November 9, 2001
Men have a deep, dark secret we keep from our wives and
girlfriends. It's not something we're proud of, but we do it the
moment we're alone in the house or her back is turned.
No - it's not wearing your pantyhose or drinking milk right out
of the carton (at least not in my house it isn't). It's actually
something that would be much harder to explain if she ever came home
unexpectedly and caught us in the act.
When you're not looking, we throw out grocery bags.
You know - those flimsy plastic bags we use to carry our
groceries home from the supermarket. Every time we come home from
grocery shopping we have another dozen bags to put away. For some
reasons, some store clerks insist on using one bag per item. When
you get home, no one likes to throw them away because it seems like
quite a waste. We figure there must be a use for them. So they get
stuffed under the kitchen sink, collect in closets and generally
hang around for years.
In our house it gets to the point where you have to fight your
way through bales of them to get to the dishwashing detergent. The
room in the basement where we keep our jams and jellies always has
three or four large bundles of grocery bags rolling around on the
And of course the darn things aren't recyclable most places. In
fact, putting them in recycling will contaminate the entire
truckload. I've seen websites devoted to trying to find a use for
the little plastic devils - everything from window insulation to
home-woven rope. I've tried reusing the bags at home, but they seem
to be specially designed to tear or split. Or you pull one out only
to find that the last thing it held was a wet milk carton. They're
too small to fit in a garbage can, or you miss a tiny hole in the
bottom and they end up leaking all over the place. The only people
who can really use them are dog owners who stoop and scoop - and
that's when you especially don't want to find a hole in the bag.
Some grocery stores try to encourage you to reuse old bags by
charging a nickel for new ones. I'm not sure it's ecologically
motivated or just a scam. A few of my more crunchy granola friends
try to bring their groceries home European-style in their own
collection of canvas or string bags. That's fine if you don't mind a
major investment in carry-alls and are organized enough to be able
to round them all up whenever you head off to the store.
The rest of us are stuck with an ever-increasing supply of these
toxic, useless things filling every nook and cranny of the house.
And to add insult to injury, the women I know seem genetically
incapable of just throwing the surplus bags out in the garbage. I
don't know if it's the nesting or the ecology thing. But that's
where we men come in.
Men are strong and heartless, and used to making tough decisions
- like whether to watch hockey or Baywatch reruns.
I know I'm not alone in this, as one of my close friends recently
confided in me that he does exactly the same thing to his
ladyfriend's supply of plastic bags. When no one is looking, a few
more armfuls go out in the garbage.
Like I said, someone has to be strong. I just hope we don't get