Dan Rattiner's Stories

Okay, Okay, I’ll Get a Cloth Reusable Shopping Bag

On the first of the year a new law went into effect requiring shoppers to pay five cents if they require a merchant to give them a paper or plastic bag in Suffolk County. If you buy a lot of things you might require three bags, and it could add up. It might lead to a mind-boggling 15 cents. Or just hold out your arms and we’ll load you up with stuff and you carry it out and we hope you don’t drop anything.

At the checkout counter, both the cashiers and the customers have rebelled.

“Did you just charge me for that paper bag?”

“No. Five cents? Crazy.”

“Good.”

We all know that paying the five cents for the bag will save the planet. But five cents? A nickel is so little, people dropping one don’t even bother to pick it up. This new law, a county law, is off to a shaky start.

“How can I charge you a nickel?”

“You can’t.”

The connivance between the cashiers and the customers reminds me of what happened after a state law was passed requiring surfcasters to buy $10 fishing permits to fish in the ocean. The state has jurisdiction to three miles out. Every fishing station on the East End was supposed to sell these permits. The owners of each and every one of them refused to do so. This went on for six months, at least. In the end, the law was rescinded.

As for the five-cent bags, the connivance at the checkout counter is sloppy. It has to be fast so as not to hold up the line. “Here, just try carrying these four things. Attaboy.” Or, “I’m just not charging you.” Or—here’s the bad, bad cashiers—“I’m sorry but I am going to have to charge you.”

“Forget it.”

Late this afternoon, a snowy slushy day, I carried seven things out from the IGA in East Hampton, including a Coke can under my chin, and tried to open the car door with my pinkie. It worked, but the Coke can bounced out and into the slushy gutter. I set everything on the passenger’s seat, bent down, picked up the Coke can and tossed it in on the floor of the passenger seat. And that’s where I noticed the damage.

The fall had opened a pinhole in the side of the aluminum can, and the shaking caused a tiny and very vicious stream of Coke to shoot out, water-pistol fashion, onto the driver’s door window on the other side of the steering wheel. I grabbed the Coke can and threw it out of the car onto a grassy patch where a curbside tree had been planted, then turned, and with a paper towel, leaned across the seats to clean up the mess. Then I felt something wet on the side of my right pants leg. Yup. It was still firing away, inflicting punishment at me from the grass.

Things like that can ruin your day.

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