So, for those of you who do NOT know what a cheese hat is, it's basically the sexiest thing in the world.
All in all, it makes everything look sexier. Even David Archuletta.
Now, this cheese hat isn't any old cheese hat; it's not the one you buy at a store and fasten to your baby's head to make sure it looks sexy (and hopefully doesn't suffocate in the cheese-shaped foam wonderland). No, no, you see. This cheese hat is the one that everyone wants. This cheese hat is the one Wisconsinites, and only Wisconsinites, wear to the National Science Olympiad Tournament's Swap Meet, which just so happened to have been held in Wisconsin this year (making their desirability skyrocket). Yes, my dears, this one Cheesehead® cheese hat has the desirability of Emma Watson and James Franco combined. Mmm, pure sexiness.
To illustrate, there are approximately 10,000 kids at the Science Olympiad National Tournament. Around 20 of these kids are from Wisconsin, so we will assume the presence of 20 cheese hats. That's a ratio of 1 cheese hat to every 500 kids, all of which want a cheese hat.
Now, it's my first year in Olympiad. I wish I would have joined earlier, but I didn't for some reason, so this was my first experience at a swap meet. I had no idea what awaited me. Kids are zipping by with whatever possessions they have to their name, grasping for hats and t-shirts to bring back proudly to their team. Some kids were filing by, eyes glued to the ground, cheese hats gripped tightly to their chests, as unresponsive as possible to the business tactics of the extremely smart adolescent population waving hands, chocolate, license plates, and other miscellaneous knick-knacks in their direction. It looked a little like this:
Poor guy. Meanwhile, I was one of the 9,980 suckers scrambling for a cheese hat, bombarding particularly privileged kids like him. So how did I, out of 9,980 hatless kids, end up with what everyone wanted? Truth be told: hard work. Huhhh?
Well, I started out with a large Hershey's bar and package of Reeses' that I took from our team's booth, as well as a package of Tastycake® Butterscotch Crumpets. I first traded the chocolate bar for a lip whistle, which I traded for a chocolate pop, which I then traded for a Tennesse license plate. I traded the Reeses' for a fake bull skull, which I liked, and the Butterscotch Crumpet for a package of tulip seeds, which I also liked. When I saw people selling funny scientist t-shirts, I scouted out the best one in hopes that it would win someone over (preferably a cheese hat owner, although at the beginning, I didn't suspect that I would get a cheese hat and wasn't entirely desperate either. It wasn't until I realized that every single person there would kill for a cheese hat that I set my mind toward getting it.) The one I got reads: "I am not an English scholar, I is a scientist" (which isn't really pertinent because English is my best subject..). I then saw a boy in a bear hat, which I decided I loved. Approaching his booth, I put my flirty eyes on and showed him my t-shirt. He was quite intrigued, and after hesitating multiple times, said concluded that although he loved the shirt, he loved his bear hat more. I offered him a complementary Butterscotch Crumpet, and after again hearing his apologies, I moped away, disgruntled.
By this time, I has asked around eleven cheese-hat bearers if they would be willing to trade (using my best business tactics), all to no avail. I was wildly running around, cheese-hat hunting, when I finally found a Wisconsin booth, behind of which was a girl in a cheese hat. I rapidly approached the booth, my ears back and my tail pointed, ready for the kill. Calling up my best business face, I offered her the funny scientist t-shirt and a Butterscotch Crumpet (that I had yet to get). She rubbed her chin and said, "I don't know, it doesn't feel right". Luckily, a kind girl from my olympiad team happened to be standing right next to me, and offered me a handful of chocolates, which I added to the offers. She shrugged and asked if I could get her a college t-shirt. Nice girl from my team pulled a UPenn t-shirt out of her bag (THANK GOODNESS!) and I added that to the pile. "Two t-shirts, some chocolates, and a Butterscotch Crumpet, yummm," I said, enticingly (hopefully!). She replied that it still didn't feel right, so I asked what she would want in order to give away her cheese hat. She replied, "either a t-shirt from Purdue University or a hoodie/long sleeve sweatshirt" (she couldn't make her mind up between the two). I said, "done! Save it for me!" She told me she couldn't make any promises, and, feeling the hat so close to my fingertips, I bolted.
The swap meet was held around the stadium, with booths taking up its entire circumference (that's a lot of booths). There were around 120 schools there, that's approximately 120 booths. I rapidly scouted out the two Indiana booths, neither of which had a t-shirt from Purdue. It was then that, without thinking, I took off to run a full lap around the stadium, asking every single booth if they had a sweatshirt. Not one did. Disheartened, I searched for a solution. I still had my skull. I took it out and carried it around, searching once more for a sweatshirt for fear that I had missed a booth. When I went back to one of the booths, a boy behind the counter saw the skull in my hand and exclaimed, "wow, I really like that!" I offered it to him for a t-shirt, and he enthusiastically agreed. I picked up a t-shirt for one of the teams in that state, and, deciding I needed another t-shirt because I couldn't get the sweatshirt, ran to a random booth, quickly (and reluctantly) traded the tulip seeds for another random t-shirt, and bolted nervously back to the cheese hat booth. Suddenly, I was lost. I couldn't find the booth. Flabbergasted, I paced, looking for some identifying structure to tell me where I was. I recognized one of the booths and ran into the crowd, against the lines of kids tunneling at me, or rather, I was tunneling at sloth-like lines of kids. Seeing the booth, I jumped, and ran straight for it, sweating up a storm (mass body heat + running wildly + raw nervousness don't go well together).
Upon seeing me, the girl looked up, mildly confused as to why I didn't have her sweatshirt... or maybe it was because I looked like I had just meandered through a downpour... Anyway, I now had a UPenn t-shirt, two other random t-shirts, a funny scientist t-shirt, and some chocolates. And a whole lotta sweat. I jumped through the group and threw my things on the table (minus the scientist t-shirt, i wanted to see if I could first get away with the three other ones... I was hoping she'd forget about it in my insanity). I told her how I went to every single booth and not one of them had a sweatshirt. Impressed by my story (and probably assured by my sweat), she looked at me. I exclaimed, "I can also get you the Butterscotch Crumpet!", to which she stuck her hand again on her chin and thought, and thought, and thought, and finally replied, "SOLD! GO! Go get the Crumpet and it's yours!" Enthused, I booked it out of the crowd and again through the packs of children to the other side of the stadium, where my booth sat modestly. I vaguely remember jumping on various members of my team who I saw on the way to exclaim, "I'M GETTING I CHEESE HAT!!!" I kinda reminded myself of that little leprechaun dude who clicks his feet together when he jumps:
Anyway, when I got back to the booth, I grabbed a crumpet, shaking, yelled excitedly, "I NEED THIS", and ran away to claim my cheese hat. Beamingly proud of myself, I threw that crumpet down on her table. She took off her hat and said, "here ya go, because you worked so hard for it".
And that, my friends, was an amazing feeling. Many times, you don't realize how great it feels to get something because you worked so hard for it; that's what the instant gratification aspect of technology does for the youth, and the general population. But my cheese hat was hard-earned, and let me tell you, it felt damn good to walk back to my team, sweating, hugging my prize to my chest, 'cause you know what? I was one of the 20 people out of 10,000 that had what everyone wanted. And that sounds snobby, but hey, the less available, the more desirable, and that's how the brain works. Plus, I worked hard for it. Now I was that poor guy in the middle of a crowd of grasping hands:
When we got back to the hotel, the coaches looked baffled. The head coach commented, "wow, a first-time cheese-hatter, you should be a professional swapper".
And damn, did that feel good. Moral of the story: work hard, IT PAYS OFF!!!