I’m a proud man, and I know that as a proud man there are certain things that I like to boast about. When I was in high school I knew that I was one of the faster runners on the swim team, so when we did dry land practices before the start of the season I would challenge anyone and everyone to try to finish the three mile run before I could.
There would be challengers, of course, and some of them would beat me much to my chagrin. Others would fall to my amazing prowess and outstanding technique that could only be God given. Okay, so that’s an incredible exaggeration, but suffice it to say, I was proud to be fast. And I let people know about it.
Call it a guy thing, call it ego, call it whatever you want. The point is that we all have strengths that we unleash upon the world whenever we want to feel good about ourselves, and the moral of my next story is that sometimes you fall flat on your face trying.
One of the things I’m known well for at work are my huge lunch bags I bring in. I’ll routinely walk into the lunchroom of the pharmacy, plunk down in my chair, and watch as my fellow coworkers curiously peer into my bag to see what goodies I will bring out. There really is no secret though. It’s always some sort of meat combo (beef, chicken, pork) with a ton of rice, some veggies, and a drink. Many of the women I work with scoff with fury that I could even THINK about eating a meal like that.
“Oh, the calories!” One woman exclaims, walking out in a huff.
“I can’t believe he’s going to eat ALL OF THAT!” Another woman replies, her eyes nearly as big as my appetite.
“Got room for one more?” A pregnant coworker says eagerly with a fork and spoon in hand.
Okay, so the one day my pregnant coworkers had lunch with me was the day I left lunch a little hungrier than usual, but to summarize I have a reputation for eating a lot and not adding the poundage to my slender frame. I stopped to think for a second if this was something to be proud of though. I mean, is it manly to be a pig? Or better yet, does being a man mean that I am a pig?[Insert quiet contemplation here] Confucius say, “Do not confuse pork with Tam. Pork is tastier and more fit!”
But it didn’t matter how I felt about it, because the feeling of pride swelled inside of me whenever a coworker mentioned what a voracious appetite I had. But now, the ultimate test was coming.
As a Friday night excursion, a few coworkers decided to go out to this all you can eat Japanese restaurant, and already the bets were being made. As I got undressed from a day of making IV’s in the so-called sterile IV hood and washed my hands, I could already hear my beloved coworkers getting rowdy up front in the pharmacy.
“I bet Tam eats five plates before the end of the night!” One of my friends boasts.
“Yeah right, he probably won’t get past the BBQ spareribs.” Another person contests.
I walked over into the conversation with a big smile on my face. By this point about six or seven people had gathered into the discussion, and I felt energetic as I knew I had an audience. I proudly proclaimed that I would eat this restaurant into bankruptcy and that I would eat every different dish they offered.
The sounds of laughter and astonishment filled the pharmacy, and I knew that I had bitten off more than I could chew (oh the irony). But common sense leaves you when you know you have an audience and you’ve got that silly thing called pride riding high behind you.
Later that night, the challenge was set and as I arrived to the restaurant I could feel the pressure mounting. There were multiple stations of food I would have to tackle before I could finish my boast, and I could only feel a lump in my throat as I reached for my first plate.
I decided to tackle the sushi bar first. After all, they are small, quick and delicious. And eating them also gives me an excuse to say, “Wasaaaaabi” to my friends. But this ended up being my biggest mistake of the night. You see, sushi contains rice usually, and the rice slowly filled my stomach as I went from California roll to Dragon roll to I-Dunno-What-The Hell-Is-In-That-Roll. By the end of my first plate, I was already beginning to slow down.
Most of the people at my table were already half way through their second plates already. I began to hear the snickers as my friends knew I would not last the night. And to add insult to injury, one of my coworkers brought their 8 year old daughter who was finishing her second plate and heading for a third.
By my third plate, my head was hanging low and I knew I was like George Foreman in South Africa reeling from the stinging blows of Muhammad Ali. I was going down, and I wasn’t happy about it. My friends laughed out in chorus as I pushed the plate away from me in disgust, and I knew I would hear the tale about how the great appetite of Tam was done away by some raw fish wrapped in rice and seaweed. My bubble had burst and I was stuck with a thirty dollar bill for only three plates of food. Being the cheap guy I am, I immediately ask for a free refill of soda as the waiter presents the plate to me.
So that’s my story of how I tried to climb a mountain and fell right on my face. It wasn’t the first time it happened, and it definitely won’t be the last time, but it made me think about what kind of trouble my pride can get me into. When I’m 40 years old am I going to try to race every 17 year old I see at a red light? Am I doomed to try to run alongside the 18 year old thoroughbred track star at the local track when I know I have two bad knees and the stamina of a sloth?
I can’t answer that accurately, but my pride says yes.
And to that 8 year old girl who finished 6 plates of food at the restaurant, I have nothing to say. To her credit, after she finished she offered me some of her delectable little cakes she picked up at the dessert bar. Feeling sheepish and beaten, I took one of the morsels and stuck the whole thing in my mouth. The little girl laughed as my eyes watered from the frozen dessert that caused my mouth to clench as I realized I shouldn’t have tried to eat it whole. That’s when I remembered one of my biggest weaknesses….