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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.


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