The year was 1980. My third grade teacher, Miss Scott, assigned a project to our class; write a book about yourself. Now of course she wasn’t expecting a 500 page autobiography. We were to write a book with around 5 or 6 pages. Each page would have a specific thing about ourselves and would be illustrated by us, using crayons of course.
The book was to be called “Me Book”.
On one of the pages, I remember writing about how my dad taught me how to drive a car. I’m pretty sure that in 2017, someone would call the Department of Child Services on a man who put his 8 year old behind the wheel of a 1980 AMC Spirit (which, by the way, had recently replaced a 1976 AMC Gremlin) and turned him loose on the backroads of rural Indiana.
On another page, I wrote about what I was going to be when I grew up. I was going to play college basketball for Indiana, and was going to play centerfield for the New York Yankees.
The college basketball dream was shattered 4 years later in 7th grade. It was then that I discovered that I had glass ankles. I also realized that I looked like a complete uncoordinated moron when I dribbled with my left hand. 33 years later, both still hold true.
The epiphany that I’d never play Major League Baseball hit me like a fly ball to the head; literally. Making my first ever start as a Little Leaguer, my coach (aka Dad) hit a ball to me in right field. I camped out underneath and the ball found a hole in my glove. Dad escorted me to the dugout with a bruised ego and a bruised forehead. My first Little League start would be delayed one more game.
I say all of this because as the years have gone by, I have realized that my dream job wasn’t to be paid to play sports. If I could write my “Me Book” all over again, I would write “When I grow up, I want to be paid to eat.”
My wife and I like to watch the Food Network, Travel Channel, etc. We watch a lot of people go to different places and eat a lot of tasty food. And they do this for a living! We talk a lot about how great it would be to have those jobs!
About a month or two ago, I participated in a market research study where I would taste test pizza. And for my “efforts”, I would be compensated. My dream would soon become a reality! It would be my first professional eating gig!
I was pretty excited to be eating pizza for money. I envisioned sitting at a table with a few other guys, getting our grub on with some great pizza, talking about sports and Seinfeld, and then telling whoever was in charge how great the pizza tasted. It would be like when Andrew Zimmerman sits down with the locals in New York and chows down on some local fare. It was going to be greatest thing ever.
It wasn’t the greatest thing ever.
Don’t get me wrong, being paid to eat was better than a sharp stick to the eye. I would do it again in a heartbeat! But I really thought it would be a different experience. When I got to the location where this taste test was to take place, I expected to see about a dozen people or so. It was more like 50-75 people. We were all shoved into a waiting area before being divided up into 3 different groups.
While waiting, you would think that 75 people in a room would be a little noisy. People would be chatting; talking about how cool it was to shove pizza into our pie holes and walk away with some cash!
Instead, it was dead silent. I’m not exaggerating; NO ONE was saying a word. It was like being in the room with zombies. Everyone was staring at their phones. I couldn’t believe it.
Looking around the room, I became deeply saddened. Our society has come to this. We can shove nearly 100 people, all who have at least 1 thing in common, into a confined space, and no one even acknowledges each other. Seeing all of these people being so self-absorbed that they couldn’t even look their fellow man in the eye, I did the only thing I knew to do in the moment:
I pulled out my phone and looked at Facebook.
After being divided into groups, we were set in front of a computer. A lady came around with a pizza, we looked at a it, and answered questions on the computer about the appearance of the pizza. Then we were given some of the same pizza to eat, then answered questions on the computer about how it tasted. No table full of dudes. No sports. No Seinfeld. No Andrew Zimmerman. Just a computer and 3 pieces of pizza.
The guy next to me seemed to be in a hurry. I noticed that he only took one bite of each of the 3 slices. What the heck??? Why was he there? Did he even like pizza? I wanted to reach over, grab his slice, and finish it off.
Even though I participated in this study with a bunch of pizza hating zombies, the whole experience was pretty cool. I got a belly full of pizza and a Visa Gift Card at the end of the night. My professional eating career has officially begun!