How to Arrive
If you plan on driving to Rainbow, good for you. Take a fucking tank to Rainbow, you know? You have just as much right to shop there as a hippie pushing a wheelbarrow with a pregnant dog inside. Your money is almost as good as theirs.
Rainbow has three parking lots spread throughout the city, but most people want the one attached to the building, so they simply stop their cars on Division, turn off their ignitions or not, and sit there like they're at some ecological-disaster ride at Disneyland. Pop quiz: Did you notice the desolate corporate zombie store Office Max looming next door? There is not even a scenario where that lot would be full of cars. Sometimes we park there when we need just a few things, like gluten-free wafers, but this is not a recommendation. We're just putting it out there. Because waiting for a hippie to finish packing vegetables in his '80s Civic and get a fucking move on is like watching a drunk trying to finish a card trick.
If you walk, ride the bus or a bike to Rainbow, so what? You're supposed to do that.
Brave New Worldview
As you enter the cooperative with your re-use grocery bags, ask yourself, "Do I need a doula?" Because there's going to be any number of doulas advertising on the wall. Take a moment to embrace the hairier version of yourself who's been living in your head ever since you first saw a hippie girl dance. Over to your left you'll notice a bathroom. Don't go in there!
At first Rainbow seems like the plant-based solution to all your chemical based-fears -- it's like one big antioxidant. Children who walk morosely through Rainbow have lower levels of ADHD than those brats huffing broccoli soup fumes at the Potrero Safeway. Take a deep breath and absorb the floating free radicals, because they are free. Now go to the olive bar and collect samples, because they are also free. Step cautiously to price tags. They appear mismarked, correct? Is the soap $7.99? Of course it is, because of some crap in the soap. This is what they are charging for these things. Rainblow Your Paycheck, anyone? Don't say this near worker-owners whatever you do.
Which brings us to the worker-owners: a tough bunch, collectively. More than one shopper has felt the sting of worker-owners with something better to do than attend to a customer's bullshit, like finish a chapter of John Fowles' The Magus at the register. Working-owning has its privileges. If you need a fucking smile, go to the dentist. And if you want a job, drop 30 pounds, tattoo your wrist and ignore me.
Rainbow has a way around the steep prices, however, offering coupons in the phonebook of all places and -- wait, what's that? The cooperative did away with them last month in a worker-owner vote aiming for "decreased congestion in the store"? You mean they stopped giving customers 20 percent off everything because the cooperative was too fucking busy? Huh. Well played, radicalism.
Through the Wilderness
Obviously shopping at the cooperative will not net you a variety of Hot Pockets. It doesn't sell anything with a face. Go down the wrong aisle and you might not recognize a single brand; the frozen-foods collective is a particular son of a bitch. So have a ball there.
But one thing you should do is walk past the vegetable collective -- which looks amazing, but still: vegetables -- and go almost out of the cooperative to the cheese collective*. Be real cool in here, because this is the lair of the anarchist cheese guy. He's gathering material about assholes and cheese, in case the world is ready for a second book from an anarchist cheese buyer at a cooperative's cheese collective. (It so is.) He has books to write and your bourgeois cheese-buying ways -- why isn't this smoked Gouda shaped like a puck? -- are material. Say, with all sincerity, "Please cut me a wedge of Deluxe American."
-If you need to buy a vitamin, God help you. We once lost a child in there.
-Hey, wow, bulk water.
-You might not recognize these breakfast cereals.
*It's about time we explained this. From the site: "It could be said that Rainbow is a cooperative made up of collectives (our individual departments)."
Need more life instructions? See Best Practices: How to Buy Artisanal Ice Cream.