Love means looking for the last Twinkies

What is love?

A question for the ages. One that has been addressed by more poets and authors than there are stars in the sky. I rather like the Woody Allen response: In one of his movies, when asked if he loved the girl, he said, "What is love anyway?" My wife and I use that response often as a way of deflecting a serious moment. It always makes us chuckle.

Of course all of the above refers to romantic love (eros) but how about filial love, the kind we feel for our family and friends? How does one show that kind of love?

The answer for me came Thursday, Nov. 16, when I received a phone call from Steve, an old friend who lives in Connecticut.

"Don, I need a favor!" he said in a manner that spoke desperation. I knew something serious was to follow.

"Anything," I said, he being one of my inner circle of friends for whom that is an immediate response. Already committed to doing whatever he asked, I had a moment of dread as I waited for the other shoe to fall.

"Could you go to the stores in your town and get me about two or three boxes of Twinkies?"

"Huh?" The shoe hadn't fallen — it wasn't there. The simple request confused me.

"Don't they sell Twinkies in Connecticut?" I asked tentatively, suspicious of my friend's sense of humor. He explained that there wasn't a Twinkie to be had in the entire state of Connecticut; the company had folded its tent and withdrawn from making the most popular packaged junk food — oops, I mean snack food — in the USA. He told me a bit about the union problems and how the president of the company had declared bankruptcy earlier in the day.

Steve told his wife, "I think there may still be Twinkies available out west, especially in Oregon where no one knows anything about what's going on in the world." He likes to tease about how backward the Northwest is, especially in our little town of Ashland. I let him.

"So, how many do you want?" I ask.

"Oh, I think two boxes should be enough. That's probably 20 or maybe 40 packages and that should last me. I love Twinkies and I just want to have enough to eat one Twinkie every birthday."

I made a quick calculation and figured out that since he's 58 years old now, 20 packages would last him until he's 78, 40 until he's almost at the century mark. Worst-case scenario, he could eat one Twinkie from the twins in each packet, and a box of 20 would last him until his 98th year.

"No problem," I assured Steve, and we talked about other things for a while before ending the call with, "I love you!" to each other.

I stopped by the Safeway on my way to the movies an hour later and asked where the Twinkies were located. Understand, I've never eaten a Twinkie in my life; this was new territory, physically and metaphorically for me. The checker told me they were all sold out. "You're kidding me, right?" I smiled.

"Nope! They sold out right after the announcement of bankruptcy today." I went to the aisle to make sure, and there it was — empty shelves. Not just Twinkies, but Cupcakes, Donettes, and every other Hostess product were all gone. I went to the movie and figured I'd check the other stores when I got out of my movie.

I continued my search after the movie, driving to three other supermarkets with the same success — none! I moved on to smaller outlets, a few Minute Markets, gas stations, several 7-11 stores and was able to finally garner seven packets of Twinkies. I was about to give up when I remembered the Petrol Station had a store. I made a six-mile U-turn hoping against hope that it would fill my basket. It didn't. They had one lonely package and I bought it for another $2. What is the world coming to when the hottest item in retail is the nutritionally deprived Twinkie?

I returned home 35 miles and two hours later, having exhausted the search of 22 stores and buying their remaining eight packages of Twinkies. I was frustrated, disappointed and physically worn out. I packed, with great care, Twinkie delicacies in a box, each package surrounded and separated carefully by bubble wrap, sealed it and addressed it to Steve, ready to be mailed.

As I sat watching TV later, I thought, well, I had an interesting experience tonight, but I also learned what filial love means: Driving two hours in the dead of night to 22 stores to find eight packets of Twinkies.

Don Dolan lives in Ashland.

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