Thursday, August 30, 2012

Incident (in Wisconsin)

While driving 'cross Wisconsin,
Car full, conversation keen,
I stopped near downtown Shawano*
To get some gasoline

Now I was new and unaware
Of the SIST cult's case against the mayor,
So I drove into a station
To find this message to all payers:

Gas pump with this sign attached: Because of an organized drive-off campaign by the Mayor, all pumps are prepaid only. Please come inside to pay BEFORE pumping.
I saw the whole of Shawano
From the first exit to the second
The sorrow I feel for town and mayor
Is more than I had reckoned.

(Extreme apologies to Countee Cullen.)

* Note: It's pronounced SHAWN-o, not shah-WAH-no.

You may be asking, what's all this? Well, therein lies a tale.

For no particular reason a few weeks ago, I chose to drive into a gas station called People Express in Shawano, Wisconsin. I think it was on the more convenient side of the street as we headed toward the on-ramp, after stopping for ice cream.

Once I read the bizarre sign shown above, I went inside to prepay as requested, doubtful that anyone who had been elected mayor of a town would organize a drive-off campaign against a local business.

The woman behind the counter was middle-aged and appeared to be what I, at first, thought was Amish. But not quite: she was wearing a dark teal, high-necked blouse with no obvious fastenings and black corduroy somethings down below the counter (couldn't tell if it was a skirt or slacks, but the waistband was baggy). Her brownish hair was tied back severely from her face into a bun and she wore wire-framed glasses plus, I think, a hair net.

I had to leave my debit card with her while I pumped the gas, which made me uncomfortable, though I went along with it. But after I pumped, paid, and retrieved my card, I Googled the whole thing as we drove toward Green Bay. (Daughter Number Three-Point-One was behind the wheel, so don't worry about whether I was watching the road).

It turns out that People Express station, plus two other gas stations in Shawano, is owned by a cult called SIST, formed by a guy who's changed his name several times and has gone from being Hindu to "Christian" to "Jewish."

He and his followers have a vendetta against the town's mayor, Lorna Marquardt, that goes back years. They make websites that purport to be official Shawano sites, but are full of invective against the town and the mayor. They say she runs a cult, for instance!

I don't want to know any more about these people than I have to, but I found out enough to feel very sorry for the people of Shawano, and especially the mayor. I also regret that I got gas there and helped fund their assinine empire of intimidation and repression.

SIST also owns a gas station in St. Paul, as it turns out, and a couple of its members have recently been in the news for bizarre behavior during a Minnesota civil case related to the station. The station is at Smith and Grand Avenues, near West 7th Street and the High Bridge. You've been warned.


Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I will definitely avoid that station!

Kelsey Zinkel said...

I know where im gassing up.