Pick Your Own Experience

Episode One: Avoiding the Frantic and Frequently Fatal Fate of the Food Poisoning Fiend

Instructions: Do not read this like a regular article. Some of the following choices will lead you directly into the clutches of a Food Poisoning Monster; others to drug-fueled enlightenment. Pick wisely. (This story is dedicated to my recent real life encounter with food poisoning. It was hell on earth. Be careful out there, good people.)

If you had thought of everything, you’d be a genius. But you didn’t and so you’re not. Of course, that’s not to say you didn’t come close: Tasteful, business casual attire for a big presentation? Check. Coffee for confidence? Check. Six weeks of planning, exhaustive research, crafting proposals, following up on contacts, and working ten hour days in preparation? Check. Clawing vigorously at the tattered shreds barely holding together a marriage ravaged by your unforgiving work schedule? Check.

But there’s one thing you forgot: food. You didn’t eat today, and you have thirty minutes before you need to be at the office. There’s no way you can make your presentation on an empty stomach. What do you do?

Since you’re currently lurching through unforgiving traffic, the first thing that pops into your head is convenience. There’s a Taco Bell sign gleaming in the midday sun two blocks down the road. It reminds you of all the action-packed nights of your youth that ended in those drive thrus where everyone in the car could spend three dollars and get six semi-digestible, taco-inspired concoctions. It didn’t matter back then for a couple reasons: (1) A product of the suburbs, you wouldn’t have known refined taste if it had landed directly on your tongue. And (2) your youthful digestive system operated with such resilience and grace that it didn’t make a peep about the quasi-passable foodstuffs prepared at four in the morning by people in their 30s who never left home, didn’t care, and had nothing left to lose. Those were good times, weren’t they?

Although you know better, you wonder if a stomach full of partially digested taco slop is better than an empty stomach. The light turns green. If you don’t change lanes immediately, you will drive past, and that sour cream-colored sauce atop your volcano nachos will no longer be an option.

Click here if you say to yourself, “Ah fuck it, millions of people eat that shit every day. What’s it going to do to me?” [Scroll to the first comment underneath the comic. -ed]

Keep reading if you keep your wits about you and drive past.

Frustrated, you resolve to pull into the next strip mall where there has to be a bagel shop or Chipotle or something, anything. You just need food. Once you pull into a nice parking place, you take inventory of the shops — none of which appear to sell things to eat. There’s a sporting goods store, a big red office supplies emporium, and some kind of jazzercise place. Jazzercise? Is that still a thing? Anyway, there’s no food.

Just when you’re about to give up hope and drive to the next string of corporate chains, a man with a beard and a cape knocks on your window. You wonder what to do, because there’s absolutely zero precedence in your life regarding this situation. Your first instinct is to drive away, but then you quickly reconsider. Maybe an interaction with a caped, bearded man is the one thing your life has been missing, and if you ran from it, you’d maybe be running from an experience that can save you from the abyss. And really, isn’t constantly trying to save yourself from the abyss the true point of life?

You roll down the window.

“You’re hungry, aren’t you?” he asks.

“How did you know?” you ask.

“I’m the creepy wise guy in the story. I know all.”

You nod.

“There are exactly three chickpeas in my hand,” he says, as he holds out his hand to demonstrate what he just said was in fact true. “For $78, they can be yours.”

“That seems like a lot for three chickpeas that have been marinating in your palm sweat,” you say.

“Yes, but these are magic chickpeas. For if you eat them, you will never suffer from hunger again.”

You consider it. You don’t have much time and you need to get something in your stomach before the presentation.

Click here if you say, “Screw your chickpeas, mister. I’m going to McDonalds.” [Scroll to first comment after the story.]

Keep reading if you buy the chickpeas, because, you know, what the hell?

“Okay, but I don’t have cash,” you say.

“I have a Square reader,” he says.

“That’s very convenient,” you admit. You give him a credit card and he swipes it.

“Would you like your receipt emailed?” he asks. You tell him that you would and ask about his return policy, which you find unnecessarily rigid. He’s not one for arguing though, so he hands you the chickpeas and walks away.

You stare at the chickpeas in your hand and take one for good measure. Years of drug use have taught you the most valuable drug-doing lesson: start slow. You can always take more, you can never take less. Sure these aren’t drugs — they’re merely three uncanned, stray chickpeas sold to you from the likely unwashed palm of a creepy wise guy in a cape — but the principle still applies.

Just as you finish swallowing, the man frantically runs back. “Don’t take those. I gave you the wrong chickpeas.” He reaches in his pocket. “Here, you want the green ones. These will sate your hunger for years to come.”

“And what will the other ones do?” you ask in a panic.

“They will sate your hunger as well,” he says. “But they’re also laced with ecstasy.”

Click here if you give him back the other two ecstasy-laced chickpeas and take the drug-free green ones. [Go to the first comment after the “Earworm artist article.]

Keep reading if you say, “Fuck it,” and swallow the remaining drug legumes, informing the man that he can keep his squaresville green ones.

After downing the remaining drug legumes, you drive as fast as you can to your workplace before the effects kick in and you won’t be able to operate an automobile anymore. Once you get into the office, the ecstasy takes hold and you feel a deep, unbounded connection to everyone. You say to yourself — as Bill Hicks once said to himself — “My God, I love everything.” You sway to and fro in your cubicle chair with a huge grin on your face. You feel your arms, because they feel so damn amazing. Everything feels so damn amazing. “There is no such thing as death and I want to live forever,” you say slowly and apparently loudly.

Overhearing you, your boss furrows his brow and is overcome with hateful incredulousness that unconditional love and understanding has somehow penetrated the cold, unfeeling trenches of corporate hegemony. He calls you into his office.

Click here if you go into his office.

Keep Reading if you politely decline, call a cab, and head home to make yourself a nice ecstasy cocoon out of blankets on the couch and listen to old Broken Social Scene records.

So then you catch a cab…

Upon sobering up the next morning, you realize you’re not hungry. You pat yourself on the back for $78 well spent. The end. A happy one, no?

I have authored two novels, founded two zines, and currently play drums in three or so bands.