Tag Archives: co-op

The Pacific Northwest

If I could just uproot my life and move somewhere new, I think I’d pick the Pacific Northwest. I’ve never been there, so I’m really just relying on the bits and pieces of information that I’ve picked up through media and popular culture. And yes, I have to admit that, a lot of what I’m thinking of in my head is probably mostly just my imagination. Like maybe I saw a picture of a forest somewhere in Washington State and I thought, yeah, that’s what I want, that’s the life for me.


And from there I kind of just built up what it would be like to live there, right in the middle of that forest. I’d have a cabin, something you’d definitely describe as rustic, but with all of the modern conveniences that I’m used to living with here in New York. I’m picturing like a giant octagon shaped log-cabin, a big open space with a lofted second floor. A giant kitchen to the side with built-in restaurant quality appliances.

Where would I get my food from? Because I don’t want to live near any cities or towns. I’d have to own a pickup truck, something at least twenty years old, over two hundred thousand miles would be perfect. But it’s one of those trucks that’s built to last forever, and so aside from regular maintenance, oil changes and tire rotations and whatever, I really won’t have to do anything in terms of upkeep. I’ll just keep driving and it’ll get more and more comfortable each time I take that once a week, hour-long drive into town to stock up on groceries.

And obviously I’ll have a giant beard, what with all of that forest living and everything, so when I do emerge from my solitude to buy Pop-Tarts or Marshmallow Fluff at that grocery store, it’ll be a shock, to everyone in town, to me, like wow, I’m totally living off the grid here, I’m really in my own world. But it’ll be cool. This grocery store is going to be a really small one, and right by the only checkout, there’s a small counter where you can have a cup of coffee and a sandwich or something.

It’s the only face-to-face contact I’ll have with anybody, really, not that you’d be able to tell. All of us mountain-men, we’d all get together at that counter, drinking coffee, telling stories about our composting toilets or the family of grizzly bears that’s been threatening to circle the house for the past few days.

This grocery store/coffee shop town is going to be one of those small towns that’s so small, nobody really lives in it. In fact, the only reason there’s a grocery store in the first place is to support the thriving but disconnected association of people that live deep in the forest, totally isolated from even their closest neighbors. Maybe it’s not a town at all, maybe it’s just this one guy, he’s living all by himself, but for whatever reason he started the grocery store. Maybe he saw the demand.

Maybe it’s getting to him, what started out as an easy way to make a living, supplying peanut butter and toilet paper to all of the other solitary aficionados living scattered throughout the local wilderness, it’s turned into a full-time job, stocking the shelves, keeping track of inventory. He needed to hire some help, and what started out as the guy living half an hour out west coming around every other day to help put price tags on the merchandise with an old-fashioned price tag gun, it’s turned into a full-blown employer-employee relationship, and now his family is moving their cabin fifteen minutes closer to save money on the now-daily commute. Pretty soon he’s going to be hinting at health insurance and paid sick leave.

So no, they’re going co-op. Which is fine, because to be perfectly honest, things were getting a little too organized. It’ll be a good time to get back to basics, start my own little farm out behind the cabin. Yes, I’ll still have high-speed Internet, OK, like I said, my place is going to be totally modern inside, only rustic in appearance. And so I’ll have the computer, right, the pool table, the indoor/outdoor meat smoker. But aside from the once every two years that the telecommunications company drives out to my house to upgrade my modem, that’ll be it. Just me and Mother Nature.

And maybe I’ll join that co-op eventually. I don’t have anything against a little bit of planning here and there. Really, I just didn’t want to have to suffer through the growing pains natural to any upstart organizations, those boring meetings where someone is like, “What are we going to call our co-op?” and then there’s like half an hour of pointless debate. I’ll just show up, you tell me where to stock the Crest White Strips, I’ll stock them there, fine, that’s my contribution, can I have my groceries now? Can I go over to the lunch counter and have a cup of coffee?

Because that’s all I really need in life, just the great outdoors, a hot cup of coffee, my own private cabin, and the Internet. That’s it.

Gas station co-op

“Fill me up with regular,” I told the guy working the pump. Normally I never get full-serve gas. I mean, I know how to work the pump. It’s ridiculous to make someone else get out there and do it for you. But there was a line behind pump three, and the positioning of my gas cap … yeah, I guess I could have made it work. It would have been an awkward three-point parallel park to get over to the opposite side. Or I could have just waited like five minutes.


But it was freezing out, and it happened so fast, my brain’s way of justifying anything. There was a split decision, for a second I didn’t feel bad about paying those five extra cents a gallon, I pulled up at the full-serve pump and the attendant came around to take my credit card.

