Three Degrees of Separation from “Snackman”

Can I assume, by now, everybody has heard about “Snackman,” the Brooklyn architect who broke up a fight on the NYC subway by inserting his 200-pound frame between the fighters as he munched on chips? Using a smart phone, someone made a video that went viral and Charles Sonder, “Snackman,” became the darling of every media outlet in NYC. Tweeters wrote, “Chips Not Clips!” And there’s this: Snackman: The Hero Gotham Needs Is Getting All The Marriage Proposals He Deserves. (Watch the Snackman video and read about Snackman in The New York Times.)

Snackman and I

It turns out that Snackman is from Rhode Island, along with me, where everyone is related by a degree of separation, Kevin Bacon-style. For instance, if two random people who grew up in Rhode Island met at a party in some faraway place, they would probably find someone they both knew within a short amount of time. This is how I am separated from Snackman: Snackman is my best friend’s sister’s son’s best friend from North Kingston.  But wait, there’s more! My daughter’s downstairs neighbor’s old girlfriend, Phoebe, is Snackman’s sister. The neighbor has no connection to Rhode Island. Crazy, right?

And so, Snackman, amigo, we are so proud of you! And forgive me for saying this, but it’s my job: Be careful about eating junk food, especially late at night. I am just looking out for your health and good looks, especially now that you are famous. And, listen, if you need a nutritionist in Brooklyn, I’m at your service anytime. I hope you don’t mind me riding your coattails, but I’m sure you understand because I too, am saving the world, one chip at a time.

You thoughts: If you agree that “Snackman” rocks, then leave a note for him here.

If You See Something, Say Something

The New York MTA subway voice calls out: “If You See Something, Say Something.”  Does this count?

Yesterday, I saw a young mom and her sons, ages four and two, sitting next to me on the 2 Line from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The children were clean and well-behaved, mostly because they were busy eating ample portions of candy. The older boy had a 1.5 ounce Kit Kat bar, the one that comes in four long pieces. With 210 calories and 11 grams of fat, I imagine it was quite filling and bound to spoil his supper. Pity it doesn’t contain nutrients. The little guy, not much of a talker, had a shiny yellow bag full of sticky, tooth-tugging nuggets. Mom had candy too, but she was further away.  All of the candy came from her purse.

I chose to say nothing as is customary. It’s not my place to help the mom see that special treats are not for everyday and that parents can show their children love and attention in other ways. It’s not my place to talk about the difficult battle she faces because children are exposed to an estimated 10,000 advertisements for food per year, 95% of which are for fast foods, candy, sugared cereal and soft drinks.(1) It’s not my place to explain that children need nutrients to grow and blossom, and their lifelong eating habits are being shaped, along with their patterns of fighting their biological preferences for sweets and salt, which will face them forever unless there’s a fundamental change. No, my eavesdropping had nothing to do with an unattended package or suspicious behavior, and so what could I say?

And one more thing: neither of the boys was overweight. If they had been, a subset of the population would have justified saying something. But, you know, some people just gain weight more easily on the same crappy diet. And that’s why it’s not fair to stigmatize fat kids. (Read about genetic obesity issues in my blog, Newspaper Ad Mocks Obese Women.)

Your thoughts: Do children belong to society? Should we say something?

1. Schwartz, M.B. and Puhl, R. Childhood Obesity: a Societal Problem to Solve. The International Association for the Study of Obesity, Obesity Reviews. 2003:4, 57–71