Have you ever witnessed the Great Migration of wildebeest? Even if not in person, I hope you have seen images of the great stampede of the gnu on TV or in print.
It really is quite a marvel – about two million wildebeest, including newly birthed young and about half a million hanger-on zebra and antelope, traverse close to 3,000 kms of savannah, crossing crocodile infested rivers literally in search of greener pastures. A quarter of a million wildebeest don’t last the journey as they fall prey to natural predators.
The spectacle is nature in its rawest form. A struggle for survival of the fittest, each day every one of the migrators has to outrun the slowest member of the herd.
I was doing some casual work recently where we had scheduled breaks and meals provided for. It was my first time doing this work and present over the three day period were veterans who had been doing the gig for close to two decades. All shapes and sizes and backgrounds, the one thing we all had in common was we all held the same professional qualification. I mean, the right to use the letters showing your designation requires a few years study and rigorous exams in addition to a university degree. So presumably, each of my colleagues had been through the rings and I felt a shared sense of camaraderie. You know, like the kind when you’ve shared a stressful experience with someone and you become part of some secret circle.
That was until it was morning tea time. Once the food appeared, all the ‘professionals’ morphed in front of my eyes into a foaming herd of wildebeest. Ok, so Australians are not as good as the British when it comes to the delicate art of queueing but we do possess some etiquette. Not these wildebeest!
Hordes thronged the self-service carts to grab scones and quiches like they were going out of style. Never mind the tongs, both hands reached out for sushi rolls, eclairs and sandwiches. The ‘One Per Person Please’ sign was a gauntlet thrown down to say, “Have a go. I don’t really mean it”.
The special dietary requirements cart fared no better as soon as the herd figured out these were less attended and, really, who cares if you are allergic to nuts and dairy? If you can’t get your ham & cheese croissants and jam doughnuts first, you’re belong to the weaker group that deserves nothing more than thin tea. Get in first or miss out was the motto. Those better prepared had pockets and plastic bags into which they shoved second and thirds for later.
And so the frenzy repeated for each of the seven meals served. Wildebeest are probably better animals.
I drank a lot of tea and it got me thinking, if I were a wildebeest, I’d have been eaten a long time ago.