I had a friend in high school named David. David was a likeable guy, and few could speak against his character; he was charming, witty, even-tempered, and could connect with anyone on the broadest range of topics. He even smoked a pipe, a hobby we'd bonded over, but as is the case with such enviable people, David's positive aspects magnified his shortcomings. While others charitably ignored David's major flaw, I could endure it for only so long. Such a striking scarlet letter couldn't be tolerated forever, and it eventually ruined our friendship.
You see, while David was a great guy, he took way too many bites while eating — a ridiculous number of bites in ridiculously small portions. What I consumed in one bite would require David six. He didn't eat any slower than the rest of us or eat smaller overall portions, but I mean, c'mon, how can someone take that many bites during a meal? It's just embarrassing.
I loved David like a brother, but I couldn't be expected to tolerate his small-bite habit forever. Every man has his breaking point, and mine occurred the day that summer vacation started, now historically referred to as The Steak 'N Shake Incident of '09:
We spent the rest of that summer patronizing our hometown's locally-famous ice cream parlor, enjoying strawberry shortcake and cheese tots multiple times a week while I continued to clandestinely count our bites. I consumed those meals with a precise average of 27.56 bites; whereas David never finished in less than 90. Again, I know because I counted. I counted our bites on each of our 32 outings that summer.
It became all I could think about. I couldn't stop counting. Food started to lose its taste, and I would hallucinate comically small spoonfuls entering David's mouth, causing me instinctively to count the mirage's bites until shaken from the stupor. Sleep haunted me with nightmares of me taking David-sized bites while a room of onlookers tallied the number in notebooks, all counting in unison as I ate. How could a person take so many bites? It was as infuriating as it was puzzling.
The worst part of it all, though, was that no one else cared.
"Have you ever noticed how many bites David takes while eating?" I asked our mutual friend Michelle.
"How many bites? What?"
Red flag: Michelle seems to think my question is ridiculous.
"I mean David takes super small bites. You're telling me you've never noticed?"
"Umm, no. I don't really pay attention to my friends' eating habits. Or, wait, is this some sort of joke? You're kidding, right?"
She doesn't understand the gravity of this mastication situation. It's possible she's merely ignorant, or perhaps David has secretly established supporters and enablers of his vice.
"I'm not making a joke. I was just wondering if you had noticed David's disproportionate bite-to-meal ratio. Never mind though."
"You are serious! You clearly need a hobby, Truett. Next you're going to tell me you've been counting, analyzing, graphing, and extrapolating the number of bites he takes."
I fail to see her point. What's so ridiculous about that?
I knew then that I stood alone as the paragon of reasonable eating habits, but perhaps there was something I'd been missing, a solution that explained it all. Maybe David's mouth was smaller than mine. That would be a logical explanation, and such a rationale could free me. I needed to investigate further. One night he fell asleep while we were watching The Last of the Mohicans, and I measured the diameter of his open mouth with a caliper. The gaping thing wasn't any smaller than mine. In fact, technically, David's mouth was 0.37 inches larger. Absolutely unbelievable: How could a whale shark enjoy krill one at a time?
With all logic seemingly lost, I began noticing other mundane acts David did too much of, and the counting bled into other areas of our friendship. I started counting his steps, his breaths, even how many times he re-lit his pipe.
My legs were a little longer, but even accounting for that discrepancy, David still took too many steps (1.37 steps to every one of mine, to be exact), moving his legs quicker to maintain the same pace as me but taking shorter strides. I lacked the resolve and focus to accurately count his breaths, but he breathed too much. He definitely relit his pipe too many times; that I can confirm. For every bowl we smoked together, I averaged three lights. David averaged nine lights, 10 if you include the charring light.
This flaw was even more offensive than his taking too many bites. Too many relights? Are you kidding me, David? He often talked throughout most of our smoking time, gesturing with pipe in hand and inattentive to maintaining a steady cadence, but that's no excuse. I maintained a steady cadence of 2.9 puffs per minute while listening, so it's not unreasonable to expect him to do the same while he's talking. I mean, seriously, he'd been smoking longer than I, but that many relights clearly proves that his technique warranted improvement. Too many bites while eating, too many steps while walking, too many breaths while breathing, and too many relights while smoking a pipe: It was unendurable. In a final, spontaneous lunge for salvation, I confronted David in Chemistry class just as the new school year started.
"Hey, David, do you have a second?"
"Sure thing, Truett. What's up, man? Oh, by the way, you played a great game last night. Really glad to have you on the team. What did you want to talk about?"
"Yeah, so, umm, it's about your small bites."
"My small... wait... my small what?"
"Your small bites, David. You take really small bites when you eat, and a lot of them. Your bite-to-meal ratio is incredibly disproportionate, man."
"Wow. You've clearly been doing your research. Okay, so I take a lot of bites? I'm still missing your point though."
"That's it! That's the point, David! You take so many bites. It's exhausting and inefficient. I can't keep counting them forever. And you take too many steps, and too many breaths, and too many relights! What do you expect from me!? Just take fewer bites for the love of God. It's not that hard. Here, I'll show you."
It was at that point that I began shoving random objects into my mouth — pencil erasers, notebook paper, and chalk. I'll admit I'm not proud of that part of the conversation, especially when I took a bite out of the periodic table, engulfing everything from Helium to Arsenic. But David still didn't understand. Apparently I was the weird one.
He didn't even take responsibility for his own misconduct. His "solution" was that we both let the other eat, walk, breathe, and smoke however they want. I explained that his excessiveness was outside the bounds of reason, especially his number of relights, but he refused to listen to logic. In his mind, his talkative nature and propensity toward distraction, blah, blah, blah, were to blame for his excessive relighting, but such excuses only highlighted his denial of the problem. Everyone knows that fewer relights indicate a more sophisticated pipe smoker. David just wasn't willing to admit that.
It's really sad that he would let something like this come in the way of our friendship, but I guess that just shows he's not a friend worth having. I'm much happier anyway; you don't have to worry about friends taking an obscene number of bites or steps or breaths or relights if you don't have any friends.