Monday, March 27, 2006

Alpha Beta

Standing in the alpha beta parking lot
Watching the sun set
I'll never forget

Breathing in the fumes from so many idling cars
Right beneath the sign w/ the dusty yellow stars
Watching the sun go down

If you are, say, younger than 20, or have never lived in California, then you probably have no idea what Alpha Bet is. Well, it WAS a super market chain, One of the largest in the state. It was one of the oldest too, so named for the founders' idea to organize their entire stock alphabetically.

I have held many positions of employment with an assortment of varrying ventures, but the first was at Alpha Beta. I was a box boy, clerk's assistant or courtesy clerk. I bagged groceries, swept floors, bailed boxes and collected carts. During the summer of 1986 I worked quite literally in the Alpha Beta parking lot.

It was a good job, and many stories arose from it. For instance, after closing one night, while putting the produce to sleep, some one switched the quiet ambient Muzak to the loud local radio giant, KROQ. As I covered cabbage with burlap, and carted carrots to the cooler, I listened to the familiar voice of Poorman, the P.M. personality, invite listeners to call in for love advice. He was experimenting with a little idea he'd eventually call Love Line. As it turned out, the first caller was a girl who was sleeping with her brother. It was easy to see that Poorman's little radio idea had potential...

The most important story, though, has to do with bags. Grocery bags. Plastic grocery bags. By now, the question, "paper or plastic?" has become a part of our daily shopping experience. We expect it. We each have developed our own preferences. However, this was not always so. For decades (perhaps centuries), paper bags were the sole means of grocery transportation. Plastic has not always been an option.

So, when did plastic bag technology appear in the American grocery landscape?


How do I know? I was there. I sat through the indoctrination seminar and training meetings. I was taught how to operate the bag bundles and packing rack. I witnessed demonstrations on the relative tensile strength of plastic sacks. I was paid for all of this, so I paid attention.

Absent sharp poking points, a single plastic bag is far stronger and more durable than it's paper counter parts, and when moisture enters the equation, as it always does, there is no contest between paper and plastic. Of course, precise packing skills are required for maximum bag utility.

Unfortunately, today's baggers have NO packing skills, the little fucks. I blame the bosses. No one is teaching these crack-head hippies how to bag. It is quickly becoming a lost art. Finding a bagger or even a full clerk who grasps the concept of bag building is becoming more problematic by the day, and to find one is cause for joyous consumer adjulation.

Really, there are a few basic rules: Use large rectangle objects to build side-walls, fill the middle with soft stuff; Six-packs do not go on top of bread, peaches or eggs; chemicals go with chemicals; frozen goes with frozen.

Perhaps, however, the worst current catastrophe in bagging is the single-object bag phenomenon. I've only really seen this become a problem in recent years. It drives me absolutely ape-shit. When I make a quick run to the store to pick up seven items, there is no fucking reason to come away with seven bags. The bags are not made of tissue. You can put a watermelon in a plastic grocery bag and swing it over your head. I've seen it!

There is no goddamn good reason to put a single bottle of Fresca in its own bag. The milk will fit in there too. Put the chips on top of the beer in a bag together. You can probably fit the box of Hohos in there with them.

Goddamn punk-ass lazy bastards. I should just start bagging my own groceries.

Oh, P.S. here's one of the strangest and most useless websites I've ever seen: Groceteria


  1. Hehe... I must say, I particularly enjoyed this entry. I can definitely sympathize.

    A main reason why I frequent stores like Food4Less-- not only is it a ton cheaper, but you bag your own groceries, and I like having control over how my stuff is bagged. It's the only way I'm guaranteed to avoid all those mishaps you described :-D

    And yes, I remember the Alpha Beta days :-)

  2. Anonymous3:30 PM

    Go to Winco and you have to bag your own groceries. That and the people-watching opportunities are unmatched.

  3. I often regret that I broke up with you right before I was able to learn how to bag groceries from you - SIGH - what a foolish youth I was. (sarcasim - sarcasim)

  4. Brian smith10:53 PM

    Is that back in the days when you had a perm and rode a scooter?

  5. I had to save my Alpha Beta earnings to buy the scooter...


Be compelling.

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