Gus Grapples With Groceries

Ever wonder what it is like to bag groceries against a national-level bagger?

Fearful and fidgety, I walked into the Commons Café. I thought I heard people chanting and yelling my name, giving me a false sense of confidence. Delusion became fear once I asked Senior and pro bagger Talia Randle what her best time for bagging these groceries was.“Just around 40 seconds or so,” she said. This is when I knew I should have just stuck to baseball.

A couple of weeks prior to the bagging match I read online and watched videos of baggers preforming at competitions in very a systematic and methodical way. Thinking that the competition would be based more on methodology and less on speed, I thought I had a chance.

So, on to the match. I thought that I should just quickly and randomly distribute the groceries on the table between the two bags. I quickly grabbed the boxes, and larger, non-crushable items to create structure on the bottom of the bag. And then just threw everything else it the bag as neatly and quickly as possible. Not a successful strategy. Talia not only had a faster time, but her bags had a better weight distribution according to Judge (and Head of sSchool) Matt Levinson. When he lifted my bags, he said, “Um, ok…but  feel the difference between yours and Talia’s.”

On to round two. Once everyone figured out that I didn’t have much of a chance against Talia, it was decided that Talia should have one hand tied behind her back. Learning from the previous round, I used a more thoughtful but quick strategy for weight distribution. I began with the same strategy as the previous round. But instead I paid more attention to the weight of each item. By the end of the second round, let me tell you, my two bags were pretty well distributed, I thought. But, Talia looked into one of my bags and saw that the cans were on the top. She said that was an automatic disqualification. Who knew?

Throughout the match, I realized how difficult grocery bagging actually is. In competitive bagging, not only do you need to memorize the general structure and form of how groceries fit into the bag, but also you need to have awareness and spontaneity to how new and oddly shaped items fit into the general structure of the bag. Bagging takes an amazing and specific amount of strategy and skill. You need to take a large amount of groceries and visualize/simplify them quickly and efficiently into a single bag.

I want to thank Talia Randle, Judge Levinson, Journalism editors Yoela and Mahir and everyone involved in making the bagging competition become reality. Also, I wish Randle the best in Las Vegas. I know that she has the competition in the bag.

By Gus Coluccio