Paper or Plastic?


I want to be a responsible human being. I grocery shop a lot. Too much. When I make it to the front of the check-out line and the cashier asks, “Paper or plastic?” I want paper, usually. It feels more “Whole Foodsy.” I really wish I would bring several of the many reusable bags I have at home. However, that would require me to think ahead, a more premeditated grocery shopping trip. Forget about it. Yet, it would make me feel less destructive to the earth. I take certain earthly responsibilities very seriously. For instance, I have started cutting the plastic eight pack Sprite rings at work because someone posted a picture outside of the refrigerator of a sea turtle swimming or trying to with the plastic wrapped around it’s leg. Apparently, scare tactics work well on me. Unfortunately, much like my tendency to routinely take the last piece of toilet paper, I seem to always take the last Sprite at work, leaving the plastic ring screaming at me or maybe it’s the turtle. I can’t feel responsible for that sea turtle’s life of overcoming tortured leg adversity. I can almost hear him, looking down at the foreign non-ocean related thingamabob around his leg, “Why me, God? Why me?” Not on my watch, Mr. Sea turtle. I will carry the plastic rings around in my scrub pants all shift, if I have to, before cutting the rings apart. Multiple times into multiple pieces.

I’m pretty certain the bagger guy gave me a sort of “are you fuckin’ kidding me?” look when I requested paper bags. I may have overreacted in my head but still, I didn’t want to ruin his day, so I said, “Maybe you could use both. I have a lot of drinks.” Like he cares about all those Gatorades. Indecisive much? I don’t think that my new decision helped ameliorate his unhappy disposition. I probably made it worse requesting two kinds of bags. Who do I think I am? Next, the cashier lady chimed in, maybe to help me feel empowered as a grocery shopper or a woman. She said, “Honey, you get whatever you want.” How kind. Thanks. Maybe she knew that her co-worker’s attitude had bullied my overly sensitive thoughts. She seemed pretty intuitive. And spunky. She even had a mini-rant after she charged me double for the yogurt. Since it was over $3, she put her light on, she needed the manager’s code. After he came over, she let me know how ridiculous it was that she needed a manager to let her undelete items over $3. I agreed with her. I didn’t want to not agree with her. She told me she rings up stuff twice a lot. Maybe she’s got fast hands, like “supa fast,” as my four year old would say.

After I loaded my paper and plastic bags into my van, I wanted to just sit in the parking lot for a minute. Because I could. I needed to pause. I had been going non-stop all day. Get the kids to school. Do laundry. Do dishes. Take the recycling. Drop another kid off at school. Grocery shop. Then, stop. Time out.

Later in the day, my husband told me to hurry and come outside. He thought he had found something I would want to see. He was right. From outside of our garage window, I peered in to see a butterfly flying spastically, bumping into the window over and over again. It’s wings, were black with bright orange splotches on the tips. But when it’s wings were closed, it looked more like a moth. Either way, I wanted to help free it from inside of the garage. It looked pitiful repeatedly flying into the tricky glass pane. How confusing for a simple moth-butterfly to understand. I trapped the moth in my son’s insect catching box. I wasn’t sure if I had hurt it’s wings or not. I felt bad so I asked my husband if I should get the moth-er-fly one of our sweaters to eat. Moths love our sweaters. He did not think this was a good idea. I wasn’t going to give him a brand new sweater, just one of the ones that a few of his cousins or friends had already feasted on. Forget about it. I won’t give it a sweater, I said. I will just go try and let it go outside. I showed our boys, they weren’t that interested, probably because it was more moth than butterfly. And because they were watching the boob tube.


I layed down outside next to my moth-er-fly. I tried to shelter him a bit from the crazy winds knocking his wings back and forth. He probably hadn’t experienced these winds before living in our garage. I thought I may have done some wing damage in attempting to free him from the garage. I watched the moth-er-fly play dead for a while. Maybe he was shy or pissed that I rescued him. I got a bit bored, so I looked up into the sky and you will never believe what I saw stuck in a tree.

A damn plastic grocery sack.

I couldn’t even believe my eyes. Seriously. Life is just too weird sometimes. The wind filled the grocery sack with it’s strong breeze over and over again but that grocery sack was wrapped around a few branches. It was stuck. Oh, great, is this some sort of a sign? I would have never noticed the plastic sack if I wasn’t waiting for my moth-er-fly to escape. I got to thinking scare tactic thoughts. Is that grocery sack going to suffocate some innocent bird flying through the air? Great. I didn’t recognize the label on the bag without my glasses. But it was stuck in our tree. I watched the plastic bag for a minute or so, then I looked back to check on my rescued insect.

I peeked in. Holy cow! The moth-er-fly nearly hit me in the face as it flew out into the breeze. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. It wasn’t like “Free Willy” at all. Just gone like a kite in the wind. Or a plastic bag in the wind. That gets stuck in a tree.

My husband is going to think I’m crazy when I ask him to help me get that plastic bag down. It’s up really high, like above the roof. Maybe I will be better in the future about taking my resuable grocery bags afterall. Or perhaps I will ask for “paper” with a new sense of assertiveness. I could tell this really long story to the bagger guy. Surely, it would help him understand how difficult it can be to answer a simple question, “paper or plastic?”

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