It’s said that there is “a time and a place for everything.” It’s a strange and reckless assertion when you think about it. (Is there ever a time and a place for poking an angry grizzly with a stick?) Still, the adage is perfectly sensible when one interprets it correctly—as I do—to mean that there are times and places that are not appropriate for certain activities. I seem to recall (from back when I was merely a wee Curmudgeon) hearing stern authority figures scolding my ill-mannered classmates with, “This is neither the time nor the place for your shenanigans,” or words to that effect. Even now, the idea warms my heart more than I can say. Order, comportment, propriety—these are a few of my favorite things. Trending philosophies to the contrary notwithstanding, a society in which one may simply do as one likes, where and when one likes, is one that simply cannot hold.
Of course, like so many of the unwritten rules that form the glue of our society, a sense of what’s appropriate when and where seems to be eroding right out from under us. Such is the case with the taking of nourishment. In a behavior that would have at one time been considered shockingly uncouth, I’ve witnessed people breaking out snacks—even full meals—on crowded public transit, in waiting areas—in all kinds of surprising locations. I don’t know what it is about watching someone shove food into his mouth, when no one around him is consuming, that renders the act disgusting, but it somehow has that effect. It’s like clipping one’s nails; the practice isn’t inherently repulsive, but if it’s done during a plane flight, there’s a strong chance the clipper’s neighbors will be appalled.
There seems to be this idea lately that the body’s need for nutritional sustenance must be constantly monitored and instantly attended to. I’ve seen people open containers full of food right in the middle of business meetings, classes, and work sessions. And they did so without comment, hesitation, or any requests for indulgence. It would seem that these mid-meeting-munchers consider their peckishness an emergency that must be immediately addressed, no matter where they are at the time. As urgent as a blood transfusion or appendectomy is their hankering for sustenance. Indeed, some of them seem to feel that without immediate feeding, they’d be risking dire medical crises. (I strongly suspect that very few can legitimately make that claim.)
Such is also the case with hydration. Back before water was sold as a product (does anyone beside me remember that?), it was something one drank from a glass, and it wasn’t offered in any sort of perpetually available form. And so people, when not near a faucet or fountain, often went hours without the stuff. Somehow, they survived. Now it seems some chronic, unquenchable thirst requires people to drink water constantly. I have watched readings of plays during which the actors rehydrated themselves before and after each scene as if concerned that their seated performances might deplete their entire supply of moisture. I even once saw a televised award show during which a celebrity brought a plastic water bottle with him to the podium to accept his award, lest a minute pass without access. Classy.
I have nothing against food or water; I’m quite fond of both. And of course, one must periodically hydrate and consume nutrients. But I also know that the human body, barring some abnormality, can usually make it through short stretches of time (at least the length of an award acceptance speech) without the urgent need for either. More to the point, there are circumstances under which many would prefer not to watch people feed their faces. And so, just as it is with this blog’s much-anticipated weekly entries, it is sometimes the case that one must wait for satisfaction.
. . . And that should hold you through next week.