I returned late last night from a week away at a resort on the Mayan Riviera in Mexico. The following are my insights from the trip as they relate to supply and demand and the pesky nature of human nature. In the spirit of transparency it should be noted that at no time was I completely sober when making these insights.
Perhaps there is no better arena to witness the unknown consequences of equal access than at an all-inclusive resort. The idea is sound: all people, regardless of everything, pay a fixed price for an unlimited supply of food and beverages for the duration of their stay. Given that the supply side is limitless (there is food and drinks served 24hrs a day) and the price fixed (prepaid=perceived free), the demand should be correspondingly low, resulting in little competition for resources and everyone just getting along. A utopian dream of equality!
(if only life worked that way)
On a perfect sunny morning last Sunday I was standing politely (minus the strong odour of Mai Tai’s and dark tanning oil) in the queue at the omelette station in the main dining room at the resort. The rules for acquiring a bespoke omelette are not posted anywhere, but rather, implied: A single line forms to the left of the omelette maker where first you select the various ingredients you’d like in your omelette. You pass the ingredients to the chef on a small plate, moving down the line to the right where he cooks your omelette. When your omelette is ready he simply passes it to you and you move on, muchas gracias. So imagine my shock when as I stood there being very Canadian (polite and orderly) an older woman with a french manicure and a ‘Live, Love, Laugh’ sundress barged in front of me, making physical contact and forcing her little plate of ingredients on the omelette artista before I even knew what was going on. I reacted: Squaring my shoulders, I moved in. Her advanced age combined with my longer reach gave me a slight edge, just enough to beat her to the grill. No words were spoken.
If this were an isolated incident there were be no need for this post.
But the showdown at the omelette station was just the beginning….
After the dust up that morning I was trying hard to understand why certain people simply don’t understand or respect the concept of a line up. I subconsciously began to the judge the woman based on her nationality. Could it be that because she is Polish (insert any nationality other than my own) she does not understand that the queue is simply the most egalitarian way to publicly access just about anything? Sometimes you’re first, sometimes you’re last. With a large enough data sample, you are generally no further ahead nor behind anyone else, at least in the long run, which is what matters to the evolved thinker. Remembering in this case that the supply side is endless and the price fixed, there simply is no logic in budding in line. Conclusion: Because the woman was not of my nationality and upbringing she lacked the most basic understanding of logic as it relates to gratification over time. (also, my great great grandaddy built the railroads and invented air!)
So again please imagine my shock (I was shocked a lot on this trip) when later that afternoon at the pool’s marguarita bar a severely sunburned playboy who looked like my twin brother cannon-balled into the shallow end, drenching everyone in range to theatrically demand “SIX PATRON’S!!!! I was embarrased. The equally thirsty but more refined guests must have been subconsciously thinking that those obnoxious gringo party boys from America have no respect for the queue. It was at this moment I realized I that couldn’t rationalize the omelette showdown to nationality.
Foiled again, white supremacy
As this interaction repeated itself multiple times daily throughout the week there were more questions then answers. If everyone buds-in-line regardless of race, gender or age then why do they bud-in-line? Could it be that we are equal in our buddingness? Maybe some humans have an actual blind spot to others in their surroundings? It was at the Pasta Bar on the evening of day 4 that I noticed a similar desperation in the faces of the offenders. It was not so much that people would not wait their turn, it was that they could not. There were just blind to other people. They were staring at the food and nothing else. I surmised: It was pure instinct, not bad intentions that caused the budding.
What if there was no more food.
I grew up in Canada with ‘plentiful everything’ yet to this day I leave a bite or 2 on my plate because I don’t need it; there is always another plate of food. To finish a plate means that I am hungry enough to need it which in this life of abundance is empirically impossible. But that’s me. My grandfather on my mother’s side also left a bite or 2 on his plate every night but for a different reason. During WW2 he was so hungry all the time that when he finally returned home to Hamilton, Ontario, unrecognizable from the weight loss, he left food on his plate until the end of his life to remind himself that he didn’t need it as much as he did during the war. At last the supply was endless…enough that demand could been reduced respectfully, intentionally. It was a personal display of freedom in contrast to having very little during the War.
The other night I woke up in the middle of the night and wondered why writers need to make conclusions at the end of a piece. It is not always possible. There is too much unknown history and information to wrap it up neatly into ‘this is the way it is’.
It is a natural, immediate instinct to pass judgement, but always wise to reserve it.
Maybe some people are just really, really hungry.
It’s getting late, goodnight.