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I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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The Schenectady Schmear Charade Chagrin

People do some strange things, for all sorts of odd reasons. Appearances, commiseration, guilt, solidarity, empathy, peer pressure — often, folks don’t even know exactly what drives them into these bizarre behaviors.

I know I sure as hell don’t.

Take the case of one of my office coworkers. Every weekend (or nearly so), she travels to somewhere-or-other in New York, where her family lives.

(I’m sure she told us where, but I don’t remember. I don’t meticulously keep track of the minutiae of this lady’s life, down to the tiniest details of where she’s from, or where she goes every weekend, or what her name is. I just know it’s near Schenectady.

That’s her home, not her name. I’m pretty sure if I called her “Schenectady”, it would be a tipoff that I have no idea who she is. Or she’d take it as some sort of slur.

Which it probably is, in some language. It’s too much fun to say not to be.)

Anyway, every weekend — off to her old stomping grounds in New York. And every Monday, she shows up at the office with a big bag of bagels and cream cheese, Her family owns a deli — or knows someone who owns a deli, or once robbed a deli; again, I’m not so clear on the teeny little details involved — and she’s tickled and proud to share the bounty with the work crew.

Like clockwork. Every. Single Week.

And every Monday, we gather in the break room and ooh and aah over the flavors and the textures and the perfect little holes right in the middle, and we schmear on the cheese and scarf down our bagels and thank Schenectady Sue (or Kate, or Roberta or whatever) for the privilege of noshing on the best darn bagels north of 128th Street in Manhattan. Or something.

We’ve been doing this for at least a year now. And I’m sure some people really enjoy it. Me, I’m not a bagel guy. I’ve talked to a few others in the office, and they’re not bagels guys or gals, either. Not that I have anything against bagels, mind you — they’re just not my cup of dough. Too dense and chewy for me to enjoy. Taste be damned, I feel like I’m eating a bath towel. That’s just me.

“Grout on a bath towel. That’s what Bagel Monday means to me.”

The cream cheese doesn’t help me much, either. I have trouble reconciling it with other substances my mouth recognizes as “cheese”, like cheddar and muenster and gorgonzola. I like a variety of hard and soft and crumbly cheeses, but not the kind that’s been creamed. It reminds me of spackle, or maybe freshly-squeezed grout.

Grout on a bath towel. That’s what Bagel Monday means to me. Yaa-aay.

Still, I shut up and I eat my cream-chew nightmare, because… well, I don’t know why because. One of the reasons above, maybe? Peer pressure, since everyone else gathers in the kitchen for it? Empathy for someone so proud of what their family produces? Guilt because I don’t know her name? Other guilt, for that time I tried going through her purse to try to find out?

I don’t know. But something drags me in there every week, and I choke down my bagel and tell myself that it makes her feel good to know we’re enjoying her family’s deli breads and we’re all one big happy company and anyway, I could probably use a nice big dense poop around Wednesday afternoon, so why not play along? There’s no reason to rock the boat.

Or so I thought. Until this Monday, when we were huddled together for bagelfast once again, and some other woman — no, I don’t know the name; what am I, a social butterfly over here? — gushed over a salt-and-cinnamon-and-something-or-other number, thusly:

This is so good! How on earth did your uncle even think of this one?

The reply, a lightning shot to my bageled-up gut:

Oh, that’s not one of his. He sold the bakery a couple of months ago, and they brought in a whole new crew.

Bu-whaaa?

You mean I’ve been swallowing these schmeared-up sandbags through gritted teeth for as long as my colon can remember, in some sort of social obligation ritual that I don’t even fully grasp — and for the last two months, her family didn’t even own the bakery?

Oh, no. Oh, hell no.

When I’d finished violently choking — thanks, guy from accounting with the combover for the Heimlich, whatever your name might be — I gathered up my half-eaten styrofoam doughnut, packed it back to my desk and chucked it in the trash. I don’t like to waste food — but then again, this only qualified as “food” in my book by the merest of technicalities. Like vitamin pellets or dehydrated fruit or an appetizer from TGI Friday’s.

On the bright side, my Bagel Monday days are over. I’m still not positive exactly why I felt compelled to participate in the first place — but I’m damned sure that it was predicated on this lady having some personal connection to the foam-footballs-masquerading-as-bread that she was lugging into the office. If the family’s not baking, I ain’t taking.

And now I feel liberated, free from the baked holey shackles that previously bound me. I look forward to enjoying my Monday mornings — and, let’s be honest, Wednesday afternoons — much more now that the great bagel charade is, at least for me, kaput.

Now if we could only do something about Pickled Pigs’ Feet Thursdays. Dammit, now that lady’s got to be stopped!

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