09 April 2008

Girl, you need a grocery bag.

As far as I'm concerned, there are no baggers here. You know, baggers. A person who packs groceries. Your high school boyfriend. Your high school crush. Yeah, him. They don't have those here. At least not where I generally shop (Tang Frères, Champion, Monoprix).

Four months, and I am far from mastering the art of bagging. Every time I'm about to check out, I try to mentally prepare myself. Prepare the bag as you greet the cashier. Begin packing as soon as he/she scans item one. Item two, three, four will come faster than you think. Don't try to hold your wallet while you pack, but if you put it down, don't forget it. Put the heavy items at the bottom. If you need two bags, don't load one bag with all the heavy items. You will hate yourself for this on your walk home. You can do this. Well, at least better than last time.

Once, at Champion, where they charge you for each plastic bag, a female cashier actually waited for me to finish bagging before she began to check out the person behind me. The last thing I want is an audience.

Sunday at Tang Frères, the butcher (young, beefy, Asian, only speaks French) refuses to thinly slice the beef for the pho I want to attempt for dinner. Granted, I ask for half a kilo (I'm bad at math), which the butcher wraps in wax paper and a clear plastic bag. He slaps on a white sticker printed with the word JUMEAU. Of course it was beef, but for a moment I wonder if it might be MEAT OF TWIN (BOY). The butcher is so nonchalant about denying my request ("You can do it at home."), I figure he has it in him to give me not-beef, as a nonchalant joke. How could I tell the difference?

Oh right, this post is about bagging. Two years ago, when I was living on New York's Lower East Side, I discovered that I have trouble opening those plastic produce bags. Sometimes, my friend Lauren would meet me at the Chinese grocery store on Clinton St. to help me with this simple task. Turns out, not only do I have trouble opening produce bags, but I have trouble opening grocery bags in general.

I'm still at Tang Frères, checking out, and my right index finger, thumb, and hand oils simply cannot work together to open the grocery bag. The cashier laughs at me, shows off her bag-opening skills and tosses one, two in my direction. I give her a "Silly me!" chuckle and try to pack my groceries, including a giant leek, as fast as I can, which is never fast enough. At least the bright yellow plastic bags, fixtures of the 13th arrondissement, are free. As usual, I walk out of the store holding one or two items for all of Avenue de Choisy to see.

Back at my flat, I'm about to start this pho and realize I rushed out of there without the small cube of pho flavor that I was so pleased to find. I feel sad and hungry.

I wonder what the French would think of an American grocery store. Not only is there someone at the end of every register ready to bag your groceries, but you have the choice of paper or plastic and whether or not you want it wheeled out to your car. I'm guessing a French person might say, "I have my own bag. And no, thanks, I'll carry it myself."

To all you baggers out there, you are awesome.

1 comment:

Laura said...

This is hilarious and true. My preferred method, which doesn't always keep me from holding up the people behind me in line, is to lick my finger and thumb and then briskly rub the two layers of the plastic bag together to try to get them to separate. I've never seen a French person do this, though. They probably think I'm unhygienic and stupid.