The Word and the Request

Look, I know all about the R-word, okay? I know we’re not supposed to use it anymore, and that it’s offensive, and I probably wouldn’t think it as much as I do if I knew someone who was actually retarded. Notice I said “think” and not “say,” which is an important distinction because I really don’t say the word all that much. And not because of this banning the R-word nonsense, okay, Word Police? Your hearts are in the right place, but how about you assholes stay away from telling the Internet what to do and go back to giving out trophies for participation? I don’t watch my use of the word “retarded” because of you. I watch my use of the word “retarded” because of a terrible 5th grade teacher I had.

Miss Nelson was an overweight, overbanged, over-MC Hammer-pantsed slag who only liked the popular kids and treated everyone else like shit. Do you know what that’s like? Forget inattentive teachers, my childhood was full of people like her who outright bullied kids on the ugly cusp of puberty who, if they weren’t already being bullied by their peers, were just trying to stay out of everyone’s way and avoid being bullied in the future. One of Miss Nelson’s favorite things to ask students was “are you retarded?” when they did something she didn’t like. Which could be anything. Another thing about teachers in my school – because I went to Catholic school, trouble with my teachers wasn’t something I could tell my parents. See, in Catholic school (and I guess public schools of previous generations, as kids today feel comfortable cussing out their teachers because their parents never smacked them around enough), the teachers are always right. Period. It didn’t matter if what they were saying was actually, empirically wrong, or if they were being cruel to you for no reason. It also didn’t matter if they treated children based on their own moods, which mine did frequently and my parents didn’t believe me until my mom helped out on a field trip when I was in 6th grade and was suddenly appalled by the roaring bitches who supervised us while on their periods.

Anyway. The point is that Miss Nelson could and did tell students off for sometimes nothing at all, and usually, this involved accusing kids of being retarded. I didn’t even take pleasure in her saying it to kids I didn’t like. I knew it was mean and wrong and that she wasn’t qualified to teach gym let alone English. This is why Miss Nelson is still the worst teacher I’ve ever had, and that includes the art teacher who I’m pretty sure tried to hit on me once. So I know that calling people retarded is mostly wrong, okay, and so I only use the word when I actually mean retarded, in either the clinical or literal sense.

With that said, would it be inappropriate of me to tell the retarded baggers at Schnuck’s that I can bag my groceries myself?

Schnuck’s is bad enough with the grocery baggers. I don’t know if it’s store policy or general laziness among 16-20-year-old employees or an unfortunate combination of both, but even when someone isn’t mentally disabled, I end up walking out of the store with about 4 bags more than I needed, and I feel really bad about all of that plastic. The retarded baggers use even more bags and double-bag a lot for some reason, and I feel like a huuuuuuge asshole for thinking it because I’m sure they’re just being extra careful to do their jobs well and hey, maybe some people like all those bags (probably the same lazy bastards who spend their entire time in the checkout line on the phone while the cashier scans all their coupons and bags a mountain of shit for them), but I’m asking if it’s rude for me to be like “it’s cool, I can handle it.” Even when the store isn’t that busy? And I really don’t mind bagging my own shit (for god’s sake, the world will not end if you put a shampoo bottle in the same bag as the milk)?

Don’t worry, I can hear you screaming at the screen about reusable bags. I have them. And I use them. I just don’t use them all the time, because if I did, I’d need like ten of them to keep at home, at work, and in the car, and even then, the baggers (not just the retarded ones, either) still use plastic bags because they don’t want to put the pork chops next to the toilet paper or whatever other nonsense. I prefer to bag my own groceries because I can’t stand seeing it done wrong, and also I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t put the cereal boxes along one side of the bag inside of just piled on top of everything else like an afterthought.

What is the etiquette here? The protocol? How can I say it without offending the retarded bagger in particular, or the black bagger, or anyone else who, in my white girl mind, could possibly construe my request as hatefulness when I really just want to bag my own groceries my way?

About erineph

I'm Erin. I have tattoos and more than one cat. I am an office drone, a music writer, and an erstwhile bartender. I am a cook in the bedroom and a whore in the kitchen. Things I enjoy include but are not limited to zombies, burritos, Cthulhu, Kurt Vonnegut, Keith Richards, accordions, perfumery, and wearing fat pants in the privacy of my own home.
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8 Responses to The Word and the Request

  1. abbireads says:

    I recently made the mistake of buying a few food staples at Wal-Mart, and ended up with a cashier who put milk and Pine-Sol in the same bag. Usually, I’m all for cutting down on bags used (and wish I could live somewhere like San Francisco where plastic bags are outlawed) but my skin crawls when I think about anything I’m planning to eat sharing a bag with anything I’m planning to use to clean my toilet.

    This is why I usually end up at Shop ‘n Save or Aldi, because then when I’m mad at the idiot who bagged my groceries, I’m the idiot.

    • erineph says:

      Personally, I wouldn’t mind, although I would get skeeved if it was a package of meat brushing up against a poorly-sealed container of dishwasher detergent. But one whole bag for a single bottle of body wash when there’s plenty of room next to the box of spaghetti? Come on.

  2. Carmen says:

    Any teacher who calls kids names and screws with their self-esteem should be fired. I remember one bitch in particular who really seemed to enjoy bullying her students. She used to get right up in their faces and say, “You’re not as dumb as you look.” She also said mean, embarrassing things to certain kids from troubled homes. Complaints fell on deaf ears —- the school considered this woman to be one of their top teachers. Not long ago, I read this bitch’s obituary in the paper and got sick at how it glorified her because I definitely remember how much she routinely upset a lot of kids.

    • erineph says:

      That happened with a second grade teacher of mine, too. She died a few years ago and a few people talked about it, but I remember shaming a kid for vomiting and making them clean it up. A second grader. I mean, how do you even?

      • Carmen says:

        There’s BabyCam, PetCam… about TeacherCam?? Maybe a classroom camera would force some of these neurotic whackjob teachers to think twice about damaging children for life.

  3. McD says:

    Shop at Aldi, you troglodyte. Self-bagging (boxing!) is expected, nay — required there.

    • erineph says:

      You’re new to the city so you get a pass, but how about you visit the Grand and Chippewa Aldi and come talk to me then?

  4. Gabriel says:

    well being that the word ‘retard’ comes from the word retardare and literally and very simply means ‘slow or hindrance’ I don’t consider it to be an ‘insult’ to people technically. The word was used to describe someone who was slow of mind and slow of learning hence ‘mental retardation’, the slang it’s developed into for me still obtains the same reasoning, if something is retarded it’s hindering you. People are flinging about stigmas to words I’m not sure they know the meaning of fully and just seem to embrace only one translation of it. You’re not going to find me critiquing you for using it.

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