Thursday, July 28, 2011

Snake Oil

Even though I'm going through the toughest season of my life right now, and I could share something sad, moving, or inspirational, I'll just share something funny.

It was about 3-4 years ago at the Great Chili Cook-off, which is held at Stone Mountain Park in Georgia every year. The event always takes place in September so hopefully the temperatures have cooled off just a little.  Not this year, it was a scorcher.  I remember I drank 2 or 3 ice cold beers and about twice as many ice cold waters.

Throughout the day of tasting chili and Brunswick stew, I had to keep some kind of cold refreshing beverage in my hand.  One, because of how unbearably hot it was, more importantly because most of the chili was so stinking spicy hot.  Now let me tell you, some of the offerings are quite tasty but some of the other offerings are almost puke in your mouth disgusting.

Right about the time I decided I was going to surrender for the day and give my taste buds a much refreshing break; I noticed a table in the corner of the event, back in the woods, hidden mostly by trees.  Although the location was rather secluded, quite the large gathering had assembled around the tasting table.  Behind the table were two incredibly talented sales men, the kind you see selling magic potion at a carnival side show.  They immediately drew me in.

What these two men were selling, actually giving away, was what they described as the hottest chili on the planet.  On the planet they claimed!  Well, I'm a skeptic and I had tasted what I thought to be pretty darn hot chili throughout the day, so I figured these two men were just trying to drum up their reputation a little bit.  So I walked up and challenged them by saying, "I'll try some, it can't be that hot".  But before I could get my hands on the goods, the mood turned serious.

One of the two overly loud magic potion salesmen got real quiet and warned me that the chili that I was about to eat was extremely hot and that I could change my mind.  Of course by this point, most of the crowd was focused on the next victim, the victim being me.  With all of these eyes peering at me in anticipation, I had no choice but to eat.

What an observation; if the loud man getting quiet with his warning wasn't enough to dissuade me and the crowd anxiously looking on as I grabbed the small spoonful of chili from the man's hand wasn't enough to change my mind, then I deserved what came next.

I boldly ate the bite of chili and as soon as the spoon left my mouth, the crowd of onlookers gasped in surprise and most of them started snapping pictures.  I must have seen 20 or so flashes explode in the relative darkness of the shaded corner we were standing in.  It was about that time that I realized I had made an awful mistake.  The pain of the immense heat in my mouth took about 30 seconds to fully engulf the inside of my lips.  My throat became raw, sweat started beading on my bald head, and fear started pulsing through my veins.  I couldn't even speak.  My only thought was what have I done?

My fear quickly turned to embarrassment and I quickly walked away, fortunately the table of horror was about to claim a new victim so I became old news to the new jester in the crowd.  Of course this was the first time during the entire day that I didn't have a drink.  And because of the remote location of the torture table, there were no vending stands in sight.

I walked as quickly as I could, trying to find something to help quench my fiery pain.  Unfortunately when I did get my hands on a tall bottle of ice cold water, it did little good to relieve the pain.  Time . . . time was my only relief.  The severe pain lasted 15-20 minutes; uncomfortable pain lasted 45-60 minutes.  My lips were still numb when I went to sleep that night.  I won't even start to describe the pain I felt the following . . .  if you know what I mean.

Moral of the story . . . if someone claims to have the hottest chili on the planet and there is a large crowd gathered around waiting for the show, don’t become the main character.

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