carrying their groceries on their hands extremely uncomfortable. Never mind the fact that we could simplify the process and get out of there faster if we’d all lay down our groceries on the tills as the person in front is finishing up. That’s what the grocery dividers are for.
Ah, grocery dividers. They exist. Supermarkets have them. People don’t seem to be able to use them. In Europe placing the divider down behind you is common courtesy, and here I’ve managed to freak out many people in front of me by reaching out to grab it since they couldn’t be bothered to put it down themselves. But wait, there is more. As you are queuing, often the person in front will realise that they forgot something. Sure, it happens. Do they apologise and rush across the shop to minimise the impact on others? Certainly not. They voice a forceful and contemptuous “permiso” and take their really sweet time to return while everyone else in line huffs and puffs in passive aggressive silence without raising any actual objections. Truly, I find it fascinating.
And then, after holding an armful of groceries eventually you’ll get to the finish line and be ready to pay. You are almost done, right? Wrong again.
You see, reusable bags are a beautiful thing. You can keep them in your handbag, they don’t take much space, and you won’t need to use unnecessary plastic. If you, like me, aren’t a fan of plastic bags going to the supermarket over here will drive you insane. Most supermarkets have baggers, generally college students who work for tips. They appear to be under the impression that the more plastic bags they use, the bigger the tip. I can see how this service would be useful for the elderly or for families who do their monthly shop, but for me it’s completely pointless. Besides, an average of five weekly trips to the supermarket really adds up in tips so I always politely decline the service but they don’t seem to care. As the cashier scans my first item I have my reusable canvas bags ready and I’ll try to grab my bundle of asparagus before the bagger can pounce on it. “No thank you, I’m ok for bags,” doesn’t seem to do the trick. Once, a very determined bagger decided to ignore my protests and before I knew what was what, all of my nine small items had been packed in six plastic bags. He wasn’t impressed when I repacked them in reusable bags and gave him back all his plastic.
To close on a positive note, slowly but surely reusable canvas bags seem to be taking off over here. You can now purchase nice and inexpensive foldaway bags at one of the main department stores that are brilliant for groceries, so I do hope to see more people with them soon.