The Time I Became the Most Unique Intern

As an aspiring triathlete, I constantly battle the clock. Fitting, because I do the same thing in races.

I bike to work. I engulf my lunch in five minutes.

I talk fast.

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I workout during most lunch hours. This is a battle to speed walk to the nearest office shower, change out of a suit and tie, throw my stuff in the locker, fly out the door, work out as hard as I can for 40 or so minutes, get back inside, smile sheepishly at any coworkers I see in the hallway, take a cold shower to cool off as much as possible, change back into the suit and tie, and return to my desk to gulf down a post-workout meal.

I sit and sweat at my desk for the next three hours.

No, I’m not a Vegetarian

Bring enough salads to work, and you will become the “salad guy.” Green food is foreign to most office drones who live off tacos and sodas from the cafeteria.

“Are you a vegetarian?”

There’s chicken right here on my salad.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you eat anything besides salad.”

I had an apple and hard-boiled eggs for a snack. Does that count?

“Are you headed to the cafeteria to make some weird meal?”

Do the 15 other people in line for the salad bar get the same question?

“You’re like a rabbit.”

Rabbit food. That’s my favorite, given that rabbits are so strongly associated with masculinity.

Lunch Workouts Make You Sweaty

As kids, my brother and I harassed our father for his inability to stop sweating for at least an hour after his workouts, regardless of how much time he spent showering.

I hate karma.

It doesn’t help that I’m required to wear a suit and tie to work.

But I can’t say seated all day. I have to move. Even if that means I’m going to show up to work twice with wet hair.

“Wait, didn’t you bike here?”

Yes, but it was downhill. Plus, that was four hours ago.

“You’re so motivated.”

No, just bored.

Walk These Halls

I don’t go running every day for lunch. Sometimes I go through a bodyweight circuit. I get back from a round of pushups, lunges and dips. Sweating, as usual.

A coworker asks about my run. I make the mistake of telling him about my workout.

“You are, without a doubt, the most unique intern to ever walk these halls.”

Walk these halls. It sounds so regal.

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The Time I Got Free Salad Because I Ate So Much Salad

I’m here … again.

It’s the second time I’ve been here today. The employees look me over in slight disbelief.

Wasn’t he here three hours ago?

Yes, I was. And, yes, I’m getting the exact same custom salad.

My bank account is bleeding money, but I make no attempt to avoid this debtor’s prison. The roasted sweet potatoes taste so good with the avocado. I’ll spend a year paying off extra debt for that.

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Going for Gold

“You again? Is this your second time here?”

“Third. I’m going for a record.” I figure it’s probably best to casually play off the fact that I’ve spent more than $30 here in the last 12 hours alone.

Smiles. He’s doing a terrible job hiding his disbelief.

They must be putting nicotine in the chicken. How else can one explain the addictive nature of this place?

You Again:

We’ve moved beyond disbelief into an expected friendliness. When they hand me my first salad of the day, they tell me they’ll see me this afternoon.

Yep, they will.

When I arrive in the evening, they ask me how many times I’ve been here today.

Twice. Sometimes, thrice.

When it’s my turn, the eyes no longer widen with shock. The expression has been replaced with friendly wrinkles around the eyes. Oh, it’s you again.

“Three sweet potato scoops?”

Yes please!

They ask me about my weekend plans. My exams. My next trip to see my parents. The last time I called my parents.

I may as well work here. I could probably recite the menu.

Two employees pretend to fight over who will serve me my custom pile of vegetables, meat and arugula today. My friend, who I’ve recruited to join me in line, remarks: “You must come here a lot.”

A Flick of the Wrist

She waves me onward.

But I haven’t paid yet. I feel guilty for not paying. Capitalism is built off of mutual agreements over price. While I don’t enjoy the daily depletion of my bank account, I have accepted this is the cost of my addiction.

No, you’re good she says.

The problem is that she looks guilty as well, even though it’s only resulting from her attempt to keep things discreet. No need for other customers to ask questions.

But as humans, we’re trained to detect non-normal behavior (thank you, Lie to Me). Her suspicion arouses mine.

