I have the good fortune to live very near one of those Tardis-like corner shops which sell just about anything dating from the 50s to the present day.
With old stock goes old traditions. So it'll be of little surprise to people that trying to convert my local shopkeeper to modern eco-friendly ways is proving a bit of an uphill struggle.
It's not like I go in there banging on about air miles, locally produced eggs, organic fare and whatnot. No, I simply gave up plastic bags a year or so ago.
The reason for this is twofold. One: I got sick of seeing them caught in the trees in my neighbourhood. Two: A village in Devon has completely banned plastic bags with no ill effects whatsoever. People can still get their shopping home, and sea creatures and birds have a few less bags threatening a long slow death from starvation because their stomachs are clogged or because they become tethered and can't fly any more. A whopping 13 billion plastic bags are used each year. And according to Pollution Issues, only 12 per cent of people who've bought a reusable shopping bag actually use them! Actually that doesn't surprise me, given the celebrity rash of I'm Not a Plastic Bag smugness in 2007. Celebrities and actually giving a shit? I think not.
Three: Oh, there wasn't a three. Well there is now. Three: I read this. Then this. And that did it for me. No more.
So it should be well known by now at my corner shop that I don't do bags. I live only metres away. I can carry a carton of milk or a box of eggs or a newspaper. Even Tampax and bog roll. Really. I'm not bothered about the neighbourhood knowing I have the same bodily functions as everyone else.
So why. Why why why why why do I get the same routine every time I go to my corner shop?
Shopkeeper: "That'll be £3.62 please."
I give him a fiver, he opens the till to get my change. I stack my purchases neatly together on the counter. He looks at my purchases.
Shopkeeper: "You wanna plastic bag?"
Me: "Um no thank you."
Every single time. And lately it's like he's wanted to thrust plastic bags at me, with a sort of mounting urgency.
"Youwannaplasticbag!" he insists.
"Here, take a plastic bag."
Or sometimes just: "Plastic bag!" followed by a fierce gesture at the roll of bags on the counter. He's even started to pack for me on more than one occasion, with an air of desperation. I have to stop him. It leaves me baffled. I wonder why he feels so strongly about his bags, why he wants so badly for me to put my shopping in them. He looks upset every time I don't. They don't carry the shop name. I just don't understand. I worry about him even. Is a plastic bag fixation an early indicator of nervous breakdown? Nah. He just hates wildlife. Maybe he got shat on once by a puffin or something.
Yesterday I actually lost my composure. Remember this has been a face off for a year now. I enter my corner shop secretly smiling these days, knowing that each purchase is going to end in a comedy moment to rival anything on telly. Sure enough:
"That's £2.20. You wanna plastic bag?"
The tension got too much for me. So I laughed, out loud, then shook my head and ran my hands distractedly through my hair.
"No. I. Don't. Want. A. Plastic. Bag."