You need to know about St. Louis-style bagel cutting, so you can be outraged.
What’s that, you say? You’ve reached Peak Outrage? You’ve been living in a state of shaking rage for years, and if one more thing sets you off, there will just be a fine red mist where once you stood and an empty set of clothes on the floor?
I understand. I am frequently behind a car whose bumper sticker tells me that if I am not outraged I am not paying attention. It’s probably more accurate to say that if you’re looking at your phone screen, you are not paying attention. When you slam into the other car at an intersection, you can tell the cop, “I was so outraged by something someone said on Facebook that I wasn’t paying attention, but in the larger sense, I was indeed paying attention.”
Anyway, the St. Louis-style bagel cutting outrage spread quickly on Twitter last week, but it was mock outrage. It was a break from real outrage. It’s a telling sign when people seek relief from being constantly outraged to pretending to be outraged. It’s like setting your hair on fire every day but thinking, “You know, I need a break from walking around with an immolated scalp; I think I’ll just have my nose hairs smolder for an hour today.”
This whole bagel thing started when someone tweeted a picture of bagels cut lengthwise, like slices of bread, and labeled it “St. Louis style.” Fury erupted on social media. No one said, “That’s interesting. I’ll try that!” No, it was war. People from New York were particularly fake-mad, because they consider themselves to be the world’s bagel experts (as well as the world’s pizza experts, but that’s a whole different rant).
OK, so maybe we can’t compete with New York when it comes to stirring up bagel conniption fits. But wait until the nation learns about the Minnesota Office Treat tradition. That’ll split the country worse than the zipper merge.
You know what I’m talking about, right? No one in a Minnesota office will take the last piece of candy in the bowl. The last cookie on the plate. The last doughnut in the box. If there’d been Minnesotans in the Book of Genesis and only one apple, we’d still be living in the Garden of Eden.
This explains Minnesota more than anything else. Typical internal dialogue:
“Hmm, someone brought a plate of fudge! But there’s only one piece left. If I take it, that means someone else will be fudgeless. They’d think — quite rightly — that some selfish, narcissistic sociopath took the last piece of fudge. Who am I to say I deserve the last piece?
“Maybe I’d better wait. Come back later. Or I could walk around and offer it to people. I could send out an e-mail. Or — duh, why didn’t I think of this earlier — I could cut it in half. That way there aren’t any calories and there’s still some left.”
This internal dialogue is repeated by the next person who comes along, who ends up cutting it in half again. As you know, something that is cut in half repeatedly never actually vanishes. It just gets thinner and thinner until there is a piece of fudge that can be seen only with an electron microscope. So no one in Minnesota actually takes the last piece, because there isn’t one.
That’s one explanation. Then again, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at the last piece and thought, “Well, I can’t take that, because this is Minnesota. That’s the rule.”
The rule seems to apply only to food you come across by chance. If a co-worker gives you a doughnut, you don’t say, “Whoa whoa, whoa! This isn’t the last one, is it? Tell me it’s the penultimate cruller.”
Like all rules, this one occasionally is broken and, somehow, that last piece disappears. Either a clueless person eats it because they’re new in town — been here only 10 years, in other words — or someone finally throws away the last piece because it has been sitting out so long it has fossilized.
So what does this have to do with the St. Louis bagel slicing outrage? Nothing, of course. But if Minnesotans sliced bagels like bread and put them out in the office, there would be less waste. Instead of one whole lonely bagel sitting there crying out for some brave soul to defy social traditions, there’d just be a little slice. A rind. A shiny semicircle, hardly worth two chews, with negligible calorie content. A guiltless snack.
If there was a knife in the box, someone would cut it in half.