Take your salad and go.

There are hundreds of people in this world who would grab this kale monstrosity in a heartbeat, grateful for the break their bank is getting. Why do I feel such guilt?

It’s yours.

I smile, say thank you and leave without paying.

This is exhilarating. I suddenly want to start healthy catering business. After all, who doesn’t prefer a Mediterranean wrap over pizza?

Could this happen again? I have to go back to see.

Eh, who are we kidding. I’d go back anyway.

We’ve Been Here Before

This is the fourth time in a row I’ve gotten a free salad. The balance of goodwill has seriously shifted in one direction — and it’s not in my favor.

I actually feel genuine guilt when I walk out of the store. How will they pay their employees? Aren’t salad materials expensive? Whoever was nice enough to chop these roasted sweet potatoes into bite-sized pieces for me surely deserves adequate compensation.

I should make them all cookies or something.

Is that appropriate for a place that sells salads?

I drop what amounts to a 50 percent tip into the jar. In reality, I’m getting a 50 percent discount, but I decide to suspend reality for the moment.

The next day, they let me borrow their first aid kit when I trip and fall on my elbow while running.

Student loans seem far less daunting now. I’m mired in the debt of goodwill.

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The Time I Missed Work and No One Noticed

This summer may as well be a vacation. I intern from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., three days a week.

Other than that, I have zero commitments. I have never lived here before, so I put most of my free time toward making friends and exploring the city. No family to report to. No curfew. It’s mostly me, my new friends, and a lot of running and other forms of exercise.

My supervisor and I have already bonded at how we can plow through a pack of gum in a few hours. We both have the jaw muscles of a snapping turtle.

Life is good.

Are you asking me or telling me?

It’s 2:55 p.m., which means it’s time for me to pack up and head home. I pause at my supervisor’s cubicle before heading to the elevator.

“Anything you need from me?”

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“No, you’re all set! See you Thursday.”

Thursday? I’m supposed to come in tomorrow.

I let it slide. Unlike me, she’s in the 3 p.m. slump. Mistakes are bound to be made in the midst of brain fog.

I push the “DOWN” button, and smile at the thought of my upcoming five-mile run. This city is so nice in the summer.

My brain obsesses over the Thursday gaffe. I may be an intern, but this company values me enough to notice I’m not where I’m supposed to be.

… Right?

Time to A/B test this thing.

I have been fired and they didn’t tell me

7:30 a.m.: I wake up, shower and get ready for the day. Luck favors the prepared, and I should be ready to dash out the door cursing the fact that “I overslept.”

8:00 a.m.: This is it. If you wait another minute, you will be late. I stay seated. If this were a game of chicken, I would win.

8:30 a.m.: I open my laptop, and get my phone ready for the deluge of attempts to find out where I am.

8:45 a.m.: Nothing yet. But sometimes my supervisor doesn’t arrive until 9. Also, I’m not self-involved enough to think the company can’t function without me.

9:10 a.m.: She must be really behind.

9:30 a.m.: Well, if she showed up late, she probably has to play catch up. She doesn’t have time to figure out where I am.

9:40 a.m.: You would think, though, that she could have asked HR or the intern coordinator to determine my location.

9:45 a.m.: Maybe she’s sick.

9:47 a.m.: Or maybe my absence has caused her so much work she can’t even find the time to talk to HR.

9:52 a.m.: She had a big project prepared for me today, and I didn’t show up. No, that can’t be right. My imagination is too friendly with hyperbole.

9:55 a.m.: She’s on the phone with the client, who has said they are firing us because we cannot deliver.

10:00 a.m.: I’m fired. They’re so mad at me, they haven’t even bothered to tell me my position has been terminated.

11:00 a.m.: That was unproductive. Craigslist has nothing listed for summer internships. I’ve already paid my entire summer’s rent. Looks like this is a summer vacation.

12:02 p.m.: May as well go for a run.

12:05 p.m.: Geez, it’s hot out here. How do people manage lunch runs?

12:10 p.m.: I can’t stop thinking about getting fired. I’m in no mood to run, anyway. It’s too hot.

