Monday, June 8, 2009

The Deletion of Bags and Boxes

There’s a rumor going around this small community that is disturbing. And, although here things happen at a much slower pace than in large urban centers, rumors travel at warp speed. And the latest rumor is that the B&Y Store, and the Magnate Store and the other Store are no longer giving out bags for purchases.

Now of course for ‘shock value’ none of the messengers of said rumors elaborate enough to say, that ‘yes, there will be bags available at a price if customers don’t bring their own’. That part of the story would water down too severely the intensity of such a shocking rumor.

So the original rumor, without the above qualifier, put me in a state of angst, and in that angst I remain. First, it was so shocking and unbelievable that I would cater to a business and then have to leave my purchases behind with no means to carry them to my car. The whole situation puts me in mind of stumbling on a lush blueberry patch in some backwoods retreat without a pickin’ pail. You cup your apron, and pick. You pick into your hat. And then you remove your high-top rubber boots and fill them because rubber boots hold a heck of a lot of berries. Still, the biggest and best berries are left behind.

So I think you can easily see how the rumor is so unsettling. I am both shocked and wounded. Isn't it enough that I am already paying deposits on milk cartons, juice cartons, and bottles, some of which have recycling value, and some of which don’t?

Of course I’m annoyed. We’re talking fixed income, here. Just getting what I need takes strategic budget planning without having to puzzle over which containers are refundable and the added cost of bags. The whole turn-around is a process so convoluted that I begin to question if it is a good thing or simply a circuitous way of attaching hidden taxes on food and other necessities? A strong argument cannot even be made that containers cost money for the retailer. I don’t put my car gas in a container, but I still pay an added fee for that as well.

And refundable containers hardly seems like a good thing when the drive to the recycling depot costs me more for gas than any costs I manage to recover?

So now, with this latest rumor, I begin to seriously fear that boxes and bags are becoming extinct. I truly fear they are going the same way as the unicorn and the woolly mammoth. Or tough men with macho gauchos and chest hair?

I knew it would eventually come to this, but still I was so unprepared. The last time Elder Daughter moved was a few years ago. That day, the day we were packing up all her stuff, ED scouted the downtown-area for boxes-to-be-had-for-the-asking from various stores. That is how moving has always been done. But there were no boxes to be had.

So that is when I began to realize that cardboard boxes were becoming extinct. When ED returned a few hours later with nothing but a couple of packages of large plastic garbage bags.

Truly, it is easier to pick blueberries in rubber boots than safely pack breakables and china in plastic bags. Still we did the best we could but it was one of the more difficult things I have ever done. And so, since then I treat boxes as things of value. Slicing them carefully along taped lines, folding them flat, and stashing them behind a craft table in my basement. Then afraid to use them because whatever came in those boxes, if it needs repair, or is flawed, cannot be returned to the retailer without the original box! And furthermore I don’t want to be the cruel heartless person that dispensed with the last of the cardboard box species.

But now bags? What the hell?

Always my one security is that no matter how much life may change one stable aside from food, shelter, and clothing, would be bag and box containers. Without them, whoever coined the phrase ‘thinking outside of the box’ was ahead of their time…a prophet, so to speak.

What we fail to realize is that a world without boxes and bags impacts on more than just the physical. Without the philosophy of the limits of containers, be it boxes or bags, humankind has no mental context for that notion in our consciousness that there are limits to how we think and act.

And without it, the whole world is going awry. Limits of containment, so plainly illustrated by the use of boxes and bags, are no longer understood. And so with that mental perception missing—without boxes (or bags), generations evolve that can only think outside the box, even the violent and criminal-minded and it is not good. That causes me concern as well.

But my bigger concern, as a hoarder, is how can I live with all my ‘things’ without anything to put my ‘things’ in. I didn’t save all those cloth scraps, canvas, buttons, tape, and lace, to sew bags with and then have nothing to put in them.

Bags and boxes sustain me and facilitate my everyday life. That statement does not mean that I am a villain. I do so understand environment. I recycle everything --- E-V-E-Y-T-H-I-N-G, but this ‘really good thing that I do’ cannot continue if I have neither a bag, or a box, to put my ‘things’ in!


The Old Bag said...