And again, it’s not really like full, full-serve. I’d imagine full service to be me not having to turn the car off during refueling. That’s got to be a bullshit rule, turn your ignition off while the pump’s running. What’s going to happen, an explosion? I doubt it. You’d hear about a gas station explosion, even if it only happened once in a while. You hear about every time a plane crashes, and that’s not a very common thing. So a gas station explosion, that would be big news.

Besides I’m pretty sure I’ve left the car running before. One time it was really cold out and I knew that if you used pump eight, the handle still had that little lock, like you could set it to pump and then go back inside the car and wait. It was great, almost like self-full-service. And yeah, I do remember it now, I left the car running, the heat on, I was listening to the radio. I must have lost track of time though, because all of the sudden the gas station guy was banging on my window, he was screaming, I couldn’t tell about what exactly, but I got out of the car and there was gas spilling everywhere, I guess the automatic shut-off wasn’t working for whatever reason, and there was this huge puddle underneath.

That was a pretty expensive mistake, something like a hundred dollars worth of gas, mostly spilled. But still, you fill up the tank and you don’t spill anything, it’s not cheap. “Sixty-seven twenty-three,” the guy handed me back my credit card and my receipt. Was it the full-service? It couldn’t have amounted to that much bigger an expense.

“There’s got to be a better way,” I looked up at the attendant. I don’t even know why I said it. I’m driving a car, I just had this guy pump my gas for me, what’s he interested in my complaints? Oh boo-hoo, you had to pay money for gas, you got sit there in your car and watch me pump it for you. And it’s freezing out here. And are you going to give me a tip? And I don’t even know, do you tip gas station guys? Sure, he’d definitely accept it, but is that a thing?

He was surprisingly sympathetic. He looked me in the eye and said, “There is a better way. You interested?”

“Of course I’m interested,” I said, and he told me to follow him inside the little gas station attendant’s booth.

“A gas station co-op?” I didn’t really understand it. I mean, I understand what a co-op is, you know, for food, for groceries. They have one a little further downtown, where people have to put in a little time at the grocery store, shelving boxes, running the register. I’ve never been, but I heard it’s something about organic produce, a lot of raw stuff … to be perfectly honest, I don’t get the appeal. But people love it.

“So you work the pump for like two hours a week, and then you get fifteen cents off of every gallon as long as you stay in good standing with the co-op.” He looked at me, he definitely had that look like, I got him, I’m totally getting this guy to sign up for the co-op. They must have had some referral program, because, even though this guy clearly wasn’t a natural salesman, I could still see that glint in his eye, the promise of welcoming someone else into the fold.

“I don’t know,” I was getting a little cold in the booth, “I’ll think about it.” Which definitely meant no, and he could see it too, because his face got visibly frustrated. I couldn’t tell if, you know, he might make one more play to get me to stay. He looked like he was about to say something else, but then his head turned abruptly and he ran out of the booth.

Apparently he must have forgotten to take the pump out of my car. And also apparently, I must have forgotten to shift the car into park. Because it started rolling, very, very slowly, backward. He fiddled with the driver’s side door, to get to the brakes, but it was locked, and that pump started stretching, a little bit more, I wasn’t reacting as fast as he was, and then it snapped, gas everywhere, they had to shut off the master pump to stop it from pouring out.

“What the hell man?” he said to me, and all I could see in my head was some owner coming over to the station, screaming at me, all of that lost gas, plus all of the lost sales from having to shut the place down for the rest of the day.

“What the hell to you?” I said in defense, “You were the one who left the pump in the car. You told me to follow you inside. That’s on you, man.”

And I could tell that he was angry, he was frustrated, but that same whatever it was that prevented him from really selling me on the co-op, it was also hindering him from really articulating any more of a fight. He just stood there, staring at me, he looked increasingly more pissed, I worried that he might do something desperate.

I said, “Hey man, you know what? I’m thinking about that co-op. Here’s my number. Once you get this whole pump business fixed, just give me a ring, I’m in.”

And yeah, that worked a little bit. His face didn’t get any more relaxed, but it stopped twisting into as big of a grimace. He didn’t offer any resistance as I took the pump handle out of my car, screwed on the cap and drove away. I could see him in my rearview mirror, holding that piece of paper on which I wrote my number.

But it wasn’t my number. I wrote down the number for the deli across town. Because fuck that, I’m not working for some gas co-op. That just sounds crazy. No thanks, I’ll pay the fifteen extra cents a gallon. Of course I can’t go back to that gas station for a while. And I’m never doing full-service again. I’m telling you, that’s bad news, all right? You just get out, or you wait for a pump, and you do it yourself. Unless you’re in New Jersey, where self-service is mandated by law. But fuck that too, get out of Jersey fast, you never know when Chris Christie is going to shut down another bridge and make it a real headache for you to get back to New York.