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The Villages
Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Paper, plastic or reusable cloth shopping bags?

Lisa DeMarco

One of my oldest friends from New Jersey recently came down to visit. A Jersey City boy, now a typical middle-aged northern wise guy. Sounding just like Rocky Balboa when he talks, Richie is as lost in the 80s as I am, which has kept us chums for all these decades. 

While visiting, Richie asked me to take him to the store. He wanted to stock up on some essentials my house lacked from his last stay. “While you’re at the liquor store, will you buy me some licorice, grandma?” Jeremy asked. 

“No, baby,” I said. “It’s not a candy store.”

“But you said liquor store, grandma. Don’t they sell licorice?” he questioned. 

“No, Jeremy. They sell alcohol. You know, adult drinks,” I answered as I handed him a Twizzler. 

Then, as we got to the bottom of my stairwell, Richie turned around and started to walk back into the house. 

“What did you forget?” I asked. 

“My bags,” he replied as the door closed behind him. 

Ignoring his answer, I went outside to get the car started. I wanted to let it cool off for a couple of minutes – seeing I only move it once or twice a week now that I’m retired. In the Florida heat, it can get pretty toasty in between uses. 

When Richie returned, he sat down in the passenger seat and neatly placed two empty cloth shopping bags on his lap. “Wow! Richard, when did you turn into Mr. Green?” I asked, referring to his commitment to recycling. 

“I don’t want to have to carry everything out in my hands,” he said. 

“Well, how much booze do you plan on buying?” I giggled. 

“I’m just clumsy,” he said. “I’ve tried it before without a bag, and it’s not worth the risk.”

Again, I questioned, “How many things do you need to buy?” Now feeling a little insulted that my home obviously wasn’t appropriately stocked for him. “You know I’m going into the store with you, right? We can always grab a cart if you need it,” I added. 

As I put my car into park in front of the store and looked him in the eyes, he said, “I’m sorry, Leese, I’m just not as good a juggler as you are. Remembering to bring my own bags everywhere is too much for my simple brain to handle.”

Still totally lost about what he was talking about, I finally questioned, “What is the deal with the grocery bags? Is it something with Corona?” 

“No, Lisa,” he snapped. “Are you kidding me?”

I guess I am totally out of the loop regarding almost everything these days. I did not realize my home state of New Jersey had banned all use of any non-reusable bags. Because I thought I was being pranked, I decided to wait in the car while he went into the store so I could Google this absurdity. It turns out I am not only lacking in my Lois Lane reporter skills, but I have also lost track of all that goes on in the world outside of my circle. 

When Richie returned carrying his satchels filled with cheer, I must have had a deer in the headlights look on my face. He immediately asked, “So you figured out I wasn’t pulling your leg, huh?”

Then as we drove home, I couldn’t help but think of how difficult it would be for me to grocery shop under these conditions. For starters,  I would have to purchase dozens of them. Plus, I would have to mentally calculate how many items I was planning on buying before I even left the house – to have enough bags to get everything home, or I could simply leave them all in my vehicle just in case. Otherwise, what happens when my cart is all paid for, but I don’t have enough bags? How am I supposed to get each individual item into my car? Worse, what will I line all my small trash cans with if I no longer have free grocery bags? 

It wasn’t until later that evening that I realized how serious Richie was about the ban. My husband Joey came home with some of his own store-bought personal items. As he threw the plastic bags away, you would have thought that Richie was diving into home plate for the winning run the way he lunged for those bags before they hit the trash. 

“What’s up with him?” my hubby asked. 

“See!” I shouted proudly. “Joey’s up on all the world news, and he doesn’t have a clue about the ban either.” I declared.

It turns out Joey was aware of the situation, but even he did not realize it meant all and any! Then, my husband, just to be a wise guy, opened our pantry to reveal a stack of grocery bags in a cubby. “Take as many as you like. Luckily, I still live in the free world,” Joey snickered. 

“Just think,  Richie, if my mother was still alive, she could have become a millionaire selling off all the plastic bags she had her whole closet stuffed with,” I laughed.

“Yup. Black Market Bags by Bertha. I’m sure she would have done well,” he added with a smirk. 

Only in America!

Laugh on! Peace out!

Lisa DeMarco is a columnist for Villages-News.com.com

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