Back to blogging again. For a while, anyway. I used to have grand ambitions for the things I wrote, but time has taught me to temper my ambitions a little bit. Last fall, for example, I decided to start swimming again. A fine thing to do, to be sure, but not when you start off by swimming two or three times as much as you should. I was nearly catatonic most afternoons afterward. So I’m just going to write something in this blog from time to time and we’ll just hope nobody has to drag me out of the pool, figuratively-speaking.
First off: a story.
Iida Pollanen, my Finnish friend and classmate, recently got in trouble for “stealing” cookies. Apparently, she was at one of the dining halls on campus that had a buffet, and when she and her friends had finished eating, she went up to get a few more cookies (four, to be exact), put them in a napkin, and sat back down. When they had finished talking and were getting ready to leave, Iida stuffed the cookies into her bag and immediately an employee walked up and informed her, rather stiffly, that she wasn’t allowed to take away any food from the buffet in a container or napkin or anything else. If she wanted to leave the dining hall with food, it had to be physically in her hand. Iida apologized, saying she hadn’t ever heard that policy before, and the employee asked for her student ID. Mystified as to what in the world was going on, Iida handed over her ID. Several minutes later, the zealous dining hall employee returned with the ID and informed her that she had been written up, and if there were any more infractions she would be. . .I forget, exactly, but penalized in some way.
I have a few thoughts about that. First of all, I think a golden opportunity was missed. The United States is one of the fattest countries on the planet, if not the fattest. I recently returned from Christmas break in Texas, and one of my abiding memories of that time was when, because time was short and Marie and I wanted to spend it with my grandmother, I got us a quick lunch at Whataburger. I ordered three standard meals (or What-a-meals, I suppose, though I’m not as clear on my Texas fast-food lexicology as I used to be), paid, and then waited a few seconds. The lady behind the register then put three, well, containers on the counter. I say “containers” because if I say “cups” you’ll likely think of a reasonably-sized receptacle for a human being consuming a beverage. A coffee cup, perhaps, or one of those blue plastic cups that seems to always be on formica tables in diners or grandparents’ houses. A cup. But what was on the counter at Whataburger looked like something you’d use in an old-fashioned fire brigade. Big enough that I didn’t feel entirely secure holding it with one hand. It was ridiculous. I tend to think if you’re going to start stocking cups in the gallon or quart range, you might as well just install a trough or stock-tank filled with soda and have done with it. Hand out life-preservers. The thing was, I saw people going back for SECONDS with those cups. And, not to make it too obvious where I’m going with this, most of them were extremely obese. (The people, not the cups, though I wouldn’t have a problem with anyone characterizing the cups as obese, too.) As in, uncomfortably so. It made me sad. Why do I bring this up in connection with Iida’s cookie theft? If any country in the world needs to have sugar and fast food stolen from it, it’s ours. So why not use our buffets for exactly that? If a student from a country that ISN’T among the pantheon of most obese places on earth wants an extra cookie, or for that matter an extra BOX of cookies, well then maybe that will drive some of our serial cookie-eaters to the fruit tray.
Another thought: people in Eugene are oddly constituted. By and large the average Eugene-ians are so nice they make Andy Griffith look like Pol Pot. To give you some idea, I just got back from our apartment complex’s laundry room, and a maintenance employee was emptying the quarter trays for the washing machines. I had just put my clothes in when he reached my machines. He said, “Here, let me start those for you,” then proceeded to remove 6 quarters from each tray, replace the trays, and start the washing machines for me. For free. That’s so nice it’s almost weird. People are like that all over town. UNLESS. . .you cross a line of some sort. Then that Andy Griffith-Pol Pot figuration gets reversed. Cyclists are the worst. I and one or two of our incoming cohort have on occasion accidentally biked the wrong way on a one-way street, or on the side of a one-way street where cyclists apparently weren’t supposed to go (not that there are any signs for that kind of thing). Other cyclists didn’t call out helpful reminders. No. They practically shrieked at us. You’d have thought we were biking around with bandoliers filled with severed chipmunk heads or something. I once had a motorist stop, honk several times, and give me the evil eye. . .when I was fifty meters from the road. I had been waiting to cross, gotten tired, and turned to go a different way when, some distance away, I got the honk. For what? I’m still not sure. Did I hold him up? If he slowed down to let me cross, he must have done it some distance away, because I didn’t see him. In any case, if you’re so tightly-wound that a few seconds’ pause in your driving schedule or a minor infraction of cycling etiquette or a few cookies taken away from a buffet is enough to send you into a psychotic rage (or into overzealous application of a minor dining-hall rule to a foreign student who didn’t know the rule existed), the future’s bleak. You’ll either be the first one eaten during the apocalypse, or the leader of the motorcycle cannibals, but either way you’re in for a rough ride.