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Twinkies Few & Far Between

Hold on to your Twinkies! They may be hard to find if you're on the East Coast.

A Teamsters strike has led to shortages of a variety of well-known bakery products, including Wonder Bread and Hostess brands such as Twinkies.

The strike began last week when 1,400 Teamsters responsible for delivery and sales of products from Interstate Bakeries Company's only New England bakery in Biddeford, Maine, walked off the job.

Since then, that bakery and others have shut down as Teamsters in other states honored the pickets. Company officials say five bakeries in four states have closed.

Supply problems are being reported from the nation's capital to Maine, wreaking havoc on untold snack breaks.

"I'll have to eat healthy food," complained Rubens Breeden, a 28-year-old Massachusetts state worker longing for Ring Dings and Devil Dogs on Tuesday.

Snack bar worker Charlie Bianchi has faced the wrath of the hungry masses at Hal's Place, an eatery in one of the busiest state office buildings in Boston.

"All day long, they're saying, `Where's my Twinkies? Where's my coffee cake? Where's my pound cake? Where's my Devil Dogs? Where's my Yodels? Where's my Ring Dings?'" said Bianchi.

"They're ready to kill. They look at me with doubt in their eyes. They think that I forgot to place the order. It's always the coffee slinger's fault."

As shelves empty across the region, much of the Eastern Seaboard will have to do without deliveries of about 2 million Twinkies and cupcakes per week - and another 400,000 loaves of Wonder Bread, a company official estimated.

The union has accused the company of refusing to honor arbitration rulings. The company maintains it was shut out of the arbitration process, and it has asked a judge to clarify the process.

One major sticking point has been the company's requirement that drivers deliver more than one brand of Interstate products. The Teamsters say drivers are supposed to be paid different amounts for each brand.

All of this comes as the Twinkie, the yellow, spongy, cream-filled cake, approaches its 70th anniversary next month.

Some people are already seeking to make a buck off of the Twinkie crisis. What was billed as "The last box of Twinkies known to Man?" was being offered on the Internet auction site eBay, with the minimum bid set at $2,500.

Pamela Anderson, a mother of two, picked up some of the last Twinkies at a gas station in Concord, N.H.

"I say they're for my kids, but they're really for me," she said.

Lisa Towne, a dental hygienist with Aesthetic Dental Center also in Concord, saw a bright side to the strike: "The dental community might even benefit."

In downtown Boston, shelves usually occupied by Hostess products were bare or getting there quickly.

To Breeden, the Massachusetts state worker, eating Twinkies and other snack cakes is just part of growing up American.

"It's like everything from baseball to watching the eltics," he said. "Basically, every little kid does it; it's like throwing rocks and playing in the mud."