INTERNATIONAL FALLS, Minn.–On his five-block walk home after shopping at the nearby Piggly Wiggly, local resident Phil Barton stopped for a moment to consider whether his walk might be a bit easier if he more evenly distributed the weight of his groceries between both hands.
With the fingers of his right hand straining under the weight of a slew of bags filled with potatoes, laundry detergent, a case of seltzer, and canned soup (among other things), the thought hit him like a bolt of lightning, as he stopped dead in the middle of the crosswalk for a few seconds before continuing on. Sources have since confirmed that he carried a bag with a carton of eggs and loaf of whole wheat bread in his left hand.
“For a second it was like, whoa, I’m still like three blocks away, and my shoulder is starting to hurt,” Barton said. “If I just take a second to put these down and rearrange how I’m carrying them, it might not be as bad. But that seemed like a lot, so I decided to suck it up.”
Barton’s spark was new to him, but people have been briefly considering the possibility of carrying grocery bags evenly for years. Just last week, Mary Rhydon of Little Falls, N.Y. thought about redistributing the weight of her groceries on the way out to her car, but ultimately decided to swallow the pill and carry on as she was.
“My car was right there, so what am I gonna do, stop and switch everything up?” Rhydon said after the incident. “I can grab my keys with the other hand, anyway.”
“It’s about pride for me,” said Terry McCatcher of Shelton, Conn., who’s been toting heavy groceries with one hand and reserving the other for a bag or two of light items since 1987. “As soon as I pay and pick up my groceries, it’s the next person’s turn. It’s time to go.”
That sentiment seems to confirm a study conducted by the Grocers’ Union of America (GUA) in which 92 percent of grocery store shoppers carried their groceries out the same manner in which they were picked up.
“Most people’s initial calculations of what’s in what bag are wrong when they grab them,” said GUA researcher Kevin Fletcher. “Once those bags are in your hands, it doesn’t much matter how your digits or joints feel. It’s a matter of principle.”
Tuesday also marked Barton’s first visit to the grocery store in some time. According to reports, his fridge held nothing but week-old yogurt, three beers, and a hunk of cheddar cheese prior to the trip. Sources say he had also been in communication with friends via text message about wanting to “buy his food and start doing this healthy eating thing right.”