Packing your own shopping bags at a supermarket is a blood sport that underlines the more we come together, the further we’re set apart.
And by that I mean I buy into the idea that I should pack my own recyclable shopping bags.
Not because I believe in job shedding, which seems the most obvious consequence of the self-pack model.
But because I believe that if anyone is going to crush my avocados on the cat food box when they’re packing my groceries, it should be me.
Now there is a particular German chain of supermarkets that sets the pace, literally, in this genre.
It’s like a buzz-saw here, the way you’re processed, but then again, this particular supermarket chain, which I love, has a job to do – and it’s to not pack my groceries.
Rookie shoppers are often caught out by the onslaught and revert quickly to the “sweep the items into the trolley and limp off somewhere to pack it properly” approach, thinking perhaps, my god what just happened?
But as the years of loyal shopping roll by, you come to anticipate the flurry, and ambition builds.
An ambition to get yourself so organised before the event for a purpose possibly so banal you don’t recognise yourself.
That ambition is called the “rack and pack” and involves, in essence, lining up bags in your trolley and groceries in precise order on the travellator before the actual checkout begins, so that as they’re blipped through, you’re placing them straight into the right bag.
True Germanic efficiency with the ultimate goal being the “pay and walk away” with no secondary repack –the natural yin of the “rack and pack” yang.
Of course there’s no guarantees of success, but this particular supermarket’s return policy is outstanding, so people should dare to dream, rather than just stand in the checkout line wishing they had celebrity mags to browse.
But who has time for that when the rack and pack looms?
To facilitate this particular form of OCD, there has to be serious arrangement of items before the shredding process begins.
All done under the extreme pressure of having to move your trolley forward as the shopper ahead gets churned and burned, and the shopper behind reaches for the little blocks that demarcate their shopping from yours. And possibly their packing style
For example, you can’t line up your meat with your potatoes. That would be packing madness!! You’re not cooking a roast. You’re getting extremely anal.
And in the rack and pack world, the checkout is not an oven, although the heat is on. It is an intricate mosaic where “like items” must go with “like items”.
Any repacking could cost time, and all the while Mr or Mrs checkout person keeps racking those items through at ramming speed to a post-checkout platform that is notoriously shallow, compared to the majors.
Fall behind and you’re going to have items – possibly your composure – going over the edge.
And that could cost you a potential rack and pack PB with no subsequent pay and walk away.
For people who reach this level on the spectrum, that can be quite disappointing. Not to mention bizarre, if you’re watching on next in line.
But as is the nature of grocery self packing, it brings us together and sets us apart.