FOR months now, I've been threatening to investigate a cult whose followers are wild-eyed, fervent, intelligent but, frankly, a little terrifying at times.
But I've held off. Some things are too big, too disturbing, too out of your own life experience to take on lightly, and this cult falls into that category.
I'm ashamed that I've squibbed it. I've been busy. The dog's been sick ("How many times have I told you, Lloyd? Don't eat roadkill! A squashed rat is still a rat.") I've been overseas. I'm moving house.
Oh, all right. I'm scared.
Say the magic word to this cult's followers and you'll find yourself pinned to a wall, hammered with emails, chased into an elevator, or worse, followed into a work bathroom and trapped in a toilet cubicle.
And from the other side of the toilet door, a follower will rave on and on about the cult's significance in her life - so far no male follower has followed me into the women's toilet, but the clock's ticking - while urging me to join.
"It has changed my life. It will change yours," said a follower a few months ago when a chat at the Herald office veered from politics, potatoes, Kim Kardashian's backside, or whatever it was we were talking about, to the cult.
I don't remember how it happened. I don't remember being drugged.
As if through a fog, my only clear memories are of other work colleagues walking carefully away, without exposing their backs or making any sudden movements, and running when they hit the elevators; of someone thrusting paper in my hand and talking about cat food, and of the most wild-eyed of the followers/work colleagues telling me where my closest cult centre was.
"You have to go," said the follower/work colleague, and I could feel my head nodding, and the mantra "I have to go" embedding itself in my mind like the words to "Mamma Mia" - once embedded, never removed.
(You know it's true. Even now, with just those two little words, you can hear Agnetha and Anni-Frid trill "Mamma mia, here I go again/My my, how can I resist you?" and see those shiny pastel jumpsuits. And the more you try to get rid of the voices, the longer the torture, so that there you'll be tonight, tossing in bed and desperately trying to sleep, while "Why, why, did I ever let you go?" keeps playing in a loop and messing with your mind. Sorry. I didn't mean to wreck your Saturday, but you get my point.)
Anyway, so on that night, I could feel myself succumbing to the siren call of the cult. It all sounded so wonderful. A shiny, beautiful place filled with shiny, beautiful people.
But as my work colleague/cult follower ran through the building gathering other followers for my cult induction ceremony, another work colleague pushed me towards the fire stairs.
"Run, run, and don't look back," she hissed, her eyes wide, hair matted, her hands clawing at her face.
"I'm too far gone. I'll never get out. But someone needs to tell the truth."
So I managed to tear myself away, dazed but in one piece, to gain strength for the final confrontation. That day has arrived. And the name of the cult is Aldi.
Never been to the place, you say. Don't believe it's a cult?
Then try this simple experiment. The next time you're with a few people - a barbecue, sporting event, business luncheon, or a Tony Abbott Appreciation Club meeting - just mention you've never shopped at Aldi, stand your ground, and wait for the onslaught.
"OMG, how can you say you've never shopped at Aldi?" screeched a friend who also trapped me in a toilet cubicle. (I managed to shove her to the other side of the door with a little effort).
"Easy. I've never shopped at Aldi, although I went to one years ago," I said.
"You can buy anything at Aldi," said the friend, who rattled off a list of things she never knew she needed until she walked through an Aldi door one day. A circular saw (she's too scared to use it). A bunk bed (her children are in their 30s). Blow-up pool animals (she doesn't have a pool, or grandchildren).
I have another friend who plays the trumpet in paddocks during business trips to NSW regional areas after buying a trumpet at an Aldi store a few years ago. True story.
"I didn't even know I wanted a trumpet until I saw one, so I bought it," she said, still somewhat stunned by the purchase, given that she'd only gone shopping for breakfast cereal and toothpaste.
"I pack the trumpet when I go away and when the urge strikes me, I pull over, walk into a paddock, say hi to the cows, and trumpet away."
This week, bargain Aldi wines took honours at the Sydney International Wine Competition. And any minute now, my friend, the trumpet player, will be on the phone, whispering in my ear: "They were selling piano accordions last week. You know you want one."
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