RogueMuirHead: Photography and Writing

Off Road ReTales: The Paper Bag May 2017

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Location: Work NorthBay Area, California

When I am not on the road I work fulltime as a customer service associate in the retail industry. There, I have interesting encounters with folks from all walks of life. I work with books and honestly it’s a pretty rad place to work. I have rows upon rows of information at my fingertips. Its as close as close someone might get to owning their own never ending shelf, essentially what I desired when I first saw Belle’s library, in “Beauty and the Beast,” as a child.  And, for the most part, I do enjoy helping people find the book they really want to read, operating as an interface between customers and the literary world. However, it is still a retail job and I am expected to bend over backwards for some folks and sell sell sell!

This past November, California voted by a 52% margin on a referendum to charge consumers at least ten cents for a recycled paper bag. Now, the customer is under no obligation to pay ten cents, however, if they wish to possess the magical paper bag of holding then they can. There are a variety of reasons why this initiative has taken place, however one big one is to cut down on waste that the previous single use plastic bags offered. Yes, most people have found this quite a hindrance in remembering their own bags or the fact that they demand retail establishments provide bags free of charge since they are already spending money there. But, the floating plastic island of trash in the Pacific Ocean should be a huge signal as to why we should be more mindful about our waste consumption. This is just one particular reason California joined several other states in banning the single use plastic bag.

In this instance though on this particular day the “best customer award” goes to the woman who bought a small children’s book. A middle aged woman and her elderly mother approached my counter and seemed happy with their acquisition. They both smiled at me as I ran their credit card through, finishing up the transaction with a few compliments on the nice weather and the holiday weekend. The sunlight cast a veil of rays through the gigantic windows that lined the streets as the transaction ended. I handed the woman her book, the reciept poking out of the cardboard pages. She began to put it into her large leather bag when suddenly she stopped and stared at me.

“You know–I’d rather have a bag. Do you have one?” She looked at me, all emotion gone from here face.

“Yes, that won’t be a problem. Got a dime on a ya?” I smiled as I began to reach beneath the counter for a paper bag.

She looked at me sternly her crow’s feet beginning to graze, “No, I don’t have a dime!”

“Okay” I responded. “Dollars will work too. It is a new law in the state that we charge ten cents for a paper bag.” I spoke calmly, not sure if they were from the area or not. 

“I know!” She said slamming the book on the counter as she stared down at me.

This was the stand off. Not high noon, more like quarter till four. Our eyes glowing as we looked into the depths of of one another. She had everything handed to her; her word was law no matter what the government said.

I sighed with a smile as I reiterated my statement, breaking the silence.

And so, she huffed and she puffed throwing the book into her leather bag. Her face fuming as she left the store groaning to her mother about how unjust not recieving a bag was. She continued to glare at me as she exited the building. 

To be honest, I probably would have just given her one, however having a temperatantrum over it does not grant such a “reward.” I had no real time to process the engagement as the next customer approached my register. She laughed glancing at the woman. “You know, you are pretty awesome for handling that. Honestly if she had asked I would have bought the damn bag.” I smiled and nodded and proceeded to ring up her transaction. 

“Would you like a —” I paused with a chuckle more than half way through my question.

“Thanks, but I brought my own.” My last customer laughed as she took out her reusable bag from her purse. 

YUM! (Not.)

(For an interesting article on the Pacific Plastic Island and the some affects on Wildlife click the turtle confusing plastic for a jelly fish.)

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