Today is a day for wild celebration as Heidi and I have officially taken a leave of absence from the Park Slope Food Coop. Ostensibly because we donâ€™t have time with our busy parenting schedules; actually because we canâ€™t face working there. As members of the coop you are required to work for 2 and a half hours a month. We havenâ€™t worked at all for the past 6 months as we were given a yearâ€™s maternity leave to share. Now we canâ€™t face going back.
There are good thing (sic) about the coop and bad things.
The good things: quality food at low prices (20% above wholesale).
The bad things: the work, the busybodies, the queues, the chaos, the untrained staff, the weird smell, the claustrophobic atmosphere, the pettiness, the stock shortages, the conversations, signing in, trying to push the shopping cart, the queues again (you queue a second time to pay), being unable to find things, the cretinous messages over the loudspeakers, being overcharged and the queues once more (you queue a third time to get your receipt stamped before youâ€™re allowed to leave).
My final visit was a delight; I went around 4PM this afternoon, apparently the worst time of the week. There were no carts, the queue snaked up and down 3 entire isles. I had to queue just to get in, then wrestle my way on to the food. I started working through the shopping list Heidi had given me, being bashed about every time I tried to move. I couldnâ€™t buy anything for myself as I could hardly lift the basket as it was. To move 3 feet from the pears to the apples I had to circumnavigate the entire store 5 times just to get past some doozies who were fastened to the floor by a force stronger than gravity. When I got to the apples I had to examine each and every one as they were â€˜minimally treated,â€™ or in English, rotten to the core. The bananas were greener than peas, I picked up protein powder instead of vitamin C (it was in the wrong box), I had to club a shopper to death in order to reach the baby massage oil and my grassy green organic milk leaked all down my freshly laundered trousers. After these multiple ordeals I took the express queue and waited for no less than 40 minutes.
If you are one of those naÃ¯ve people (younger than 25) who think communism is a good idea in principle, you need to spend 30 minutes in the food Coop. See how petty, bitter and mean people become when they are working for the collective. Everyone is paranoid that everyone else is shirking on their responsibilities, not working hard enough or disobeying a rule they themselves obey. Iâ€™ve been told off more times than I can count for such minor offences as leaving the queue for a moment to grab something I forgot, having 16 items in my basket instead of 15 when on line in the xpress queue, reaching over somebodyâ€™s head, not having my membership card out and ready the second it was requested and on and onâ€¦ By the time you are done in there you want to shatter glass with a hysterical screaming fit.
Working there was even worse; youâ€™d always get one hideous person on your shift. Someone whose every word would bring you closer to a spasm of homicidal/suicidal rage. Theyâ€™d always be into Italian hip-hop, Maori chanting, crocheting or some other random absurdity that affirmed their status as the dullard of the universe. Either that or theyâ€™d be a busybody, a person in love with the coop. The equivalent to an informer in communist Russia, the kind of person who would have you killed with a sly word in the right ear.
No, I wonâ€™t miss the food coop. Give me regular supermarkets any day, overpriced poor quality food, rude, sassy staff members with no brains and major attitude problems, garish plebazines at the check out, fluorescent drinks, Styrofoam bread, and more choices of wiener dogs than there are members at that damned coop. Bliss.