It’s not “paper or plastic?” any longer

Pat Van Dyke Columnist, The Friday Flyer

Pat Van Dyke
Columnist, The Friday Flyer

The election is over and decisions have been made. We are now assessing how the results may change our personal lives.  There is much discussion on the many propositions, but I want to address only one: California Plastic Bag Ban Veto Referendum, also known as Proposition 67.  I was pleased with the results but saddened at the same time as I knew I would have to bid adieu to my free supply of all-purpose single-use plastic bags (I prefer to call them SUBs).

Don’t get me wrong.  I totally agree with the ban.  I am distressed when we are out on the lake and a SUB floats by.  (Doesn’t SUB fit this sentence wonderfully?) If possible, I rescue it and give it a more fitting burial than the previous owner who had casted it into “the deep” – AKA Big Bass Cove.

I hate having to dodge a SUB on the highway while it is “dancing” around and between the tires of a rushing vehicle. My heart skips a beat when I see one clinging desperately onto a bush in the median of our local freeway.  I wonder how it got there in the first place.  I consider myself a single-use bag enthusiast.

I am an avid recycler of plastic bags: all types, single use, heavy duty, sandwich and any other size.  I love the colors on the Wonder Bread bag, but have to admit that I still yearn for just one more blue and white gingham bread bag.

My mother started me on my recycling adventure when I was in first grade. She placed my school crayons in a Lipton Tea bag box and I was hooked!  To this day, I struggle with throwing away anything that can possibly be used again.

Every Christmas, as my family opens their presents, I stand to the side ready to grab the box or bag and place it back into storage.  I have an endless supply of Zody’s, Gemco and Montgomery Ward boxes and bags that reappear every year. I find it very nostalgic to “revisit” these stores, if only in my mind.

However, my loyalty belongs to my 40 year-old collection of SUBs. I use my SUBs over and over again so I really can’t call mine “single-use bags.”  It’s more like “used until they have huge holes or stink to high heaven bags.”  Right now I have single-use plastic bags stored in a single use plastic bag hanging on a hook in my pantry and I’m not even going to mention my “shoe polish bag!”  It’s a relic.  I’m sure it’s now a collector’s item.  It states very proudly, “Stater Brother’s – Celebrating 50 Years.”  My newest SUBs state, “Celebrating 80 Years.”

When my daughters were pre-teens, I managed to convince them that SUBs were actually luggage in disguise. For years, their social time with their friends, which consisted of mainly slumber parties, found them carrying all of their needed supplies for the evening in a supermarket plastic bag.  Best of all, they were always in season.  During the holidays, their “luggage” was embellished with pinecones and holly; and for those summertime patriotic picnics, they would proudly carry their “luggage” which was decorated with an American flag motif.

How will we attend a potluck without SUBs?  Your plastic bag is more than just a “means to transport your chicken casserole.”  It’s your identity.  It makes a statement.  One Ralph’s shopper can meet another Ralph’s shopper by only observing bag-usage.  Who knows how many friendships were formed just because of a simple bag?

Think of the possibility at a Single’s Potluck.  Just having a SUB could attract one single person to another and cause a relationship to begin.  I can see it now.

“I see that you shop at Albertson’s. That’s where I shop.”

“Yes, I do. In fact, I think I saw you at the frozen vegetable section.”

“What a small world! I was just there picking up some leaf spinach yesterday. But a person as sweet as you, has to spend most of her time in the candy section.”

Isn’t that the perfect pick-up-line? Can’t you just feel it?  Romance is in the air….all because of a SUB.  I see a Hallmark movie in the making. Can we really allow these type of encounters to diminish?  I think not.

As a teacher/principal who has traveled 24 times with large groups of 8th grade students to Washington DC, I can’t mention enough how handy those Stater Brother’s SUBs have become.  They serve as rain hats, protective shoe covers, laundry bags, cell-phone collection bags, expandable luggage, waterproof socks, chewing gum collection bags, protective camera covers, trash bags, and for those who are sitting in the back of the bus, a needed motion sickness accessory.

With all this said, imagine my shock on November 9, when I placed my eight items onto the 15 or less conveyer belt and heard those familiar words, “Paper or plastic?”  I always love to hear that phrase because I know that there are at least three SUBs that are going to become part of my collection.  But on this day, I also heard. “But I have to let you know, for plastic it will be another ten cents per bag.”

I knew that this was going to be enforced, but didn’t expect it to happen so soon.  I was totally unprepared but being Dutch and rather stingy, I decided not to spend the money but be creative.

I paid the clerk and then proceeded to stuff the poultry seasoning and turkey gravy package into the tops of my socks.  I then tucked in my shirt and lined my waist with cans of cranberry sauce, cream of mushroom soup, green beans and a bag of marshmallows. My pockets were just the right size for the yams which left only a 15 pound turkey at the register.  Not wishing to be so noticeable, I took off my jacket, wrapped it around the turkey and assumed the stance of a proud grandmother.

Who doesn’t smile when they see a grandmother carrying her newly born grandchild out of the supermarket?  Another Hallmark moment indeed.