[T]his story was supposed to be a tale about a time when I made a sound investment, which grew with work and then yielded plenty of dividends.
Instead, it’s about a loss.
The moral of this story is simple. Life doesn’t go how I plan, and sometimes my plans make me sick.
A few weeks ago, I heard about a challenge from a friend at work.
I could choose a person to split a 28-inch, one topping pizza and drink two 32-ounce soft drinks in less than an hour.
If we were successful, my $50 entry fee would become a $500 cash payout.
Pizza isn’t at the top of my list of favorite foods, but it’s not too far down.
The challenge sounded like easy money for a guy who’s weighed about 245 pounds at his heaviest, thanks to a longtime affinity for all kinds of cuisine.
Daddy and I registered for the challenge, and when the day arrived we showed up at the restaurant hungry to compete.
I’d been pretty confident all week. I’d tried to leave my stomach primed to take in a large amount of food in a small amount of time.
I’d developed a strategy, which was to place one piece of the mushroom pizza we’d chosen on top of another piece like a sandwich.
This, in my mind, meant I’d eat two pieces at once and be well on my way to the $500 before my brain had time to tell my stomach it was full.
It was a foolproof plan.
We sat down at the appointed table at the appointed time, and we watched the staff make our mushroom pizza.
We’d pumped ourselves up with a bunch of sports cliches like, “We didn’t come this far to lose,” and I’d talked about how much confidence I had in my mind-over-matter approach.
My mind experienced the first tinge of doubt when my eyes beheld the matter of the mountain of cheese the restaurant staff spread upon our pizza.
This was no normal pizza.
It was, in the words of “The Big Bang Theory’s” Sheldon Cooper, a “Brobdingnagian monstrosity.”
Once the pizza was cooked, it was presented to us on a folded cardboard box almost big enough to cover the top of our table.
Still, I was confident.
This seems like a good spot in the tale to tell you something else about myself.
Sometimes, I’m an idiot.
Since I hadn’t eaten the day of the contest, I was well past hungry by the time the clock started to count down the hour Daddy and I had to finish the challenge.
I tore into my first sandwiched pieces, then I ate the second sandwich and the third.
When I’d devoured about six pieces, I abandoned my sandwich strategy and ate the squares one at a time.
I cruised along until, all of a sudden, I hit a wall with about three rows left.
Daddy, who could have finished his half of the pizza and made it look effortless, noticed my pace slowed.
He asked if I could eat any more, and I told him I could.
I stuffed my face with another square, and I knew if I put another bite in my mouth, things would not go well for me or the courteous staff member who’d encouraged us the whole time except the few minutes he told us he’d been on the cleanup crew after other pairs had been bested by the Paul Bunyan of pizza.
I decided to call the contest a loss.
We left the rest of our pizza and all of our $500 on the table.
It was announced to the restaurant we were the latest in a long line of people who’d lost to a pizza.
The restaurant’s patrons gave us an ovation, but I was mad.
I don’t like to lose and I hate to quit.
I’d just been forced to do both at the same time in the middle of a crowded pizza place.
Matters worsened when I stood up.
I was sick.
I willed myself to the door, pushed it open and walked outside into the wind in hopes it would help what I’d just eaten stay down.
I doubled over in the middle of the parking lot once, but I made it to the truck with my large supper and somehow managed to hoist myself into the seat.
My stomach lurched with every turn and bump in the road.
There was no comfort and no relief.
I’m pretty sure everybody we know called Daddy on the way home to talk about pizza, and the conversations seemed to make the churn in my stomach worse.
I leaned the seat back. I pulled the seat forward. I rocked my head from side to side.
I pledged a silent oath to never attempt to eat half of a pizza meant for Goliath again.
I begged God to let me live.
We stopped a little ways down the road and there, under the glow of the gas station lights, I drew a deep breath for the first time in an hour.
I also found a way to alleviate the pressure on my stomach.
I contorted myself so my head almost touched the dashboard, and remained there for almost all of the trip home.
It dawned on me sometime after I got a deep breath and before we got home I had signed up for the challenge with the expectation my stomach could hold as much as it could when I carried 230 pounds.
It could not.
This revelation was reiterated in a text from my aunt the next day, when I felt alive again.
She told me I should be proud I couldn’t eat so much, since I’ve lost some weight.
I guess, in a way, I am proud.
I can breathe better and it doesn’t take as much effort to walk as it once did.
Those improvements alone are worth more than $500 to me, and better health is a win in the long run.
The facts are these:
- I couldn’t eat my share of a prodigious pizza.
- I took a loss in front of a restaurant full of people who almost saw my supper twice.
- I took the loss because I quit.
This seems like a good time to end this tale with another cliche.
You can’t win ‘em all.