“Eat too fast . . . Eat too much?” and “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!” Two, classic commercials for an antacid.
We Americans eat too fast, eat too much, and eat the whole thing. Consequences? Obesity leading to diabetes mellitus leading to complications including blindness, gangrene with amputations, and renal failure.
Yes, behavior has its consequences, and Biobehavioral Science tells us that short-term consequences are prepotent over long-term consequences. In the context of drinking alcohol, for example, if the hangover came before the euphoria, there’d be a lot fewer drunks.
The following anecdote is based on a true story:
A Gorgeous Gorge
The trim redhead of a certain age with a sharp tongue and an empty stomach arrived three minutes prior to the opening. The several, silver-colored, metal tables on the sidewalk outside were filled with enthusiastic customers-in-waiting; all the tables but one, that is. The woman took a seat, motioning her husband, a self-described “fatty-in-disguise”, to place his slightly overweight body on the remaining, empty chair.
The springtime-Sun shone brightly. The sky was blue. The air was clear. The temperature was temperate. A perfect day to partake of ice-cream at Leopold’s in Savannah even though the hour barely was eleven o’clock. After all, the woman had partaken of no breakfast, whatsoever.
She sat silently, considering her program for the day. It was Sunday.
Previously that morning, she had arrived fifteen minutes early for the first of the two services at the Episcopal church founded in 1733 and currently billing itself as “The Mother Church of Georgia”. She found all doors locked. Bewildered, she backtracked to a nearby hotel.
Approaching the desk-clerk, a large chocolate-colored woman with processed, curly hair, she inquired about services at the nearby church. Initially puzzled by the question, the clerk then rolled her big, brown eyes and gave her pale-faced, freckled questioner a huge grin.
“Honey, yo’ be from up Nort’, ain’t yo’?”
“Well, yo’ in de South now. We here operate on Suhdern time. Dey be op’nin’ de doors ‘bout five minutes befo’ de service.”
The self-admitted Northerner smiled and thanked her colorful fountain of information. Departing the lobby, she returned to the church.
As predicted, five minutes before eight o’clock, the doors opened. The woman entered, and, at eight o’clock precisely, the service began with a total of six worshipers in attendance. Times had changed theologically since 1733 — even in Savannah — even for “The Mother Church of Georgia”. The later religious service likely would be attended better although not as well as the concurrent service at Leopold’s.
Yes, times had changed. Souls might be starving, but bellies were bulging. Besides, for this particular woman, the past was the past, even if the past was only three hours before. At the moment, it was the present, and the present was the time for ice-cream. She may not have found a throng celebrating the old-time religion of its choice at the church of its choice, but she would find a throng consuming the ice-cream of its choice at the ice-cream shop of its choice.
“Well, I went to church. Now, chocolate, here I come!” she whispered to herself as she guided her reluctant, weight-obsessed husband into the building. It had been re-styled into an old-time, ice-cream shop by a set-designer from Hollywood.
As events transpired, ice-cream for her became only an appetizer. With its customer having consumed its former contents in a flash, the fluted glass, once filled with “chocolate chocolate-chip”, sat empty. Before her dispirited, self-deprived husband sat a half-cup of coffee with skimmed milk not cream.
As her husband was about to lift the cup from the saucer, a young man wearing a white apron with the now-archaic, white cap of a “soda-jerk” from bygone years, pranced towards the table. In the affected voice of those who indulge in that which Oscar Wilde once called the love that dare not speak its name but now is screaming its presence ubiquitously, he asked, “Who has the pimento-cheese sandwich and chocolate milkshake?”
Made speechless by the sight of the sandwich and milkshake, the self-described fatty-in-disguise, usually a man of many words with a ready answer, pointed towards his wife, who returned his feeble gesture with a look of spirited triumph.
“Are you planning to eat all this now?” he whined weakly in disbelief.
“What do you think?” she fired back, licking her lips. “Pimento-cheese sandwiches are an old-fashioned, Southern delicacy . . . and the milkshake? You know, like the old-fashioned ones . . . not too thick . . . not too creamy . . . just right.”
“No, I don’t know,” he mumbled to himself.
Feeling contrite, not from his wife’s dismissive retort but from the envy elicited by his self-imposed reluctance to imitate her ordering such an inviting repast, he merely stared blankly at the line of other customers rapidly forming to partake of the various flavors of ice-cream that he himself had forsworn. Several minutes passed in silence. His wife ate. He sulked.
Finally, he opined, “What I do know is that this really is a great table . . . right next to the line of enthusiastic customers. If Mad Magazine ever makes another movie, the opening scene should be shot here. What a conglomeration of the fit and the unfit! The producers could recruit the actors right here as though they were from Central Casting in a Fellini-movie.”
With that observation and without an invitation, he reached for his wife’s milkshake. She shot him a second look of triumph.
“As Mark Twain said, ‘The only thing I can’t resist is temptation.’”
“I believe that it was said by Oscar Wilde,” his wife replied. “Look, Dimples, I want you to enjoy whatever you want . . . no matter how fattening, but, frankly, don’t you think you’ve been putting on a little weight lately?”
Bibliographically corrected, physically maligned, but gustatorily unchastened, he returned to staring at the other customers lined before him, now stretching out the door and down the block. Then, undaunted by his wife’s observation, he sputtered, “I’ve . . . I’ve an . . . uh, an idea.”
“Can’t you keep it to yourself, Pericles . . . I’m eating?”
Never one to keep his opinions and ideas to himself, he ignored her request. “You know how Mayor Bloomberg . . . the guy who made a billion, so he’s decided that he should dictate everyone else’s lifestyle . . . has been trying to pass laws about dietary behaviors?”
“You mean the rich hypocrite who promotes ‘gun-control’ in New York City while his bodyguards carry firearms in Bermuda, where doing so is illegal for everyone else and even forbidden to the police? What about him?”
“Yeah, that’s the guy. Well, the City of Savannah could take a page from his book.”
“Here’s the idea. Look around you. What do you see? Some fit, thin people amidst a sea of unfit fat ones.”
“So, let’s say Savannah imposes a new, Bloomberg-type law. Before every customer gets served, he . . . or she . . . gets measured for obesity. The greater the obesity, the higher the price of the ice-cream. Biobehavioral Science at work.”
His wife looked at him as a loving mother would look at her retarded child. “Ignoring the astronomical odds against such a law ever being passed,” she asked, “wouldn’t the consequence be Leopold’s prodding its customers to get fatter . . . not that most of them seem to need much prodding? The fatter the customer, the fatter Stratton Leopold’s wallet.”
“Not necessarily. Leopold’s . . . or other similar shops . . . could keep only the basic price for the product. The remainder would be taken by the City to fund programs in public health. That way, instead of the thin subsidizing the medical care of the fat as they do now, the fat would subsidize the medical care of the thin and even might overeat less. Context and consequences, you understand.”
His wife shook her head in disbelief. “Do me a favor, Mr. Willpower. Give me back my milkshake then quietly eat the rest of the sandwich you stole from my plate. By the way, after we leave, I’m stopping at the cupcake-shop around the corner. Think you might like one . . . or maybe two?”