By Kirby Neumann-Rea • Of the News-Register • 

Letter to Readers: Runaway paper bags and grocery store ‘gallantry’

We should all have at least one humorous and humbling public experience every month or so.

On a recent Saturday I had two. They were 20 minutes apart.

Both were funny for me, and they must have been funny for anyone who happened to be at Fifth and Baker streets, and then the entrance to Albertsons supermarket.

En route to the Scouts’ food drive on March 2, I swing by the McMinnville High School grad party container drive in the Oregon Mutual Insurance parking lot. I have a cloth bag and a grocery sack filled with cans and bottles and I deliver the contents to the volunteers, including a guy named Jeff. I keep the bags and as I return to my car, a gust of wind takes the paper sack out of my hands and sends it northbound on Baker. I hustle after it, watching for traffic, and the sack slides another five feet, just out of reach, then another five … then 10 more.

You get the picture: classic Guy Chasing A Paper Bag In The Wind.

But I am also no litterbug and know I have to retrieve that errant bag — even in heavy traffic.

Jeff has noticed what’s going on and he heads to the corner to corral it. By this time the double lanes are stopped at the red light at Fifth — and so is the sack, right between the lanes. As the light turns green, another gust comes up and the sack slides forward, along with the lanes of cars, as if it was following the traffic signal. Now it goes through the intersection and finally a car hits it,

It slides on — the impact not enough to flatten and stop it. A man at the crosswalk says to me, “Good thing there’s not a kitten in that.”

Meanwhile, Jeff is still looking for an opening to dash out into the street and the sack is north of Fifth Street. With the next red light, he gets that break and runs out and fetches the torn, sodden sack.

“We like to reuse these,” I said, explaining part of my reason for chasing it down. Jeff laughs. “You won’t be using it now.”

“Yep, recycling,” I said, thanking him.

The Scouts had finished their food drive (it was a cold, rainy and, did I mention, windy, day?) So I go to my next mission, to get some photos at Albertsons of the Girl Scouts selling cookies. (The photo ran in our March 4 e-edition.) I take some photos of two kids about age 2 in a shopping cart, and their mother and a woman I got to know only as “Nanny” buying cookies.

The kids get fussy out in the cold so Nanny says she’ll wheel the kids inside and, as she had a cast on her arm, I offer to help. (My ulterior motive is to ask their names and permission to use a photo. It turns out the family does not want to give their names, which is a fairly frequent occurrence, so we used another image; in 99% of cases, we do require names with a photo.)

As I take hold of the cart, one of the kids screams, “No, go away!” and pushes on my hand. Nanny reassures her, “It’s OK, he’s a friend,” but the youngster vehemently screams, “Go away!” and pushes against my arm. I say, “Mom’s coming right behind us, it’s OK,” a ham-handed attempt at mediation if I ever heard one.

“No! No!” cries the child, still turning and pushing against me. The cart is difficult to maneuver, and Nanny and I manage to get it into the foyer, the child still saying, “Go away!” and pushing against me. Then we get the cart over the door threshold and into the store, the child saying “No, no! Go away,” but now grabbing my coat sleeve, and as I’m saying, “Nanny’s here, Nanny’s here,” the child gripping my sleeve some more – and not letting go. Now, I know the child is demonstrating what was probably a healthy sense of “stranger danger”— but has a funny way of expressing it, I guess.

Then I figure it out: Perhaps “Go away!” means, “We are NOT sharing our Thin Mints with you!”

Seriously, both incidents were funny — in the best possible ways. Shoppers and fellow cookie buyers, along with grad party volunteer Jeff and his fellow crew members, got to witness something odd and amusing, and I am glad I could provide some comic relief for folks doing their part for the community on that cold and windy day.


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