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Essence and the Supermarket Bags

row of shopping carts

Today I was at the supermarket checkout and the cashier asked me how many bags I wanted (because at that specific store bags cost money). I said, “5″. She looked at me in disbelief, clearly thinking that it was too many, and asked:

“Are you sure?”

I wavered.

I began thinking to myself “Do I really need 5? Maybe 4? 3?” She proceeded to suggest: “maybe we’ll start with 3 bags, and then as we fill them up we see if we need more”.

But that’s when the need to stick with my intuition kicked in.

NoI want 5. I prefer more bags with less weight in each.” She accepted, and nicely handed me the 5 bags.

For the cashier’s reasoning, she was used to cram as much items in as few bags as possible. So she instinctively felt I was asking too many. She was following a principle that aimed to save bags — and that’s just fine.

I have a different stance regarding bags at the supermarket. I prefer not to save on bags (they cost around 2-5 cents each, which is usually negligible relative to the total purchase) and instead try to take more bags with less items in each one. Being the mighty male figure in the household, I usually try to carry as many supermarket bags in each hand as I possibly can, and in that sense, having more bags to carry the same amount of items helps not having my hands cut in half. We sometimes bring our own bags to the supermarket, but that’s usually not the case.

I recycle (including the supermarket bags themselves), and I also use them to differentiate the different recycling materials. So we always have use for bags in the household. For these reasons, I always prefer to use more bags at the supermarket, rather than less.

That fleeting 3-4 second moment was a textbook example on how sometimes we must forcibly stick to our own way of being. I call it “Essence”.

Both mine and the cashier’s perspectives regarding bags are perfectly correct: they fit each one’s choices. And it was such a small thing. However, had I wavered and accepted her judgement, I would have taken a step outside of my own self-guidance.

This is what would have happened. Following her cue, we’d probably try to fill as many items in each bag, before moving on to the next. Most likely, we would have managed to fill 3 bags with all items, 4 tops — but I would have regretted as I left the supermarket on my way home.

Her judgement would have overridden my own, by my own choice. And not only do you regret when you allow yourself to be dismissed, but your mood takes a hit. You feel grumpy, annoyed, irritated, and de-energized, probably without even being aware why.

The opposite happened. Saying “No”, spontaneously, when challenged in a seemingly unimportant matter, left me proud of myself.

I respected my Essence.

We must always be careful not to let another person’s principles and choices override our own, regardless of how right they may seem.

Turns out, even with 5 bags each of them was way too heavy. I was too conservative: 6 would have been ideal.

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