160. Bags

Drum roll please… UAE Uncut is back with a bang! Well, not quite, more of a pathetic drip. Since my last inscription in this muddy puddle of cyberspace much has changed. In the last six weeks I have got married, have resigned from my job of six years, and have moved to a new apartment in Abu Dhabi. As you would imagine, life has been jolly busy and, in essence, has little to do with the point of today’s missive.

Since moving here in 2008, I have read many tales from the crypt about how dear old Mother Earth is starting to cough and misplace her dentures. Where as once she was able to walk to the shops and back in 15 minutes, nowadays she does so with a walking stick, making full use of the park bench at half distance to catch her breath. The old girl is showing her age and, of course, her children are to blame.

Let’s not get embroiled in an environmental debate here, but sometimes I wish people would see sense and realise that money doesn’t do anything of any use. No, really. How does paying extra money for certain things in anyway combat physics? We begin with the most obvious of targets for such heinous antics; airlines. Naturally, everyone is provided with a maximum baggage allowance on an aircraft. Anywhere between 20-23kg is generally the average. Over the summer I have been back to Blighty, to Ireland, and to Italy. Because I was travelling around a bit, I had to pack a bit more and was thusly over my allowance.

In most cases, the options laid out before me were a) unpack some things and leave them there on the floor of the terminal for eternity and b) to pay an outrageous fee so that they could indeed travel. Annoyingly, and despite my best sarcastic cannonballs, I had to get my wallet out. The woman said that if everyone was over their allowance then the plane would be too heavy and would plummet to the Earth and that I would be killed. But how does then paying £4,000 per kilogramme all of a sudden make it ok?

Here in the UAE we are protected from the environmental fascism of Europe, and one can easily forget that back under the iron fist of Brussels, life is far more difficult. What were once simple chores of every day life are fast becoming a royal pain the Merkel. I speak, of course, of shopping.

While away in the EUSSR, each and every time I needed to pop into a supermarket I was forced to carry away my Ruffles, Smarties, eggs, deodorant, and milk in my arms. Plastic carrier bags are now a tradable commodity. If I wanted the convenience of carrying my humble groceries in a bag, then I had to pay for the privilege. I’m sorry, but I just can’t subscribe to this.

Before we go any further perhaps I should highlight that I despise those who litter, and companies that continue to package razors in vacuum formed Perspex are no more morally sound than Somali pirates. Plastic bags are indeed a menace and I hate seeing them blowing around windy allies or wrapped around Nelson’s Column. But why should I have my convenience compromised just because some careless halfwit can’t use a recycling bin properly?

UAE Uncut grade good retaining unit. Trademark, £40 per dozen. What? Someone has to make money out of environmentalism

UAE Uncut-grade goods retaining unit. Trademark, £40 per dozen. What? Someone has to make money out of environmentalism

So, my question is: what is wrong with paper bags? Paper bags were the norm for decades and worked just as well. They can come with handles, can be completely recycled, they are re-useable, and, as far as my research concludes, are cheaper than plastic bags. Ok, in the rain they can get a bit soggy, but no matter.

Food prices in supermarkets are high(ish) across Europe, and there is no way in a month of Sundays that a locally grown apple can cost as much as a majority stake in Microsoft. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that merchants can still afford to bulk buy bags for their customers.

What about those big re-useable bags you can buy? They’re great, after you’ve made the initial down-payment. But their usage is dictated solely by whether you actually have one with you or not. If I pop up to Dubai for the day and then, on impulse, decide that I need to dash into a shop for a pack of Smarties and a plasma TV, then the odds are I won’t have one with me. This is what happened in Italy. I was on my honeymoon, and at no point in the packing process did I think that I would need a re-usable shopping bag. This, I’m sure, would have cost me even more money-for-weight with Aer Lingus. And I didn’t want to be responsible for making the plane crash.

The thought didn’t even cross my mind. If I needed to rake in supplies from the local goods merchant, then I assumed that my convenience as a paying customer would not be called into question. But, instead, I was forced to walk back to the hotel juggling my Lynx and Smarties looking like some mad shoplifter.

Returning to Europe reminded me about how lucky we are in the UAE. Flying back from Italy with Etihad, my suitcase was several kilos over the allowance, I wasn’t asked to pay, and the plane didn’t even remotely crash. Convenience is the cornerstone of the Emirates and long may it continue. The day this country starts to charge me for carrier bags will be the day I decide to pack up and go elsewhere. The question is, where is beyond the reach of madness? And how much baggage allowance will I have to pay for to get there? I need to go somewhere where I can carry my shopping in peace, and for free; Chad, perhaps?

Mother Earth is indeed getting on a bit, but she is not yet at the stage where she needs a Stannah stair-lift. When the time comes we will take care of her, but like any good parent, she will want the best for her children without wishing to be “too much of a bother.” My wish, mum, is that my human siblings don’t deprive me of my convenience. Let me carry my shopping like you used to in the old days, a paper bag will be fine.

Ah, it’s good to be back.

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