09 September 2011

Shopping Bags

Toronto’s unheralded but visible subculture is the bring-your-own shopping bag. Cloth bag. Natural-fibres bag. Never leave home without it. All ages, we embrace it. Avoiding the 5-cent tax for store-supplied plastic bags has become its own fashion statement. On crowded downtown streets our personal shopping bags distinguish us from tourists (yawn) with their paper bags from Gap and The Bay, et cetera.

Spotting good bags could replace the idle cataloguing of vanity licence plates. Or counting the steps up and down from the subway. Be aware. Pedestrians, passing bike riders, check-out lines: watch for ’em. The new signature art form for recycle, reuse, reduce. Some are freebies—advertising, you know. Some come with event registration.

My shopping bags assume a sentiment approaching the provenance of family heirlooms:
– the one from a foray to Reviving the Islamic Experience;
– painted stars on the ACTRA bag;
– black-and-gold from the AGO’s Catherine the Great Exhibit;
– the cunning Mount Pleasant Cemeteries item that folds into a tiny weightless package but when unfolded for usage draws satisfyingly quizzical stares.

The LCBO created a giant reinforced utility model for its products—so big, it needs wheels. I have a zillion genealogy bags: white, green, black. The trustiest companions have straps long enough for shoulder hoisting. My blue bundle buggy (serious grocery expeditions) has two perfectly fitting, flat-bottomed (v. important) accessories. Alas, their logos are prosaic (drugstore marketing is regrettable) but colour coordination is also important. 
 There’s always one to match the daily purpose. Kawartha Branch OGS Conference is an oldie, just perfect for holding two books and thus properly discouraging more than two purchases at a given time. A treasured, heavy-duty handout from Ontario Library Conference 2011 is peerless for veggies; drips and stains wipe right off it.✱ Woven hemp from Cal-Mac Ferries has the air of Scottish fortitude, although a bit scratchy on the bare arms. Shaver’s Book Store, Savannah, brings back memories of intense, humid days of creepy fog and Bonaventure cemetery.


Deeply mourned is Market Wharf, mistakenly dumped into the Oasis Clothing Bank bin along with a donation. It was this lovely cream colour with orange splashes that proclaimed my neighbourhood and matched a favourite summer outfit. Surely someone else now gives it love. 

Do other cities have this much fun?

✱ I wish to emphasize I did not say off of which is likely the world’s most tortured mis-use of English.

© Brenda Dougall Merriman, 2011

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