Street Talk: Adventures in Grocery Wrapping


It happened. So finally happened. It was Saturday afternoon, just after 4 p.m. in Hannaford, when, after years of trying, I finally hit the Nirvana grocery wrapper. It all came together in a glorious bagging moment right there at the self-service checkout, where hundreds of strangers fiercely clash to see who can pack their goods in the most orderly and efficient manner.

At least I guess it’s not just me.

I had practiced my bagging skills hard ever since the self-checkout became a thing, and that day all that hard work and study came together in a moment of geometric perfection.

The jar of peanuts fits precisely next to the tin of graham crackers (no chocolate). The packets of cat food slipped obediently into a small space in the corner of the bag and the fit was perfect. All the dangerously heavy items had been packed first, so the thinly sliced ​​Swiss cheese was protected near the top and returned home with confidence.

I had packed my store-bought bag with such finesse that I expected a senior store official to run out of a hidden room, all ablaze with stunned admiration for what I had done. . The bells were ringing and hundreds of colorful balloons fell around us as the store manager rushed forward with champagne in hand.

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” he said, trembling and breathless with fear. “Not since the boy Schmidt’s four-bag miracle in 2004. You’ve achieved what every bagger dreams of at night when his tired head hits the pillow. My friend, we would like to officially invite you to this year’s Bagging Grand Prix in Honolulu, Hawaii. YOU are the champion we’ve been waiting for!

Of course, at this point, every shopper in the store would have stopped to witness such an inspiring story. With their hands on their foreheads, the women fainted and vanished in the aisles. The envious men clenched their teeth and swore that from that day on they would train even harder on the bags so that one day that glory would be theirs.

The applause, slow and hesitant at first, would gradually turn into a thunderous ovation that could be heard during blocks and, what can I do? I must bow here. . .

Strangely, none of this happened. I paid for my groceries, took a look around to see if anyone had witnessed the majesty of my achievement, then deflated I walked out of the store with my bag of perfection under the arm. I didn’t have any champagne or even a stupid balloon.

I thought one of the boys in the bag gave me a grateful nod as I passed, but I could have imagined it.

I’m telling you, for most of my adult life I’ve enjoyed the men and women shopping at the store. It’s not only that they handle such a variety of oddly shaped objects with Tetris-like precision, but that they do so with all kinds of distractions raging around them.

I once saw a bag girl neatly tidying up a mountain of groceries in one bag even as the customer viciously berated her, with a series of four letter words and ad hominem slurs, for not honoring a seven-year coupon. I have seen baggers smile and nod politely in the face of neurotic rages that bordered on violence.

“Yes sir; no sir; I’m sorry sir. I have placed your chuck roast in a separate bag for your convenience. Be careful with this bag sir, it contains the eggs.

I have said it before and I will say it again. A checkout line is like a petri dish of human behavior and many of those behaviors are ugly.

Courageous men and women who shop, many of whom are teenagers, regularly experience misdirected verbal abuse while taking great care to never mash bananas or mash bread. Even the most frenzied harangue cannot distract them from the art of arranging groceries according to their shape, size and fragility so that no merchandise is damaged when the sharp-tongued customer brings them back. his home.

When I was a hungry teenager, I pumped gasoline for dough, and I sincerely tell you that there are many lessons to be learned in dispensing fuel, checking oil, and washing machines. windshield for people who treat you with less respect than something. scratched off the bottom of their shoes.

I think it’s the same with grocery baggers, who spend long hours maintaining strict order in the bags even though there is an obvious lack of order in the world around them. Anyone who can make heavy cans and oddly shaped vegetables plays well with soft fruit and delicate egg cartons – all the while screaming that a harpy asks to see a manager – will probably be fine no matter what the world is to them. Reserve.

They develop courage, these baggers, and a patience that borders on the inhuman. They had a good education, training, or both.

So you can hardly fault me ​​for admiring these people and wanting to emulate them the best I can, even though I’m generally horrible at racing races. (Don’t even get me started on the 2019 pudding disaster. I didn’t know ham was so heavy!)

Sadly, the era of grocery baggers seems to be fading away as more people switch to the self-checkout and just about everyone brings their own bags to stores – bags they will insist. to complete themselves, as if these amateurs had the aforementioned training and courage to do so.

My sacked moment of glory went unnoticed, but I came to embrace it. Why should I be showered with praise no matter how hard these hard working men and women perform their miracles all day, every day with almost no recognition or thanks?

I, too, will shop with quiet humility and unwavering grace, expecting nothing at all in return for the breathtaking mastery of my work.

Which doesn’t mean that if the store wants to give me a little trophy or something, I will categorically refuse it. . .

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