Thursday, October 14, 2004

A Date at the Coop

Smartmom has something to say that may shock you. But she's going to say it anyway. Here goes: She actually likes her work shift at the Park Slope Food Coop. Truth be told, it's practically her favorite three hours of the month.

For one thing, Hepcat and Smartmom do the shift together. And that's a treat because they rarely spend any time alone. Yes, of course, they sleep in the same bed. But there is often a squirmy 7-year-old sleeping between them. And being fast asleep does not qualify as quality togetherness time.

Like many Slope couples with kids, they also try to have a "date night" every now and again. This might be a trip to the BAM Rose Cinema for "Fahrenheit 9/11" or a tasty dinner and a glass (or many glasses) of a really earthy Cabernet Sauvigon at Belleville. But because of the hectic nature of life these days, those "dates" have become few and far between. So in a sense, the shift at the coop every fourth Wednesday at 11 a.m., functions as a "date," a nice chance to spend some time together, a way to catch up on things.

Since February 2004, Hepcat and Smartmom have been "independent office workers" at the Coop. They work in the Cedar Room, a windowless room with a locked metal door in an undisclosed location, where they sort and count coins and cash using a coin sorting machine and a rapid-fire cash counting machine. They also fill those famous brown zippered wallets with cash and coins, for the next day's cashiers,

Now don't get the wrong idea. It's not like they're whispering sweet nothings into each other's ears, or making out on the sly in the Cedar Room. No, no, no. As dedicated members of the Food Coop of the People's Republic of Park Slope, they understand that there is work to be done, to be done, to be done. And they go about their job with characteristic rigor and focus.

But sometimes, sometimes, toward the end of their shift, when all of the coins have been sorted, they have been known to share a good story, a joke, or an amusing anecdote about Teen Spirit or OSFO. They've even been known to nuzzle a bit, engage in a quick hug or exchange furtive kisses.

Hepcat and Smartmom also enjoy listening to the wacky conversations on the Coop's public address system -- the time honored way that working Coop members communicate with one another. There's the guy who gets on and says, "I need a ride to Windsor Terrace. Don't laugh. Sometimes I really do get a ride this way. I'm waiting by the front door." Or the questions between team members: "Do we still have the Greek yogurt?" "No, we don't have that Greek yogurt anymore." "That was really great Greek yogurt." "Yeah, I know..."

At the start of their shift, there are always bags and bags of coins that need to be put through the sorting machine. Ah, the coin sorting machine -- the greatest invention since whole wheat bread. Noisy, yes. Very. The Kaching, Kaching, Kachinging can get on your nerves. But what a machine it is.

It's actually a fairly tedious job putting coins through the coin sorting machine. But it does require a good deal of concentration. Every couple of minutes, one of the paper coin rolls becomes full, the machine stops, and the full paper roll must be removed from its holder. If you forget to replace the paper roll and continue sorting, all hell breaks lose and there will be coins all over the table. When this happens, Hepcat usually emits a flurry of exasperated sighs. Smartmom, from the coin sorting machine at the other side of the tiny room, sends soft words of comfort his way as he rights the mess.

Then there's the cash-counting machine. Smartmom was a tad intimidated by it when she first started to work in the Cedar Room. The high speed way that it counts bills can only be described as startling. And if you don't know what you're doing, the bills will go flying all over the place. At first, Hepcat says, Smartmom reminded him of Charlie Chaplin in "Modern Times." Y'know, the famous factory assembly-line scene. Another time, Hepcat declared that Smartmom was doing an unintentionally perfect impersonation of Lucille Ball in the chocolate factory episode of "I Love Lucy."

For this and other reasons, Smartmom loves to partner with Hepcat in the Cedar Room. Truly, he is one of those people who is exceptionally comfortable with the physical world. Unlike Smartmom, machines don't scare him one bit. In fact, they seem to bring out the best in him -- the guy grew up on a farm in California and thinks nothing of taking apart cars, tractors, milking machines, and watches. He sometimes even puts them back together...

Smartmom finds it quite titillating to watch Hepcat confidently feed the coin sorting machine and interact with the frantic cash counter. She loves to watch him flick the tabs of the coin rolls with two thumbs, and neatly line up the color-coded coin rolls in the boxes where they belong.

When the job is done, there's a great feeling of accomplishment. Smartmom is charged with filling out the daily coin box form, which means she has to use a calculator to do some semi-complex addition and multiplication. Then, the two put the boxes away in the metal cabinet, turn off the sorting machine and the cash counter, and neaten up the tables, leaving the Cedar Room just as they found it.

Sometimes after the shift, Hepcat and Smartmom grab a bite of lunch or a do a quick shop at the Coop. Having spent three hours alone in each other's company, the feeling of reconnection is palpable. Who knew socialism could be so romantic?


At 7:17 AM, Blogger Udge said...

Ah, the chocolate factory episode. If you had asked me out of the blue, I'd never have remembered it, but reading triggered the memory of those happy days, eating lunch sitting cross-legged at the coffee table & watching TV. (What an immense storehouse of rubbish we carry around with us, I still know thirty-year-old license plate numbers.)

But, wait just a minute, didn't Lucy end up eating the chocolates? Don't you try that, "who knows where" the money has been.


Post a Comment

<< Home