The Wrong Thing

I got the wrong trash bags the other day.

Normally, I get your standard kitchen bags, the kind with the red drawstrings so you can get them out of the damned can when it’s time to take them out to the garage for the fat rats and the raccoons to tear apart.

Of course, in the store, with my glasses fogged from my plague mask whilst pushing a cart with a broken wheel and trying to mentally check off items on the list my wife texted me, I somehow brought home the wrong ones.

“What are these?!” my 19-year-old son howled one night as we were cleaning up the dishes.

We have set him the task of taking out the garbage. Seems a fair deal for free rent and food, and he is pretty good about it when he comes out of his room once every 11 days to stare bleary-eyed at the world beyond his PlayStation screen.

The bags I got have these four flaps on them, like limp plastic flower petals. You are supposed to leave yourself enough room to pull these together and tie them off. We do not do this. We fill it to the point where the garbage is heaped over and pushing at the plastic polymer sides of the Walmart standard-issue, black-lidded kitchen trash can. Eventually either my wife yells at someone or my son emerges from his cave, or on very rare occasions I feel magnanimous enough to simply do what needs to be done and take it out to the garage.

By the time we’re ready to take it out, the petals are expected to stretch over a convex surface roughly the size of the city dump, and don’t worry, they are way too flimsy to accommodate our stupidity. They rip. Then, if it is my son or myself working the problem, the household is treated to what I refer to as “colorful vernacular.”

None of this, of course, is my point.

My point is that since this pestilence has overtaken the land, many of us have been forced to bring home the wrong thing from the store.

We have long gone to Hannaford stores because I used to go to them when they were Shop N’ Save stores, and I basically know the layout. It’s too late in the game to memorize a new grocery store. I am pretty devoted to my brand when it comes to most things. It will be Jif peanut butter, Canadian white bread, 1 percent store-brand milk, 85 percent ground beef, and so on.

However, in a pandemic, for some reason, some things simply disappear from the shelves. Also, I noticed during the holidays, people wipe out certain things like the Knorr vegetable soup mix used to make my favorite dip. Has anyone ever actually used it to make soup? They also took out all the sugar cookie packages, but I was able to deal with that. I know the secret that sugar cookies can be made pretty easily from scratch, and further, they are much better eaten during the dough phase of their development.

However, some things are not so easy. I have been forced to go against my nature and bring home name-brand milk, shampoo that turned out to be intended only for corpse hair, bargain-bin honey ham. Part of this has been kind of enlightening.

For example, that ham didn’t kill us.

Whenever I’m out of town, I find myself in another, foreign store, looking with great suspicion at the strange brands and packaging. Jim Morrison said, “People are strange when you’re a stranger.” I would posit the same is true of packaged meat. Why do they use a yellow foam backing rather than white? That’s not quite right. This will likely kill me.

But, so far, knock on wood, it hasn’t.

My 15-year-old daughter has issued death threats over bringing home the wrong toilet paper, but she’s at a point in her life where all offenses are considered capital in nature.

The other day there was apparently a run on English muffins. I had the option of buying the largest package of my brand, containing roughly 8,000 muffins, but I had done that once before and still suffer PTSD from the sight of blue mold blooming where my butter should go. (Sing that to the tune of “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes.”) Or . . . I could buy weird, big, puffy, organic English muffins that are, for some reason, the color of Mom’s pumpkin cookies. I went with the organic and they tasted fine. They just looked funny.

It turns out the wrong thing can be the right thing. So, if you’re the lady ahead of me at the chicken display, staring for hours at a time, looking for just the right package, why don’t you go ahead and hurry up. They’re all really the same and will result in pretty much the level of disappointment you’re used to on chicken and rice night.

But all bets are off if we’re talking about garbage bags. That’s one thing you need to get right.

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Daniel Dunkle

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