The few minutes of respite that is my break at work is a holy thing. I’m sure this is a common feeling amongst people of almost every profession, but I’m special for a special reason. That reason is that my job is to wear the most soothing of kid gloves as I acquiesce to every request posed by the most singularly important, special people in the world. The customers at Whole Foods are widely renowned (even and especially by one another) to be the most self-important, uppity, pseudo-intellectual, yet hopelessly misinformed, rude hypocrites this side of a political caucus. They run the gamut from food-fad chasing soccer moms to zoned out, brain-dead “spiritual seekers” and the ever-present, wealthy, sociopathic oligarchs like the woman who called in this morning as we opened to angrily demand that we have everything she needs pre-shopped and waiting for her in a basket by the register within the hour. She’s an important person.
My point? While you probably shovel sewage forty hours a week – and I feel for you – my break is important to me. For whatever reason, maybe you can relate. Maybe you can put yourself in the headspace I was in as I raised my car seat out of “nap mode” this morning and collected my wits. If you close your eyes for a minute and really focus, you can probably simulate for yourself my confusion as the beat of the song on the radio got uneven and warped, almost like a second, rhythmically crippled (probably white) drummer was banging on another drum walking up the sidewalk past the parking lot outside my window.
Moments later, reality caught back up to my perception as said drummer and his friends really did walk past my car on that very sidewalk. Despite his awe-inspiring rhythmic inconsistency and the vocalist’s atonal bullhorn-amplified squacking, they seemed to have a lot of friends. They knew all the words. “We don’t want no GMO’s” is catchy, but it’s no “My Sherona”. You gotta mix things up a bit. Though, I supposed, my break being over, I had no place complaining, so I exited my car and joined the tail end of the fray.
The throng of a hundred or so protesters ahead of me was now blocking the parking lot exit forming a line of angry, white, downtown Santa Fe millionaires. I approached a nearby attractive young woman with dreadlocks, and addressed her in the secret code we hippies share amongst our own kind. “Do you find it as funny as I do,” I asked her, as we walked past the bumper of a man who was turning purple, screaming, with his windows rolled up, unable to pull his SUV into traffic, “That all of these miserable bastards who claim to shop here because they care so much about their food and the environment and the world are giving themselves coronaries because they’re blocked into Whole Foods by a GMO protest?” Sometimes all it takes is a smile from a pretty girl to get you through the day.
Smile procured, I began moving forward through the crowd. A confused-looking teenager who didn’t seem to know what they were actually mad about, but was thrilled to be rousing a rabble yelled out as I passed him, “WE SHOULD GO TO WHOLE FOODS AND GET THEM TO STOP SELLING GMOS, YEAH!” Party on, Wayne, I thought to myself, as I snickered and pushed through a few more retired husks of former flower children.
Nobody in charge of this group is that stupid, right? Nobody actually believes a company like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s or Sprouts can actually do anything about the fact that most of the corn, soy, grain, and cotton in America is genetically trademarked by a petrochemical company. Right? We all realize that places like that exist to offer some alternatives to the few of us intelligent enough to do a little reading and give two shits what goes in our body, but they’re in it for the money. They’ll sell you bulk organic rice at reasonable prices, but they’ll also stock aisles and aisles of worthless garbage because most people are too stupid to know the difference. They make their money on the idiots who stare at the 15 different olive oils and buy the one that costs three times as much because it says something about their social standing. They’d never tell you to your face, but they value that guy’s $20 more than your $10. They have the stuff you want to eat if you want to be healthy, but as long as the majority of people in the world are lazy morons who buy whatever you put in front of them, with no interest in educating themselves, they’re going to sell everything else, too. And spoiler alert: that’s not about to change.
It’s tough to categorize my disappointment as I approached the front doors, realizing this hoard of picketing idealists had chosen to come to Whole Foods specifically to express their scorn for all that the company (or maybe just the one particular store) has done to bolster the Gengineering Industry. It’s not that I was sad that these idiots turned out to be just another faction of the same idiots inside the store. It wasn’t even so much the awkward irony of watching my boss call the cops on a protest that’s supposed to represent everything that company’s supposed to stand for. I was mostly sad because of the people with the bullhorns doing the chastising. They didn’t look like idiots. They weren’t dressed crazy or in REI uniforms. They looked like normal reasonable people who you’d expect to organize a rally over something they felt strongly about.
And that’s the problem. I grew up in a world where if there’s a problem you yell about it and “raise awareness” or have a vigil, as if any of those things are going to fix anything. The only people coming up with any answers to problems are the ones who get paid for those answers. And the only answers the people doing the paying want are the answers that will make them their money back and an exponentially increasing profit every quarter. The rest of us rage about the problems, but none of us have any answers. Self included. We can raid a thousand helpless businesses (or faceless franchises of big businesses as was the case today), and cause a billion traffic jams, and I can bash these keys in until they pop out and my fingers bleed. But until the people who make the rules (and probably more importantly the people who pay them) have any reason to treat us as anything more than the temporary nuisance we proved ourselves to be with that whole “Occupy” farce, nothing will change.