The 9 to 5 Hunger Games

19 Jun

One thing I’ve never been clear on is the etiquette of handheld fruit eating. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. Apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, coconuts, etc. – we’ve all been there. Eating handheld fruits in the company of others is on my top ten list of the most awkward things that happen in life. And it just happened to me.

I’m sitting in a staff meeting for my internship when my stomach starts to growl. Like, really loudly. Never mind that I ate my Wheaties and my apple-a-day and a fistful of Gummy Vites this morning… I am bear-on-a-campground hungry. Seeing as how I am rarely without snacks, I remember I have a nectarine in my bag. Perfect. I scan the room carefully to see what other people are doing – one person is picking her nails; another is cross-referencing the time on his watch with the time on the clock, with the time on his laptop, to ensure that it’s really only been a mere FIVE MINUTES since he last checked the time; another intern is staring at a hole in the wall like it’s the most interesting thing she’s seen all day…it is a pretty weird looking hole. So I start staring at it, too. Huh, look at that.

Back on track. Having decided that eating a fruit shouldn’t be a problem, I quietly reach for my bag. However, I have never been a genteel (that means gentle, right? I’ve always wanted to use that word) person. So, I manage to knock my phone to the ground in the process. Rule #1 of public fruit consumption: don’t be a wildebeest in a butterfly garden.

Commotion aside, I manage to unzip my bag without issue. But oh wait – being the regulation Einstein that I am, I decided to use several plastic bags to create an impenetrable fortress around my lunch while packing it this morning. Literally, bags on bags on bags separate me from this fruit. Rule #2 of public fruit consumption: don’t use the process of packing a lunch to demonstrate you are qualified to work as a NASA engineer; just put the lunch in a single bag and move on.

Despite the fortress of bags, I decide I am hungry enough to take the next steps in my journey toward gastronomical fulfillment. I start to open plastic bag number one and it sounds like nails on a chalk board; or like a Market Basket bag in a dead silent room of people who haven’t heard any sound other than their own thoughts for the last several hours. Both sounds are equally disruptive. Everyone turns to look at me…even the nail picker. So naturally, I act like I was momentarily fascinated by a stain on my bag and will never touch it again. Rule #3 of public fruit consumption: RETREAT RETREAT.

After my decisive retreat, I decide that I have just entered the final stage of the Hunger Games and will therefore go all Donner Party on my fellow interns if I don’t eat immediately. Thus, I forge ahead and re-enter the plastic bag. After what feels like hours of rummaging, my fingers touch down on the nectarine, and I manage to pull it out of its cocoon. AH, SWEET JESUS FINALLY. Rule #4 of public fruit consumption: once you begin a journey, don’t back down. It will all be worth it in the end.

BUT WAIT! That is not the end of this melodrama. Next comes the actual eating of the fruit. The minute you take out anything edible in front of people, they will inevitably look at you like they want to murder you with your own food and then throw your dead, food-covered corpse out the nearest window. This is awkward. I take a bite of my delicious fruit only to get more glares. BUT I DON’T CARE! Mwahahaha. Rule #5 of public fruit consumption: randomly develop a signature evil laugh so as to intimidate those around you and get them off your back. Crazy eyes are a nice touch.

To use my favorite word again, I am in no way genteel when it comes to the physical act of eating. Despite attempting to take tiny bites and barely chew, me eating a fruit sounds like a sumo wrestler on a water slide. Or at least what I imagine that would sound like. I slurp and gurgle and crunch. But I can’t help it! I am genetically programmed to eat like something out of Where the Wild Things Are – a trait I get from my grandfather (sorry Papa). If I wasn’t already enough of a pain in the ass for these poor people, now they have to deal with me adding my own sound effects to this meeting. Someone had to do it. Rule #6 of public fruit consumption: let your genetic quirks shine.

Then there’s the issue of the pit. Apparently, no one in my office generates trash because there are ZERO trash receptacles within a fifteen-foot radius. I am forced to wrap the spit-covered symbol of my shame in an old piece of paper I found. I then sheepishly reacquaint myself with the fortress of plastic bags, which unleashes yet another round of sound effects. Rule # 7 of public fruit consumption: swallow the pit. Just do it.

When all is said and done, I’ve successfully filled five (yes, only five) minutes of an otherwise dry meeting with my fruit drama, appeased my empty stomach, and made about ten enemies. All for a single nectarine. This is my life, these are my choices.

My boss calls a lunch break literally two minutes after my fruit ordeal. I’m not even hungry.

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