On Saturday I had to pick up all the dog leavings in the yard (appropriately, considering that last dream). There was a lot to clean up and I went through quite a few of those plastic disposable grocery-shopping bags.
While recovering from the admittedly brief PTSD associated with this task, I started thinking about plastic disposable grocery-shopping bags. In London we simply called them carrier bags. Occasionally I still forget which terms are the British ones and which are the American ones when I’m talking, and sometimes I just like the British terms better. Carrier bag is much more efficient to say (even if it is a little redundant and not overly descriptive) than plastic disposable grocery-shopping bags. What do we actually call those things over here, anyway?
Yeah. Anyway. All this thinking about . . . those receptacles . . . made me remember London and this social norm I discovered there which I soon dubbed:
The Carrier Bag Game
(Don’t worry. This is not a blog game, although you can try this at home . . . maybe.)
Maybe people don’t play this in London anymore; I don’t know if you now have to bring your own carrier bags every time you shop or else buy new ones (I know that’s what they do in Ireland, which is where my parents lived more recently than I lived in the UK). But in the late 1990’s such environmentally responsible practices had not yet been established there, as they still have not, for the most part, here. This meant that every time you went to the shops and actually purchased something, you came home with more carrier bags. Soon you were stuffing carrier bags into carrier bags, and then they were overflowing into other carrier bags and every hook in your Cupboard Under the Stairs (assuming you didn’t have Harry Potter living under there) supported at least three carrier bags full of carrier bags.
It was a lot of carrier bags.
So, in an attempt to off-load some of your carrier bags without being entirely environmentally terroristic and just throwing them away, you would carry everything everywhere in carrier bags . . . and hopefully drop them off at someone else’s house. If you were invited to a home for dinner, you would offer to bring something. Even if your hosts said you didn’t need to bring anything, you would still bring something–cake or a bottle of wine or minced pies (I just threw that into the list because I really liked those tiny little store-bought minced pies you can get over there)–just so you could put it in a carrier bag. If you could get away with bringing more than one thing and put each thing into its own carrier bag–well done, you! Then you got to your destination and handed your host or hostess a veritable bouquet of carrier bags full of goodies which, ideally, you originally took home all in one carrier bag.
My flatmate Beth and I got really good at the carrier bag game, but we suffered severe setbacks about once every six weeks when we hosted our English class parties. We worked with refugees, for some churches which ran ESL classes, and every so often we would invite everybody–students, teachers, parishioners, random passers-by who stopped in for the conversation–over to our house for a relaxed informal gathering. Everyone brought food from their own country to share, and we would sit around and talk and play games and laugh and . . . it was always a good time. (Even the time our alcoholic neighbour . . . maybe I’ll write about that next week.)
But there was a problem. The problem was that, although no one ever verbally acknowledged it, everybody in East London played the carrier bag game. And everybody coming to our house for these parties was bringing something. And everybody was frequently quite a lot of people. For six weeks Beth and I would systematically and successfully whittle down our supply of carrier bags to one carrier bag full of carrier bags . . . and then the party. We never won.
What creative ways do you find to use up your carrier bags? Londoners–do you recognise this game? Do people still play it?