A few days ago, the NYTimes ran a good article about the Park Slope Food Co-op, going into personal detail about how hard it is to keep yourself out of the peculiar shame spiral that accompanies the place. The year before we started doing this LA thing, we worked our regular shifts at the PSFC, and I gotta tell you: if the NYTimes article is true, and there has been a fresh explosion of new members, I don't see how any more humans can possibly fit inside the store.
Tessa at the Park Slope Food Co-op, January 2004
When we were there in 2004, it was plagued by two things: first, the checkout line routinely snaked through two aisles, making it impossible to shop. Secondly, it was so overstaffed during your work shifts that you had to invent new cheese to wrap, or just walk around pretending to wipe random surfaces.
God forbid if you got assigned to the upstairs office: every bit of information was kept in a Byzantine maze of written papers and folders, and nobody wanted to tell you what you needed to do, nor how to do it - they just wanted it done. Whatever "it" was. I got so frustrated that when I heard an old lady had fallen off a milk crate, I volunteered to spend the evening in the emergency room instead.
Now... I fully realize a lot of this is my fault. My brand of ADD is toxic to taskless busywork, and despite seeing hundreds of people each shift, I never made any sort of acquaintances, most likely because that sort of thing felt incredibly inorganic (at a store that served only organic produce, he notes, with self-satisfied irony).
Surely there has to be a better way to foster a sense of community, since the Food Co-op, while inexpensively providing some of the best products on the planet, always had a sense of dread lording over it... when is my next shift? What will I have to cancel to do it? What if I owe eight back-hours and never make it up?
There are all sorts of points to be made with this, but I'll stick with one: why is it so hard to make decent friends past a certain age? In the past, powered by road trips, the desire for sex, entry-level jobs and a sense of mutual discovery, making long-lasting organic friendships was as effortless as breathing. You simply traveled to Austin and made a friend. You worked with a girl from PEI, fell in love with her sister, spent the night at their communal house in Charlottetown and became fast friends with this other guy who made breakfast.
There are many obstacles once you hit your thirties: if you're a breeder, then you've got kids, which means you're probably too fucking tired. You may also suffer from the paralyzing notion that "you've got enough friends already". But more often than not, I think it comes down to this: you simply can't find folks you'd describe as your "tribe". They're not funny, or you can't really deal with their spouses, or they just don't get it like your old friends do.
My feeling is that it can even bring on a sort of "second shy childhood", where you sort of forget everything you learned about being social, about being confident and gregarious, and retreat back to where you were in middle school when you might have believed everyone else was speaking a social language you haven't learned. Old feelings and old habits from two decades ago resurface.
Or hell, you're still a superstar and everything's great. That's the question: where are you with the concept of "making friends" - and is it still valuable?Posted by Ian Williams at November 8, 2009 11:35 PM