Alarming Change in Administration
One day it just happens. You and your neighbor Janice walk into your neighborhood co-op and don’t recognize the faces behind the front desk. You smile at them anyway, and hope they share your co-op’s values of inclusiveness and reciprocity. You ask the man behind the counter his name. He responds coldly, “The Commander.” You walk up and down the aisles a few times before you leave, taking nothing with you. You look to Janice for reassurance, but find only doubt in her eyes.
Intolerance to Dissenting Opinions
You attend the monthly co-op meeting at Janice’s suggestion to “give them a chance.” You express your frustration with not being consulted on the new governing board. The Commander interrupts you, reminding you of the “fair and just elections” held last week. You don’t recall getting an email about any election. Neither does anyone else in the co-op, but they remain silent for fear of others thinking they are not keeping up with the co-op. You turn inwards and doubt your memory. “Maybe I could be doing more for my co-op,” you think. On the way out, you grab a sugar-free donut and Janice confesses she might have voted for The Commander. You delete Janice on Facebook.
You run into an old friend from college. They ask what you’ve been up to and you naturally mention the co-op because it’s not like you’re seeing anyone. You don’t mention the Commander. You encourage them to join. They confess that they’ve tried to join but the co-op has banned all new members. It is now a closed community. You know nothing of this. But you don’t want to look like you are not involved in your own co-op so you pretend to have heard. “I think it’s temporary,” you think while you still can. You call Janice but she already knows. And on top of that, they are requiring her to reapply to continue her membership. “But I thought they aren’t taking new members.” “Exactly,” says Janice. You somehow become aware of your own privilege.
Intensified Fear of Competition
What is the “Allendale Food Co-Op and Thrift” and why must they be destroyed at all costs? You’ve never heard of them spoken of before and now suddenly they are your most ferocious enemy? You ask Janice what this is all about. She tells you she’s already done some investigation and guess what? Better prices, friendlier clientele, and that one type of salt you can never seem to find. You are grateful for having Janice in your life during this troubling time. You add her back on Facebook in the middle of the night under the guise of having made a new account. “I forgot my password,” you lie. She understands.
Rampant Sexual Harassment
While bending down to help a older co-member reach an item, The Commander makes a comment about the way you fill your jeans. You shoot back up, humiliated. You expect this kind of behavior on your way to and from your co-op, and maybe even right outside your co-op’s door, but certainly not inside your co-op. Janice says you might be overreacting. She finds it flattering. Janice is sometimes wrong.
Whispers of “The Resistance” in the Wheat Isle
There is no one moment when it all becomes real, but if there were it would probably be when you remove a loaf of bread from a shelf and find a face staring back at you whispering “May day. May day. How goes the planned revolution?” In the aisle over a bag of sun dried chips falls to the floor where call meets response. “Meet at the creaking well at the hour of midnight or when the coyote thrice calls.” The bread again answers, “Siri… set a reminder.” You purchase Orwell’s 1984 on Amazon Prime. You forward one copy to Janice’s address and pray it arrives in time.
The Use of “Alternative” Ingredients
You haven’t actually picked up food from your co-op in some time. You’ve visited several times but you have not left with food in your hands. You’re hungry. While filling up your cart one afternoon, a product catches your eye. Something about it feels foreign, like a memory. You turn the product over to familiarize yourself with the nutritional statistics and notice the label has been peeled off. You take it to the front desk and ask The Commander, “How much sodium is in this?” He smiles “None.” “It’s salt,” you say suspiciously and his smile widens. “It’s very good,” he offers, “It’s staff pick. Trust me.” “I don’t trust you,” you think in the deepest labyrinth of your mind. But somehow he hears this. “We use alternative ingredients here.” “Alternative Ingredients are not ingredients,” you protest, but logic has already been abandoned on the side of the highway like the roadkill on sale in aisle four. This isn’t the co-op you signed up for, but you’ve paid the membership fee for the month. Janice has invented some kind of device that measures the nutrients of provided foods, which she charts on her underground blog for members of the co-op to view. Woah, Janice, like where do you find the time?
You wish to speak to the Board. You have a complaint to file against The Commander. The Commander laughs. He’ll take your request to the board. You demand to take the request to the board yourself. He explains that in order to file a complaint about The Commander, it must be filed to Human Resources, addressed to “The Commander.” After the letter is received it will be reviewed by a jury which comprises solely of The Commander, who’s largest donor is The Commander. You notice you haven’t seen Janice in three days but shrug it off. “Maybe she had a family thing.”
Controlled Mass Media
You decide this is all getting out of hand and you’re going to research some new co-ops to join. You find some promising blog posts, boasting about a new and up and coming co-op where all the members are happy and healthy. One is a list of the top ten co-ops in your area. But there is only one listed. You click for more info, only to find photos of your current co-op. Your eyes dart to the byline where you see it, in chilling Cambria font: Written by “The Commander.” You click on the byline to read the author’s bio and defeatedly follow him on Twitter for coupons. While lingering on his page you notice he’s retweeted Janice seven times, each with the added caption: “Fake News! Just like CNN. Sad!!”
The Absence of All Hope
You google “What is a Co-Op?” because you can’t remember anymore and you’ve lost your mind. You wonder what you could have done differently, had you known the signs. You feel a chill on your exposed shoulder and you know Janice is dead. You fear your vegan soup is poisoned. But you’re an American, goddammit, and you will not go to Shop Rite. You die of starvation. The fascists win as intended. As they always will.