Death Threats and Swedish Fish
Things I try to avoid... but not always successfully
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We’ve all been going through a lot lately, and I promised something lighthearted. I think this one may fit the bill, while still touching on issues that some of us may be thinking about.
So go with me here…
The year is 2008. The place is a union organizing office in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where I was leading a campaign to organize the nurses at the largest hospital in town. We had rented a little house as an office, and there my co-worker (let’s call him Matt because that’s not his name) and I met with nurses, ran the numbers and did other things that organizers do.
Including eating Swedish Fish. And here begins the story.
I have a problem with Swedish Fish. Swedish Fish are like magnets to me. Once I am in the same room as one, I feel compelled to eat it. And since fish swim in schools, there is never just one Swedish Fish. Sugar doesn’t agree with me, so this can become an issue if I find myself in a room with a large school of Swedish Fish. Therefore, I try to avoid such fish at all times, if possible.
Matt, on the other hand, had no such problem with Swedish Fish and could eat one or just leave them alone. He used to bring a large, and I mean large, bag of them to the office and leave it on the main table, as though it was an innocent object, not the Death Star it is to me.
As I was trying not to gain weight or go into a sugar coma, I hoped that Matt might remove the fish, or at least hide them somewhere like… New Mexico. That’s how far away from me I think is safe. I dropped hints, as I am Southern, but that did no good at all. So I decided, attempting as much levity as possible, to write him a memo. I quote:
A MEMO REGARDING SWEDISH FISH:
Dear Mr. (insert mythical last name)
It has come to our attention that the Swedish Fish you provide on a regular basis are causing considerable difficulty for your supervisor, Ms. Smith. We respectfully request that you either a) keep the Swedish Fish at your place of residence b) keep the Swedish Fish in your car c) keep them completely out of Ms. Smith’s sight or reach.
We appreciate your attention to this matter.
I put the memo on Matt’s desk, he thought it was funny, and he stopped bringing them to the office.
You’re waiting for the death threat, right?
Well it just so happened that in those years I wrote a blog about nutrition, Calorie Restriction With Optimal Nutrition, to be precise. It’s a thing, and that’s not the purpose of this entry, but let’s just say that in my entire life, I have received three death threats. Two were from eighth graders when I taught public school (which was scary because it was right off Kensington Avenue in Philadelphia and I knew the kid had access to guns), and one on the blog entry I wrote telling this tale.
“I hope you die in a fire and do it soon,” the commenter wrote on my blog.
Now I was used to all manner of vitriol on that blog because people get really riled up about food, especially when one suggests that people might be healthier if they ate less (though we never, ever told anyone to do that… just that we did it… anyway…) but REALLY??? REALLY???
My friends thought I should report it to the FBI or someone, but in those days you didn’t take those things as seriously as you have to now. If I got a comment like that now, I’d report it to every possible authority, up to and including the Philadelphia Parking Authority, but back then I laughed it off. Who are you, the president of the Swedish Fish Corporation?
People. Are. Irrational.
In ten years of writing that blog and doing media on Calorie Restriction, I got used to a lot of hateful comments. I always tried to take the high road with them, but I had some CR ninja goddesses like my one of my friends who is still with me here (YAY!!! I love you! Wow have we been through a lot together!) and others who would just go after these people and rip them to pieces with grace and wit. Which is what, I think, we have to do for each other.
When you are a writer, you have to be prepared to be attacked. When you take a public position, you have to be prepared to be attacked. It saddens me that those attacks are not just written anymore. Having taken what should NOT be a controversial public position lately but is, I felt a little scared, because I live in a neighborhood where the position I took is not so popular (I need to move. Anybody got a lead on a nice one bedroom for a girl and her cat?). I don’t want to get into very much serious today because we all need a break, but as a writer and as a HUMAN BEING I felt like I had to say what I said and I will say more.
But please, please, don’t offer me Swedish Fish.
Dear new friends: The flower picture has nothing to do with anything. I just like to take flower pictures and feel that flowers are pretty and bring people together. Welcome again.
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