I have seen the horror of feeding frenzies in my life among dogs and fish and people. But the worst was the feeding frenzy among people when I was one of those people.
We were on a fishing trip on the coast of British Columbia. Three families of old friends rented two cabins on a large float tied to a steep-sided coastal island. We would be taken about 25 miles by boat from the interior of the province to our floating vacation. But first, a member of the boat crew made an unflattering and cranky announcement:
We had brought more gear and food than the boats had room for, the boatman said, and more than any sane person would need to survive a week. Some of the food would have to remain behind until one of the boats returned to check on us in five days.
“You’ve got enough food for a month,” the boat guy said, not meaning it as a compliment.
So for the first five days, we only had the food for one of the two cabins. And we were on a remote shore of the Pacific miles from a store, a movie, an espresso machine, or, worst of all, a place where we could replenish our potato chip supply.
As the boats left, some of us started to wonder if we would run out of food and maybe starve before the boats came back. Of course, that triggered a terrible hunger in our bellies.
The people in the first cabin were at the mercy of a woman in the second cabin who was head cook for all of us. The first hint I had of trouble was when a man in our cabin said after the first night’s dinner, “She could have served us a lot more food tonight. She’s keeping it for her people.”
That same night, an informant told me that the head cook had been mumbling something about how people from my cabin were eating like hogs and she had to reduce portion sizes or we’d all be out of food within hours.
At that point, some of the friends in each cabin actually stopped speaking to each other.
The supply boat eventually arrived five days later with the rest of the food and things gentled out.
I think of that every time Sharon and I stay in one of those motels with a “free” breakfast. The motel guests walk into that room in the morning surrounded by sausages and eggs and muffins and mounds of cereal. The good news is you can eat all you want.
The bad news is that there are a lot of other people there and they are digging into the food with an obvious fear it will run out.
The food won’t run out. The motel staff will see to that. But just in case, people are eating four times their normal breakfasts.
And they get physical about it. You reach for a muffin and some big dude or his wide wife will elbow you aside. It’s like an offensive football line bashing into a defensive line and trying to muscle an opening for the running back – or in this case, for my chance for a muffin.
There are loud slurping sounds all around you. It’s terrifying.
The whole thing fills me with nostalgia for those early years of my life when, as a child, my chore was to dump buckets of slop into the pig pen and watch the hogs fight each other to get at it.
(Excuse me, but I have to run now before Sharon gobbles up the last of the chicken.)Bill Hall can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.