Today I am going to tell you the story about how I learned that you should always bring your own bags to Costco.
It was 2003, and I was recently separated. Ex wife got the car. That was ok, though, because I was getting ready to move to NYC. I lived in New Haven, CT which had pretty good transportation, as well as Metro North (commuter rail), and I was in NYC several times a week.
I had a membership to Costco, and at some point I realized I needed to pick up a few things. The last time I went to Costco, I went to the one on North Haven CT with the car. But I didn’t have a car anymore.
But there was a Costco in Port Chester, NY, (in Westchester County) just a few steps from the train station. So on my way back from rehearsal in NYC, I got off at Port Chester, and headed over to the Costco. I couldn’t get too many things, because I had to carry them back on the train with me, but I didn’t need that much.
So after I got my things, I lined up for checkout, and asked the cashier for paper bags.
“We don’t have bags, but if you need a box, there are some over there”
She pointed to a few flatbed carts against the wall with an assortment of cartons. So I rolled my cart over there and started rummaging for a box of the right size. But no matter how I looked I couldn’t find the right size box. Either it was way too big, or it was so small I would need two, defeating the purpose of a box.
Until I reached way at the back and found the perfect box. Almost perfect. Right size and everything. Except it was a big, industrial size box for Always Sanitary Napkins. With wings.
Not only that, but it was written in big, pink letters all over the box, in that feminine looking script, and even had a picture of the actual object on the box. Now I had been married, and was well aware of that kind of thing. I saw my son being born. I did not have hang ups. But there was no way I could bring myself to carry all my stuff home by hand in a big, 2 foot, Always With Wings box with enormous pictures of sanitary napkins on it. It just wasn’t going to happen.
So I quickly put the box back behind the other boxes and kept looking. But I couldn’t find a box that was as good for the job. And every time I would sift through a few boxes, the Always box would reappear, and I would quickly conceal it behind the other boxes. I could feel myself blushing, either because I realized I was twenty eight, and shouldn’t be embarrassed about that kind of thing, or because I might actually have to use the box.
Eventually a Costco employee came up to me. She was a heavyset, pleasant looking woman and asked if she could help me. I answered I was looking for the right box for my stuff, but couldn’t find.
“Here, let me help you!”
And she sifted through all the boxes and produced the Always with Wings box.
“This is PERFECT!” She had a big smile on her face.
“Um, well, I don’t think it is right. I don’t think it is exactly the right size……….” I stumbled
“No no no, it’s an absolutely perfect box!”
And she started putting my stuff into the box, where it all fit perfectly.
Well, I muttered a thank you, and slunk out of the store, those pink letters like a flashing neon sign. I tried to turn the box so that the side advertising its former contents faced inward, but it was printed on all four sides.
I made it to the station platform, which was unusually crowded and tried to be circumspect to see if anyone was staring at the box. The train came, and, again it was unusually crowded. I tried to find a seat, and there was one seat in a four-seater at the end of the car.
There were three girls about twenty sitting there, who saw me, took one look at the box and burst out laughing. I hoisted it to the overhead luggage rack sat down, the girls snickering at me. Not only that, but since the train was crowded, the conductors were communicating with each other over the PA system about punching everybody’s ticket (they used to do that on the older trains)
One of them said over the PA: “Be sure to get the guy with the Always Box. He got on at Port Chester!”
I could see the conductors coming down the car looking for the box. And the guy attached to it.
“Oh there you are. They told me to look for the Always guy!”
That made the girls laugh even harder, and I tried to be a good sport.
Well, I made it back to New Haven, but I still had to get back to my place. Downtown New Haven was more crowded than usual, too, because it was Parents Weekend at Yale. So I had to parade all my stuff in the Always With Wings box several blocks up Chapel Street: the main drag in New Haven, which was swarming not only with Yale students, but their families. With the box with the bright pink letters and the lovely illustration for everyone to see.
Even though it was just a box, a box that had once contained a regular item, an item that as human beings we should be well used to, it felt like the world’s longest walk of shame.
Moral of the story:
Always bring your own bags to Costco (or BJs) or you, too, might end up with the Always With Wings box.