I want to really scare my kids with this when they’re old enough to handle it . . . so I’ll frame it as a cautionary tale. “Laugh at me, but please don’t be me.” Okay, here we go . . .
“The Wendy’s Incident”
The twenty or so dollars in singles and change were gone. So were all of the people. The place was closed and I had been stuck in the bathroom when the employee had knocked and said they were locking the outer door. It had been for nothing. Well, not nothing, I would suffer the consequences for the next year or so.
My dad was waiting for me, but we had driven two cars, and I would have to drive one of them back. I didn’t know if I could make it, but the distance was little more than a mile. At every stop light, every slow point, I’d crack the door open and spit. Ropey stuff, horrible. We finally make it back to the house and I tripped on the brick stairs leading to our front porch. That was it.
That’s when the full-blown boy child tears started again. I had fallen in the garden and couldn’t really move. Through my heaving sobs I asked for the garden hose. My mom was now outside, asking fervently if I needed to head to the emergency room and why did I do this to myself and what was I thinking. And I was choking out the words I’m paying for it right now I don’t need to go to the E.R. and I sat with the hose in my mouth, just letting it cool everything. I couldn’t swallow. That would be bad. That would start it all over again. The invisible kicks to the stomach. That night I got a fever. I stayed home from school the next day, and people thought something was horribly wrong with me.
For the next year, I would randomly zook up my breakfast. And I mean randomly. So I stopped eating that meal. Chewing gum was also like playing throat rocket roulette. Just never knew if it would trigger my swallowing funny and then I had about five seconds to find a trashcan. This would continue into my college years, where being around girls I liked would cause me to throw up a lot. Think Stan and Wendy from South Park.
Contrary to your first intuition, this had absolutely nothing to do with alcohol. It’s known as “The Wendy’s Incident,” and I used it to win over my wife on our third date.
We were sitting on a dock inside the picturesque Gig Harbor, Washington, and eating Dairy Queen Blizzards and she asked me to tell her a funny story, and the ice cream in my hand brought to mind my Wendy’s stunt. Incidentally, I knew this girl I was dating was special because she didn’t make me feel like throwing up when I was around her.
So back to the beginning. At sixteen, my allowance was ten bucks a week. It never felt like enough and I always wanted more. Some people kill for money. Some sell their body. Some steal. Me? This was my first foray into eating weird things for money—a legacy handed down by my older brother. Under his eat-for-money belt was:
—A cup of chew spit
—An entire can of Copenhagen
—Someone else’s loogie
—A praying mantis,
—Pizza with Copenhagen on top
The logic was solid:
Experience discomfort for a short period of time = money you can keep for a long time.
So I’m sitting at the Wendy’s on Munras Avenue in Monterey, it’s Monday night, 1998, after a busy Young Life club for teenagers. We always went there, and I would consume the coveted Wendy’s Spicy Chicken sandwich, the apex of all fast food. There was a group of about twenty, including leaders. My dad ran the Monterey club, so he was there too.
One kid, Joe, had ordered a Frosty and drank about half. He then began to refill that half with the local fare he had within reach. A small crowd gathered. The contents were as following:
—Other random crap
—A quarter shaker of salt
—A quarter shaker of pepper
Nothing on this list matters except the amount of salt and pepper. But we’ll get there.
Meanwhile, the kid was eagerly seeking someone to drink his concoction. Money was thrown on the table. I started thinking I could do this. It’s in my biology! Twenty bucks for two minutes of torture. I’m in!
I raised my hand and instantly felt other hands all over my back, and soon I was surrounded. The only way out was to drink the thing. Stipulations: I had to finish it all and keep it down. It would have to be all in one go, because if I stopped, I was done.
I brought it close to my mouth and exhaled so I wouldn’t smell it. I could see it looked like a cookies ‘n’ cream milkshake gone bad. When I started chugging I noticed it had the texture of cookie dough and sand. It was also going down too slowly, I had to take a breath.
Not a good idea.
With the breathing came the full punch of the black pepper. I was still trying to swallow, but held my finger up in the air. Tunnel-vision set in and I placed the cup down, half-finished. Unaware of the crowd I walked (slowly, for some dumb reason) through the crowd and into the small bathroom. It was 9:30 p.m.
The first of the pepper milkshake hit the back of the toilet and ricocheted back onto my pajama pants. Did I mention I was wearing PJ’s? It was PJ day at school. The second heave was on the front of my slippers. Three was good. Four and five were in the sink. Six was on the wall. And seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven were nothing special except for how high my legs got off of the ground as I clutched the porcelain. I call those the dry-high-heaves.
Around number three, I felt the pepper come up into my nasal cavity and behind my eyes. I started sneezing in-between throwing up. I was crying and pulling pepper out of my eye ducts. Somewhere in this mix, my dad knocked on the door to see if I was okay. I said no and for the love do not leave the restaurant. Then a worker knocked and said they were closing and I felt hot panic in my chest as I started to think beyond this moment. I come here A LOT. They know me. They will remember this. I have to clean this up.
I used up all of the paper towels and toilet paper in doing so, and even then it wasn’t enough. Ashamed, I exited. I was covered with Wendy’s product as the worker unlocked the door for me. It was 10:30 p.m.
It wasn’t until days later when I found out about the salt. That much salt is tantamount to ipecac, dooming me to failure. It was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done for money, especially since I didn’t even get anything.