Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Eating Man Phenomenon

I would like to share a bit of a tale from my observations of the activities and movements of a person whom I have dubbed "The Eating Man" over the past few years.

He is called thus because virtually all sightings of this mysterious individual involve him in the process of stuffing his face.

Hence the Eating Man...

But that's not the story. No, this is a tale of shifting paradigms and making conclusions based on faulty assumptions. And being surprised.

First, lets jump back about five or so years. It was about three in the morning and I was on my way home and had just popped into a local service station to pick up some bread. Standing by the ice-cream freezer was a tall, thin, disheveled man with an unruly beard, vigorously demolishing a Magnum iceblock. In has hand were three or four empty wrappers of the ones he'd previously consumed but he still had that wild and feral look in his eyes of a hunger unsatiated.     

From then on, I noticed the Eating Man (I hadn't named him thus yet, that was to come later) on a relatively frequent basis. Mostly at the same service station, usually late at night, but sometimes standing on one of the nearby streets, or in a bakery, or at a convenience store.

Almost always eating something.

More recently, I'd pointed him out to Pedro and we've been playing a bit of a "spot the Eating Man" competition, along with creating a fanciful backstory for him. Perhaps he summers here but resides in a villa in Nice, having invented something banal, yet essential, such as the paper clip.

That sort of thing.

While out and about, Pedro and I would text or RT any new sightings along with a description of his activities and also what he was wearing at the time. Normally he favoured a worn jersey, walk shorts with socks and sandals. 

And over time we had built up a fairly good profile of him. We believed that he resided in the area as sightings all occurred within a four block area. Furthermore, it was clear he was a loner as we had never seen him in company, let alone ever speaking with anyone.

We thought we had him pegged.

But we were wrong!

The first sign of trouble was a couple of months ago. Pedro rang me while he was out with his girlfriend, enjoying a stroll in town, with a sighting of the Eating Man in the central city. Not only was he completely out of his known area of operations, he was also in the company of another individual.

However the madness didn't end there.

Next, the Eating Man was seen a number of times outside his regular haunts. More than a few times he was wearing jeans and shoes and on one notable occasion his beard was neatly trimmed rather than the usual untidy mess. And once I even saw him having a conversation with a passer-by.

The world really had turned upside down!

The problem, of course, was ours. We had created a false paradigm based on incomplete information and, in the absence of facts to the contrary (while simultaneously being reinforced by facts supporting our profile) had established a complex but flawed model of expected behaviour. We'd only seen a portion of the picture and didn't see the Eating Man in his entirety.

Not the actual Eating Man but a reasonable facsimile

But then I started to wonder whether there was something more sinister in play. All these times I had been observing the Eating Man, had he also been observing me, creating a profile of his own on me?

And just the other night I was returning from a job to find the Eating Man standing on the corner of the street. My street. Just down from the swanky bachelor pad.

Do I have something to be worried about?


  1. We had "Shiny Shoes". She was a rather flamboyant street walker. We saw her here, we saw her there. Then she disappeared. Then we saw her working for a stock broker. Then we saw her working as a real estate agent.