A few weeks ago my company put on a Saturday picnic. It was the first time they had done something for all employees and family members since I started there nearly 5 years ago. On Saturday morning Taela and I loaded up the kids into the Pilot and headed out to Oregon City to a private estate that was to host the festivities.
The place was awesome. The building was a private tractor museum that had some really cool stuff in it. There were burgers and hot dogs. There were beers and sodas. There were model airplanes and an antique buggy. I didn’t care about any of that. Why? Because I was entered in the pie eating contest. That’s why. Why did I care about the pie eating contest? Have you ever heard of a guy by the name of Benjamin Franklin? That’s right…$100 first place cash prize. $50 for second…but I don’t eat for second place.
As far as I could tell I was going to need all my cunning to win this contest. I was up against a couple of teenagers, one of whom was a stretched 6’ 4” tall and he looked like he was about the age at which guys can eat anything and everything. Fortunately for me our office eating specialist was disinterested so I didn’t have to worry too much about him. Then I found out that Todd had decided to enter. Todd is big. Todd is smart. Todd knows how to win. Todd might only have 7 fingers, but he outweighs me by 50 pounds. I can tell by his demeanor that he sees me as real competition and he’s going to make my win much more difficult. I approached Todd and tried to get him on my side. I framed it as “hey, what are we going to do to beat this kids?” Todd wasn’t biting. This was obviously an individual game. Uh-oh.
Midway through the picnic I notice that my chief competition had decided to eat lunch. Advantage Keith. Todd eats a normal sized lunch with his two daughters and Stretch (Shane), for whatever reason, decides to eat not one but two burgers. I’m starving by now. I’m drinking some fluids. I’m preparing my body for what lies ahead. I’m glad to see these other guys filling up their gullets because I need all the edge I can get.
Another stroke of luck! I walk my daughter over to the restroom and there on the ground under a table I see it. It’s a bag filled with 10 pie boxes. BINGO! I look around to see if anyone’s watching…nobody. I start to look through the pies. Marion Berry, blue berry, cherry…STRAWBERRY RHUBARB! Wait…what’s this I’m feeling? My fingers are cold. Why? Because they’re touching the pies. The pies, my friend, are FROZEN! This is fantastic news. I quickly grab a strawberry rhubarb and head off to the 90+ degree sun. I’m going to warm this baby up to make sure it will slide right down my throat. I’m not gonna be gnawing on an ice cube like those other suckers!
The hula hoop competition ends and a few kids take home some cash. The piñata competition ends and a bunch of kids rake in a load of candy. It’s pie time…and it’s for real.
Rules: First person to eat their entire pie wins, at the discretion of the judge. No utensils but you are expected to use your hands.
Well, my plan got off to a rocky start because the judge of the contest reclaimed my special pie! I’m livid. I basically throw a small fit in front of my coworkers. The President of my company who is about as petite a woman as you will ever see decides to enter. I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to get that pie back. They hand us all shower caps. They hand us all trash bag shirts. We’re not allowed to use utensils so it’s gonna be messy. How the hell am I gonna get my hands on that pie?
I’m really agitated about this pie at this point. I’m desperate to get my pie because it’s the key to victory. I say very clearly that if I get a blueberry pie I’m simply not competing. I also may have called the judge, a coworker who I like very much, a control freak. I may have gone a bit overboard on the pie eating contest, but if I hadn’t would I really be me? Have ya’ met me?
So they hand out the pies. I’m the last to get one…shocking. After the fuss I was raising I suppose it was fitting. I do get a strawberry rhubarb after all…but it’s cold! Oh no. I have mere moments to figure this out. What to do? What to do? I take action immediately. I walk down the line of contestants, right up to Todd and trade him pies. He has no objections and I’m right back where I want to be.
The contest starts and I dig in. I’m a rookie. I have no idea what I’m doing, but fortunately for me the rest of these guys (and gals, but come on, none of these ladies are going to eat a pie before I am) are clueless too. I mean, they’re gnawing on icicles for crying out loud!
I take a huge first bite and the pie is delicious. I chew as quickly as I can. I swallow and in goes another bite. Chew chew chew Chewbaka. I’m eating as fast as I can but I realize it’s not going to be fast enough. I need to stop eating and start just swallowing. Taela tells me to take a drink of water, which I do. She’s brilliant. I can swallow this stuff like you’d swallow a pill! So I start swallowing chunks of food as quickly as I can. I’m still chewing, but not like some idiot savoring the flavor. In fact, after the first couple bites I don’t remember actually tasting anything. Soon I’m ¾ of the way through the pie and I’m walking around looking at the other contestants. I’m starting to get cocky. I’m scoffing at the other table. I take a huge bite, look over at one of the teenagers and say “how are those burgers tasting right about now, Shane?” Turns out I’m a sore winner.
Wait…what? What was that? People are cheering for Todd. Why? Todd is closing the gap and he’s closing it FAST. Todd’s face is down at pie level to minimize the distance from pie to mouth…nice move. I need to start swallowing this crap or I’m going to lose! I hear the judge say “eat it all and when you’re done throw up your hands.” I’m starting to panic a bit so I start trying to swallow a bit too early. I nearly throw up something besides my hands but I get it under control. Now, my pie is warm and sticky so my fingers are covered and there are crumbs around because my crust fell apart…unforeseen side effect of my strategy. Damn it. Well, I shove all the rest I can gather into my mouth, swallow and throw my hands in the air. I look over with my hands up and there’s the judge down by Todd’s pie showing him what he has left to eat. What? She’s COACHING him and ignoring me! I stand there for a few seconds, the judge never even looks at me. Todd finishes and is declared the winner.
I took it really well though…the hell I did! “That was personal! That was personal!” I’m literally pointing my finger at her. I still reel from the embarrassment when I think about it. Sometimes I’m an arse, but I hate losing and I love money…not in a sinful way “love money”, it’s just a good motivator. I’m not going down like this.
So here’s the deal, there are multiple videos of the event and I still don’t know who really won. My point was that if I had more food to eat when I threw my hands in the air then I needed to be told that so I could try to finish as quickly as possible. In any case, unlike so many things, it all ended well. The contest was declared a tie and we were both given first place money! I’m not talking about chopping the pot at $75 each, I’m talking about one hundred bones to each of us. This is phenomenal and all I had to do was act like an immature idiot in front of my coworkers and family.
So after the contest Todd and I feel like crap. Todd heads off behind a tree and ejects some of his strawberries and rhubarbs. I haven’t thrown up in two decades so I decided to feel horrible and just digest it. It’s tough to fast all morning and then process that much sugar, but that’s what champions do.