Me: I wouldn’t trade my wife for anything in the world.
Friend: What about a year of free donuts?
Me: Where do I drop off her clothes?
In my day job, I frequently have occasion to review small contracts of various sorts. Recently one of my colleagues sent me a short contract for the use of a meeting room in the Chelan County Fire District office in Wenatchee. It was a pretty straight-forward rental agreement for a modest-sized meeting space where my colleague planned to hold a half-day meeting for community members looking for ways to help save a popular local hiking trail.
Among other things, the fire district’s contract prohibited users of the space from “reprogramming, removing or repairing” any of the district’s equipment, including any of the “heating and air conditioning systems.” That’s a pretty specific prohibition, and suggests there’s a pretty good story behind it being included in the district’s one-page rental agreement. Just to be safe and avoid temptation, I suggested my colleague leave her toolbox at home and encourage other attendees to do the same.
Not surprisingly, the contract prohibited the use of alcohol in the meeting space. I suspect that may have been related to the circumstances that gave rise to the ban on removing or repairing the HVAC system from the room.
The rental agreement also prohibited food from being served or consumed in the meeting room, but specifically indicated that “light snacks such as donuts” could be served. I had a number of problems with that provision.
First, a proper donut can hardly be considered a “light snack.” Sure, maybe a simple plain cake donut or perhaps a cinnamon twist could be considered a light snack by an open-minded person, but certainly not a maple bar or an apple fritter and definitely not a glazed donut with pink frosting and a vanilla crème filling.
I was understandably concerned that this ambiguity in the types of donuts that qualify as allowable “light snacks” and those that don’t could lead to misunderstandings, arguments and perhaps even donut-related conflagrations, especially if the fire chief showed up to inspect the donuts and “confiscate” those he or she felt were not light enough to pass muster under the language of the contract.
Even more troubling about his provision and its blatant pro-donut bias was how it revealed the hammerlock that the fried dough snack food industry has on small-town meeting room rentals in this country. Why are donuts the only item specifically allowed from the fire district’s ban on food in the meeting room?
I’ll tell you why. Because Big Donut is trying to squeeze their fried dough competitors out of the rural civic meeting room rental market. Are donuts a more worthy morning snack food than toast, bran muffins or homemade banana bread? Nay, I say!
And what about the racial and ethnic implications of giving a free pass to donuts but saying nothing about bagels, croissants, pita bread, churros, cannoli, and other dough-oriented, fried bread-based ethnic snack foods? The obvious bias in favor of donuts smacks of Donut Privilege, and it may even violate federal equal protection and anti-trust laws, along with upending commonly accepted snack food norms and protocols around which we have formed a civil society. I think all “light” snack foods deserve an equal playing field and a place at the fire district’s table. Remember, Non-Donut Snack Foods Matter.
In the end, I advised my colleague that the contract was legally acceptable despite its blatant pro-donut bias. I pointed out that another section of the contract required meeting sponsors to clean up the room and empty trash receptacles before leaving. I suggested to my colleague that if all the donuts she brought to the meeting did not get consumed, I was open to having her overnight them to my office where I would personally assume full responsibility for their appropriate disposition, particularly if the leftovers included anything in the colored sprinkles, jelly-filled or apple spice family of light snacks.
Tom Tyner of Bainbridge Island writes a weekly humor column for this newspaper.