If you live in Dallas, you are aware of the bag ordinance that began January 1 this year. If you live under a rock in Dallas or are an out-of-towner reading this, first of all, hello! How did you find this post? Secondly, the ordinance I referred to earlier is one that requires retailers to charge five cents per single-use bag. Needless to say, being the hot-headed Texans we are, we either reacted one of two ways: with rejoice (because yay! Let’s save the earth!) or with hostility (because bags have always been free and it should remain that way forever!).
I had the pleasure of working retail until mid-February, so I also had the pleasure of observing this change firsthand. After asking customers at the register, “Would you like a bag for five cents?” I would get one of two reactions:
“Dallas is doing such a good thing. It’s about time we caught up with other cities! I’ve been using reusable bags for years.”
“Making people pay for bags is un-American! I’m going to do my shopping in Plano from now on! No bag! I’m protesting.”
I have been using reusable bags since college, so the change only affected how people treated me in the checkout line, and honestly, I really didn’t care what 95 percent of people had to say on the issue. It’s done. Just deal with it, I would think. Then I’d realize that the people who were unwilling to adapt would be the first to go in a survival-of-the-fittest situation.
Since the ordinance went into effect, I’ve taken an interest in the bags that people carry their groceries out of the store in. A couple I know has a “Big Gay Bag,” given to them at Pride. I saw a young woman with a “Doggy bag,” a German Shepherd’s face emblazoned under the words. Earlier this week, I saw an older man with an impressive beard carry a bag that read, “May the forest be with you.” Cool dude, I thought.
Then I realized that your reusable bags can say something about you. For instance, I have a Relay for Life bag, which can tell onlookers that I’m affiliated with that organization and I probably know someone who has or had cancer. They’d be right. Then they would look at my Athleta bag and think, that girl must be active. They’d be half right. I really enjoy Netflix bingeing and Oreo cookies. Then they’d see my Barnes and Noble bags and think, that girl is pretty intelligent. Yes, that is absolutely true, but it’s also true that I can fly off the radar for more than a day, avoiding all human contact and the real world, because I am entranced by some author’s words.
When I see people who have all Tom Thumb-brand bags, I find myself thinking that those were the people who held on until the last minute to invest in some reusable bags. They’ve accepted reality and are probably hoarding a trove of 2014’s plastic bags in a basement. I also see people who don’t bring bags at all and walk out with seven or eight filled with crap, and I secretly hate them. But who knows? Maybe they just forgot their bags that day. Or maybe they just don’t think about money or the environment… But they’re not as bad as the aforementioned “protesters” that proclaim that the city won’t get any more of their money and then stumble out of whatever store with junk tumbling out of their arms. Little do they realize that they’re hindering the use of plastic bags just like us hippies with the reusable bags. That’s the whole point of the ordinance.
The man with the “May the forest be with you” bag may be a Star Wars fan and an outdoorsy kind of guy or just one of the two. Maybe he doesn’t care about any of that and just enjoys puns. I prefer to think he’s a tree hugging Obi-Wan Kenobi. So just step back a take a second to think about what your reusable bags (or lack thereof) say about you, and keep using them anyway.
Leslie Michaels is currently a Level 3 improv student at the DCH Training Center. She spends her spare time riding her bicycle, playing Ultimate Frisbee, or hanging out with her boyfriend, Netflix. She still questions whether she’s a dog person or a cat person.