We finally went to the grocery store yesterday. We had been buying just what we needed in the last month or so. As a result we were out of almost everything.  

We wore our masks and thought that someone should make one that doesn’t make the wearer feel like they can’t breathe. Perhaps they do. We just don’t have one. We wonder how our daughter, the nurse, can wear a mask for 12 hours straight.

After our cart was full, we headed towards the checkout. We put our cloth bags on the conveyor belt first and unloaded the groceries. The nice cashier informed us that she was not allowed to use them. We asked if she could put the items on the carousel and we would pack them ourselves. Again, no. She then pointed out the small orange sign at the entrance to her lane.

The only way to use our own bags was to go through the self-checkout. As almost all our groceries were already unpacked, we decided to let the cashier do as she wanted. After we got home I counted 29 plastic bags. If we had used our own sacks there would have been four or possibly five sacks to carry into the house. 

What a waste.

Yes, I know that there are several places I could have taken them to be recycled. That is not the point. The point is that it was unnecessary for those 29 bags to be produced. If I had been alone, I would have paid for the items, then pulled my cart so it was out of the way and quietly repacked everything, leaving the plastic bags behind. It is at that point that I would have been labeled as a cranky old lady.

I realize that the rules and regulations mandated by the corona pandemic are inconvenient and are designed to protect us from ourselves. Still, I have to wonder how many people touched that box of Cheerios I bought. There were the farmers who planted and harvested the oats. There were all the workers who turned the grain into cereal. There were people who made the boxes and people who delivered the product to the stores. There were all the people who handled it at the store and stocked the shelves. There were shoppers who picked up the box and put it back. Finally, there was us. 

I understand that protecting the cashier from any germs we might have brought in on our cloth bags is a good idea. However, as well intentioned as it is, I still find it irritating. I am convinced that plastic bags view trees and shrubs as perfect vacation spots or perhaps retirement communities.

This pandemic has changed all the rules. Close physical contact is discouraged and in some cases outright banned. Shoppers are finding empty shelves. Colored tape on the floor marks the distance we should keep from other people and that some aisles now are one-way only.  Restaurants are closed or carry-out only. Entire shopping malls have been shut down.

I am convinced that we haven’t seen the end of this. Mother Earth seems to be taking time to cleanse herself and revel in the fresh air and clear waters. Something tells me that she isn’t quite ready to return to the way things were done before.

Nothing lasts forever, not even a pandemic. At some point the threat will be manageable. We will get used to the new rules. Our children will think that this is the way it always was. If we are lucky, someone will invent a plastic bag that automatically decomposes when it is stuck outside for a day or two. 

Until then I will complain about plastic bags while I maintain social distancing, and stay home as much as possible.