The irritation in the checkout line begins as I gaze upon the sign in the express lane which proclaims, “12 items or less
,” which, of course, should read, “12 items or fewer
.” It is a trivial matter, I agree, but grating nonetheless.
Grown men and women, each presumably, at a minimum, with a grammar school level education or higher, and who therefore should know better, view the sign regularly, but leave it uncorrected.
When Cape Ann Markets owned the store the sign was hand written, and one supposes, therefore, that the error was merely an oversight (notwithstanding the fact that it remained uncorrected,) but now that Star Market has acquired the store, and accomplished a truly commendable expansion and renovation, the error has not only been perpetuated, but formalized, with the creation of a plastic, fabricated sign. Alas, the improvement proved superficial, rather than fundamental.
These matters I reflected upon with the time afforded by the woman in line in front of me engaged in the purchase of a single item – by check. The proud new owner of the $1.89 acquisition was busily engaged in preparing the necessary paperwork and documentation to complete the financial transaction.
With the preceding business accomplished, my turn came, and it fell upon me to answer the age-old question: “paper or plastic?” The question is a mere query concerning bagging preference – ostensibly. Now, I don’t know about you, but if you ask me, it is a thinly veiled quiz of one’s environmental consciousness (which in me has yet to have been seriously awakened.) So I grappled for the correct answer. While the cashier patiently awaited my reply, I reasoned to myself that paper comes from trees . . . which must be cut down to manufacture the paper . . . but the trees are renewable . . . and paper is biodegradable . . . plastic is not
. The cashier was becoming openly impatient, and the guy in line behind me was fidgeting too. I chose paper. The cashier was transparently disappointed. Damn, I got it wrong
. But I hate those plastic bags. The baggers put only one or two items in each plastic bag. If you buy 30 items, you leave with 30 bags. I like to have everything tossed into one or two paper bags. It’s a lot easier. I think that the store would rather give me plastic.
As I leave, I fantasize of an irritation-free check out, but a distant rumble within echoes the belly laugh of my muse, ever mocking and taunting, as the following fable surfaces to consciousness with the inevitable truth:
And then one day in the deepest reaches of hell, among the fire and brimstone, there appeared a miracle. For there a tiny crystal appeared. Then another. And then another. And when the damned approached and examined these crystals a cosmic memory was awakened in each of them. For this was the stuff of sno-cones and gin and tonics and Cape Ann winters. This was ICE. And the crystals continued to grow and grow until the fires were out and the sulfuric smell was replaced by the clean, sharp smell of a North Atlantic winter’s eve. For the first time since the Prince of Darkness had been expelled from heaven, hell had frozen over.
And on the very next day Star Market allocated check out lane #2 to my exclusive use, stocking it only with paper bags.