10/24/2016 § 14 Comments
10/22/2016 § 9 Comments
See links at bottom for the previous letters.
A tradition at office birthday parties is usually a traditional CAKE. A nutritional Civil War breaks out in Lyle’s office when people try to bring healthy alternatives.
I remember telling you a while back that we celebrate everyone’s birthday at the office by having a cake on the actual birthday or on the closest workday. An official “Cake Schedule” tells each of us when it’s our turn to bring a cake.
Nature does not evenly distribute birthdays among two dozen coworkers, however. One month we would have cake three times, and then we might go two months with no cake at all.
Inspired by the Federal government’s pretending that everything worth celebrating happened on a Monday, we voted a year ago to celebrate ALL of the birthdays in a given month on the first Monday of that month. Two people were assigned to bring cakes for each “First Monday” event. We still had no cakes during no-birthday months, but we could look forward to cake at the beginning of most months.
Or cake and something healthy.
When we went to the two-cake-per-celebration system, someone suggested that we have one cake and a “healthy alternative.” I spoke on behalf of the starving masses and said, “Let them eat CAKE,” but almost got my head chopped off.
At first we would have such stylistic pairings as a decadent 17-layer torte and a tray of assorted raw veggies and dip. (“Bruce! You haven’t eaten any of your birthday cauliflower!”) Eventually, though, the battle between sugar and nutrition tilted in the direction of “healthy.”
I like carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, so that was no great sacrifice, but even that offended some sensibilities. Soon even the cakes started to resemble the nutritious alternatives: “Whole-Grain Raisin Cake with Prune Glaze,” “Fiberlicious Legume Cake with Low-Interest Topping,” and, the last straw: “Bird’s Nest Cake” (a Bundt pan filled with shredded wheat topped with milk).
Several of us rebelled, deciding that there is no such thing as too much sugar at a birthday celebration. We formed a conspiracy to ask ahead of time what the people on cake duty planned to bring. If the responses didn’t include a real cake with real frosting, we would spring into action.
The room we use for the parties is a conference room that is locked when not in use. When both cakes for an upcoming First Monday sounded something like “Green Velvet Cucumber Cake with Celery Sauce,” we would get to the conference room first and plant a REAL cake with a REAL cake name like “Swift-Demise Cake with Triple-Bypass Frosting.”
No one could (or would) explain the arrival of the stealth cakes, which were always more popular than those supplied by the table-top Egyptians (the Food Pyramid crowd). We proved that, given a choice, people will choose birthday cake with frosting over birthday vitamins with minerals.
The Trojan-horse cakes infuriated the sourpusses, so they tried to catch us in the act.
Whenever we needed to slip a masterpiece of empty calories into the conference room, Paula Revere would create a disturbance at the other end of the hall by shouting something like, “I wonder who lost all of this MONEY!” or “Hey, everybody, you’ve got to see THIS!” Once the curiosity-seekers had collected around her, Paula had to think fast about what happened to the money or the Thing That Had to Be Seen. She always rose to the occasion (in a way that brought tears to my eyes) by saying something like, “Oh, doesn’t this just take the cake! What I wanted you to see isn’t HERE!”
The anti-sugar crowd could never resist a “You’ve got to see THIS!” summons, but they grew suspicious enough of Paula’s news flashes to elect one person to race to the conference room each time to keep a real cake from being planted.
Too late. Two of us, dressed all in black and toting fake machine guns would be guarding the door of the conference room. Their failure to stop a “crummy” cake from appearing made the opposing camp more hyper than any sugar high could. They started bouncing off the walls and ceilings of the hallways like pinballs.
Our boss, who sometimes has the wisdom of Solomon, ended the Cake Wars by mandating that one of the two cakes HAD to be a traditional, unhealthy birthday cake. It’s what he said next that insured compliance: “Violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the slaw.”
Victory is sweet.
[Excerpt from: More Later: Lyle’s Letters from the University, Red Axe Books, UK, 2015. The book contains 42 letters.]
10/21/2016 § 7 Comments
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