Is there ever a moment where you regret eating pizza? Think back and try to imagine an instance where you suddenly thought, Oh dear God, why did I eat that. The problem is, it’s difficult to be poisoned by it, it still tastes good cold or a few days old, and if you eat too much the pain in your stomach is alleviated by the satisfaction of gorging yourself in the first place.
So when the Sheffield Freshers Fair rolled by with the promise of free Pizza, what consequences could I have possibly predicted?
The Freshers Fair had plenty to offer for new students to the university. Free start up bags full of food, laundry powder and deodorant. Free stationary in all corners. Free invitations to first-time comers for clubs and events. All you had to do was sign up and give your email to whatever service it was and the gifts would flood in. All of it designed to support the new students in the very first week. Other senior Sheffield students couldn’t come for this reason, but they were far too honest and honourable souls to even consider showing up. It’s not as though anybody would think to take advantage of the overwhelming crowds, or the limited number of monitored gates.
I remembered it all from the year before when I had first arrived in Sheffield, except now I knew my way around and knew exactly which stalls to bee-line for first. With the crowds I quickly separated from my friends but we’d find ourselves back together in all the usual spots. The only person I know who loves free food more than me was Monmon, so when I scrambled amidst the sprawling mass of bodies it was no surprise to see her suddenly at my shoulder going for the same bag of sweets. She was kind enough to smile at me sweetly before elbowing me aside to get there first. Both me and Monmon have a very acute awareness of where friends and food stand on the scale of importance.
In order to get any of this free stuff however, we needed to give a name and email address, and there was no way we wanted all these clubs and representatives hassling us. Not to mention, revealing that we weren’t on the list of Fresher students names. I put on my best ‘I’m new and stupid’ voice on to avoid suspicion.
“What’s this. Could this be free too!?”
“Yes that’s right. Welcome to Sheffield!” the guy behind the counter yelled back to me.
“Oh thank you. My, this city is so big. How will I ever find my way around?” (Seeing how ridiculous that line was, Karma was happy to repay me some weeks later in Crookesmoor).
“You’ll get your head round in a few weeks, don’t worry. What’s your name?” he asked and I tried to mask my immediate panic.
Don’t think! You need to answer fast. Don’t hesitate! Don’t hesitate!
“Aaah, Sydney……Sydney Jenkins”. They call me smooth Sydney back home.
We met up with Amber and Birche an hour later and they had some wonderful news for us. Free pizza stand in the far corner. They held up their prizes triumphantly, and visions of free lunch swept over me. There was catch though. There was a massive sign above the stall, enforced by a team of 6 who guarded the pizza boxes. One slice per student only. Even Freshers wouldn’t be given a second piece.
But Birche had masterminded a plan. They would only deny you a second slice if they recognised you from before. So we needed disguises. The scheme was simple. I went and collected my first slice and then made one lap around the fair. At the opposite end, we would meet up with our slices, exchange random items of clothing, and then return for the next piece (being careful to approach a new staff member each time of course, whenever possible). I took a slice wearing sunglasses. I took a slice wearing a thick scarf. I took a slice wearing Birche’s famous bear-hat. Round and round we went, trying desperately to mix up the costumes as best we could to avoid discovery and all the while, our bounty grew.
During my rounds, one stall announced out-loud that they were giving away free duress condoms, because naturally yelling ‘free condoms’ to leagues of 20 something fresher students at the height of their clubbing days was a very sensible move. In moments the area was packed tighter than at a gig and I was trapped without hope of escape. My arms were compacted against my sides and my latest slice of Pizza, clenched between my front teeth, now precariously dangled outside my mouth. With too many students groping at their crates, the stall staff made their next sensible move and started frisbee-throwing condoms into the crowd. Of course I was a little put out by how that crazed the masses around me but I was little crazed myself when I was helpless to prevent one of these condoms smacking me in the face. Who would know that safe sex advocates could be so dangerous? But there was a silver ling, as there always is, because after bouncing off my face my instinctive anger was suddenly replaced with glee, when I saw it land on the pizza ledge protruding from my lips. Perhaps lubed up latex is not the best topping for a pizza, but the thought of what else I might use it for distracted me from food for the first time that day. I attempted to take the condom held in my pizza tray out but it was slow progress, as I had to contend with the surge of bodies as well as maintaining balance of the tomato stained condom.
I was nearing the edge of the crowd when I saw him.He’d arrived late and was now peering over everyone’s heads to gauge how to get closer to the stall. He knew it was hopeless. The crate would be empty before he got close enough to grab his share. And then he saw me, wedged in place, pizza and condom under my nose. To my enduring horror he leaned into the crowd, his arm stretched over everyone’s heads, and plucked the condom off my pizza. I cried ‘bashdard’, spitting cheese and tomato in my rage, but I doubt he heard me as he spun around and waltzed off.
By around 5pm I had lost count of how many rounds I had made or how many slices I had eaten but the tell-tale doughy pain in the pit of my stomach warned me it might have been more than one or two whole pizzas. The robbery had been a complete success. I had mastered the art of disguise and espionage, and to this day, Sheffield University remains in the dark with regards to the mysterious Sydney Jenkins with his mix of mildly famine clothing items. I was shamelessly free of blame, of guilt and most importantly of financial concern that day.
Until I bumped into one of my capoeira teachers at the fair.
“Woah Poncho! Hey, how are you? Listen we’re doing a demonstration here now! Come over and help us out”
Before I realise it, I’m in my white uniform clapping away with the rest as the teachers gather the crowds to watch.
“Ok” he starts, “we got to make an impression. We’ve only got a 15min slot. Play hard everyone. Keep the music fast and try as many flashy moves as you can!”
The others cheer in agreement but I hear the dough ball in my stomach grumble instead. Oh, so you think you’re going to do some intensive exercise after eating me now, do you?
“Poncho, into the roda!”
Yeah Poncho, let’s see you move. Maybe if you go fast enough I can come out to say hello. I did my best to ignore the dough ball’s rantings on its quest for revenge, but as I dodged the first kick, I felt my stomach sickeningly lurch.
Have I ever regretted eating pizza? Just that one time when I had to decide between throwing up or getting kicked hard in the face.