Dear Higher Power,
I know you haven’t heard from me in a while, but I try not to bother you unless it’s, ya know, serious. Thanks for being a sport, and…prepare yourself.
I’ve been grappling with something big recently; a spiritual struggle that transcends any I’ve known before. I’ve been asking myself a question, and no matter how I plumb the depths of my soul and mind, I cannot answer it. Do you know, Higher Power?
Do you know what happens to my tote bags when I die?
For years, I didn’t give the presence of tote bags in my life a thought. Before college, they weren’t even a factor. If you went to the grocery store, your purchased items went into a bag (“paper or plastic?”), and you took the bag and brought it to your car and then your house and then the paper bags became recycling bags and the plastic bags became liners for your tiny bathroom waste basket. It wasn’t uncommon to have a drawer chock full of plastic Stop-N-Shop bags, just waiting to be filled with tissues and tampon wrappers, or to be vomited into after a really bad night at the dive bar.
And then, overnight, or so it seemed, things changed. “Would you like to purchase an eco-friendly tote bag for $1.95?” the cashier asked one day, her cheerful gaze barely masking contempt at my obvious hesitation. Why would I buy a canvas tote bag when the plastic one provided by the store was free, I wondered? But then I looked into her eyes, and knew that $1.95 plus tax was a small price to pay to avoid the shame of being publicly labeled as against the environment by Cheryl at the organic Co-op in the Financial District in NYC. “Yes, please!” I said, handing over my debit card and grasping the hefty canvas tote–to the cashier’s obvious approval and relief.
Suddenly, the cheerful offer to purchase a tote bag with every grocery trip became more sinister: “Do you need a bag today, or did you bring your own?” I was horrified to discover that it was now expected that I bring my own tote bags to the grocery store, so as to save the environment. If I didn’t, I was irresponsible, callous, even discourteous. Unplanned stops at the grocery store caused extreme shame as I babbled my excuses to the unimpressed baggers: “Oh, I was just out for a run, and then I realized I needed some milk. Usually I bring my own bags! I have tons of them at home, I promise, it’s just this once!”
It was never just this once, and the baggers knew it–and they showed their disappointment in their scowls.
But the truth was, I did have tons of tote bags at home! The drawer that once contained crumpled masses of plastic was now brimming with yards of canvas covered with the logos of every grocery store in NYC. And yet, I could never remember to bring an empty tote with me at all times in case I needed to make an unscheduled purchase–earning me the wrath not only of grocery employees but of my fellow customers at well. “Someone forgot their bags, hmm?” the lady in the fur coat would ask, apparently unaware of the existence of the word “irony.”
Then, after a move back to San Francisco, my tote bag shame became codified into law: California taxes 10 cents per a paper bag at the grocery store, which you can of course avoid if you bring your own. My tote bag collection, which had diminished during the packing process, was sorely lacking, so I slowly built it back up again, with totes from every establishment in the city gracing the floor of my coat closet: Whole Foods. Trader Joe’s. Burger Urge. That Store With The Fifty Dollar White T-Shirts. Even Walgreens, for Christ’s sake.
And here is where my spiritual crisis began to arise. What the FUCK, I asked myself as I selected two of my favorite tote bags, so chosen for their wide, sturdy handles, for a trip to the local market, is going to happen to all these damned tote bags when I die?
The purpose of these multi-purpose bags is to save the environment, but when I die, whether it’s six years from now or sixty, won’t my friends/family/children/pets/landlords just want to throw these things the fuck out? Should I provide for their distribution in my will? Will a crafty friend have them made into a really uncomfortable and ugly commemorative quilt? Will my great-great-grandchildren be showing my tote bags to their kids in a far distant future where they all live on the starship Enterprise? Behold, these are the tote bags of your ancestor, who lived before the advent of warp speed and universal health care; treasure them always! If they are thrown out, do they compost? Or will they just add to a giant landfill somewhere? And if they are thrown out, then what was the point of anything?
What was the point of anything?
WHAT WAS THE POINT OF ANYTHING?
Is it all a lie, Higher Power? Am I really helping the environment? Or is it all a conspiracy funded by Big Tote, and are all my canvas bags destined to choke poor, innocent dolphins in the ocean? What is the answer, HP? WHAT HAPPENS TO MY TOTE BAGS WHEN I DIE?
As always, thanks for your consideration, Higher Power. I’d like to hear back on this before Tuesday, when I’m planning on going to the grocery store. Whole Foods is offering a 2-for-1 deal on Spring-themed canvas tote bags with every purchase, and I’d like to know ahead of time whether I’ll be wasting my money or damning my soul and the fate of the human race for all eternity.
Peace, love, and tote bags,
Please leave your thoughts in the comments, like and share if you enjoyed, and if you need a tote bag, just come by my place and I can probably hook you up.