Without the philosophy of the limits of containers, be it boxes or bags, humankind has no mental context for that notion in our consciousness that there are limits to how we think and act.

Maybe it's one big conspiracy to jog humans into thinking on their own, learning how to define their individual limits instead of having those limits defined extraneously: "what do I need?" rather than "what can I fit?"

Just think...a world where everyone thinks outside the box because a box no longer has a definition! vision of nirvana...along with peace and harmony, of course.

susan said...

It's a different world. My parents were always "environmentally conscious" but it came under the name of "frugal." Both have been gone at least five years now, my mother had been ill with Alzheimer's ten years prior to that. I still have a small collection that I'm using (and reusing) of washed and flattened tinfoil from them. That I wash and flatten and reuse when I can.

But the store bag thing is tough getting used to; I forget to bring in the "earth-friendly" bags that I bought.

I think that foil, plastic wrap and bags, and boxes will be as valuable as gold some day. I am saving them now for my future retirement.

susan @ spinning

Joy Des Jardins said...

You know what....this really is kind of a frightening concept you've presented Roberta. I don't like it one bit either. Thank you. Terrific post.

Pauline said...

what did folks put their things in before bags and boxes?

Roberta S said...

Hi jeanne (OB), thank you for that interesting comment. If I understand your comment I guess here we debate (a good thing) and here we differ (not a bad thing). From my own perspective, I guess I'm just too old or too conservative to see 'nirvana' coming with non-contained thinking. Let originality of thought apply to music, literature, or sculpture, but not to my twice monthly grocery-shopping treks. :)

Roberta S said...

susan, I am slightly cheered by how the past few days have gone. The first 'cloth' bag I bought many months ago is so small, and so flimsy. Not much bigger than a bread bag. But now I bought two more and they are sturdy and hold a heck of a lot with no risk of bag rips. So now, I have the same problem you do -- remembering to take them with me.

Bags left at home when I go shopping hold even less than a small bag.

At the same time, thank you for the interesting thoughts that remind all of us that recycling is not a NEW endeavor. The last couple of generations just spelt it differently -- i.e frugality.

Roberta S said...

Thank you for the visit, Joy. Glad you enjoyed reading it and can relate to the uneasiness I expressed here.

Roberta S said...

Hi pauline. Interesting question. I guess boxes were originally made of wood. When I was a kid so many things came in wooden boxes. And a lot of stores wrapped other purchases in paper tied with string. I don't know about the pre-bag era but I do remember thinking it quite odd that when my Dad bought cottage cheese from the grocery store it was wrapped in heavy brown paper taped with paper tape you lick and stick.
I'm thinking prior to paper bags, stores used gunny sacks, and prior to that I have absolutely no idea. I can only think without bags, you loaded up the wagon with separate containers from the store, but very few. Coffee, tea, sugar, and flour. Occasionally yeast and baking soda.

It's not as if I know. I'm just thinking out loud here -- inside the box, that would be.

joared said...

I share your anxiety about a world without bag or box and have my own stash in preparation for what may come. Dare I reveal I sometimes wash out small plastic bags I've purchased and ... yes, you guessed it ... I reuse them. My "save everything" and frugal mother taught me this practice before conserve and recycle were commonly used words.

Two of the markets where I periodically shop have sold me cloth bags emblazoned with their respective store's name, but I often forget to take the bags. When I do remember to grab a bag, most distressing is to discover at the checkout I have the bag from the "other" store. The clerk smiles through gritted teeth saying that's fine, then hisses under his breath they'd impose a cash penalty. Think about that! I may get a wagon.

Roberta S said...

joared, you take that bag with the other store's logo and you spread it out and pat it and run your fingers along the edges as all professional demonstraters do of 'fine goods' and don't let any guilt niggle your mind just cause it'a a bag from a retail competitor. We are using bags and that means we are well behaved whether it is another store or not.

I enjoyed your comment and laughed out loud at the 'wagon' suggestion. A grand idea although could be a wheelbarrow might be easier to push over curbs and dump into the car trunk.

joared said...

You're right! A wheelbarrow it is. Also, thanks to your reassuring counsel, I will now proudly use whatever bag I choose at whatever store I like. If I'm questioned, I'll simply say knowingly, "Roberta said ..."

Roberta S said...

...and remember joared, to display that bag with pride no matter what the logo.