Lately, I've noticed a lot of men shuffling about, clutching crinkly
shopping bags. I say “noticed” because I've always seen
them, but it is only lately that I've understood what they're trying
to tell me.
Maybe it's an experiment in phenomenology, but all these men look
the same to me. White males hovering somewhere between 34-42 years
of age, slightly stooped, combover hairstyles (even the occasional
member of this clan who shows no signs of male pattern baldness
nonetheless styles his hair this way, perhaps as a dress rehearsal
for the inevitable), filthy steel frame glasses, and those bags.
I have been speculating about a couple of things. First, why don't
any of these men have traditional backpacks, shoulder bags, etc.
since they always seem to be toting something with them? and what's
in the bags, anyway? A can of shaving cream? Generic brand strawberry
wafer cookies? A human head?
Doesn't matter, really. What's important, I think, is that there
is always something inexpensive but, in some fashion, consummable
in those bags. Each item, each necessary purchase represents an
effort at some human contact. Exchanging money for Chapstick or
some batteries for a transistor radio is a reminder that they're
in touch with people, with the world. Maybe that's why they cling
to those bags so desperately.
Today I purchased a tube of Colgate Total® toothpaste (i deliberated
over my toothpaste choice like a mental patient conferring with
his knuckles before making any trivial decision) and Degree Shower
Clean Deoderant (my favorite inorganic scent right now). I told
the cashier I wouldn't be needing a bag, and held eye contact longer
than any sane man should.