2:00 p.m.: Still nothing.

3:00 p.m.: Nothing.

3:30 p.m.: Nope.

4:00 p.m.: Zilch.

4:30 p.m.: Nada.

5:00 p.m.: The prodigal son was welcomed home, I rationalize. Perhaps if I go in tomorrow and apologize profusely, I may be able to return. After all, I’m unpaid. It’s not like they are losing anything.

5:05 p.m.: I ask my roommate if my apology sounds convincing enough. He doesn’t have any feedback. Screw him.

5:20 p.m.: I had no idea there were so many ways to apologize. I am suffering from information overload. Thanks, eHow.

6:00 p.m.: I’m tired of rehearsing this apology. Plus I’m hungry.

10:00 p.m.: I can’t sleep. I’m fired. I can’t sleep. I’m fired. I’ll never eat again.

A cog in the machine

I get assigned a project on Thursday. Afterward, my supervisor and I go to lunch. This is it. This is the confrontational speech. I mentally rehearse my apology on our way to the diner.

She doesn’t bring up yesterday’s debacle. Neither do I. Perhaps, we have silently agreed to put the past in the past.

A month later, I tell her what happened. I can’t stand the guilt.

“That’s too funny! I never noticed.”

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The Time I Worked for a Woman Who Loved Animal Print

My stomach muscles are contracting. I can feel the corners of my eyes wrinkling. No! Resist. Do. Not. Laugh.

She is organizing coins on her desk and narrating the entire process. A moment ago, she emptied the contents of her purse in front of me.

To think: This started as a meeting to talk about a client report.

“Five pennies. That makes a nickel.”

“Oh, another dime.”

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I bite my tongue. I’m an intern, which means I have to pay homage to everyone, especially senior staff. It’s a privilege to be here.

I can’t handle this right now.

The other intern is with me. I can’t look at her. I can sense her trying to contain herself as well at the sheer ridiculousness.

“A quarter!”

Keep it together. Think about cats or something. I suddenly realize she’s wearing leopard print. The irony is too much.

I can’t keep my lips from turning upwards. I hold my breath. If I starve myself of oxygen, there’s no way I’ll slip up.

A leopard shirt and a turtle-patterned scarf. It comes into focus now. Have you ever noticed she wears nothing but animal print, the other intern said to me yesterday.

I hadn’t noticed, but now it’s all I can think about.

Oh gosh! Her earrings are tiny elephants!

“35 cents. 40 cents. I’m so glad I’m doing this right now.”

My stomach contracts again. Reflexively, I breathe in. Uh-oh.

She checks her email in front of us. Phew. That was close. As she looks at her screen, I smile, covering my mouth with my hands to look like I’m yawning.

She changes the topic to the client report. I relax.

The topic shifts back to the pile of coins. She begins organizing them again. My stomach contracts.

Her elephant earrings dangle.

“A quarter here. A nickel here.”

My eyes wrinkle again. My lips turn upward. It’s happening. It’s happening, and I can’t stop it.

The turtle scarf clashes so much with the leopard shirt.

“Dime. Dime. Dime.”

Resist! Dead cats. I have no friends.

How is the other intern handling this? I let my eyes shift left to see her reaction. She’s clearly battling as hard as I am.

Our eyes meet. I’ve lost it.

I put my notebook in front of my face and begin to shake with laughter. Whatever. If I lose my job, at least I’ll go out with a smile on my face. Not that I could remove the smile if I wanted to.

The leopard print keeps organizing her coins. The elephants keep dangling. Unfazed, she looks up.

“This is so fun, isn’t it?”

We never do talk about the report. The meeting ends, and the other intern and I walk back to our cubicles.

We turn the corner. I confirm something I’ve always known: The best feeling in the entire world is deep, guttural laughter shared with friends.

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The Time I Ate a Pound of Dark Chocolate. And Then Ran Like a Kenyan.

After three months of the paleo diet, I am tired of lettuce and avocados. Every day, I make the same trip to the same place for lunch to eat the same salad because it is the one salad that adheres to the strict rules of no grains, no dairy, no sugar, no beans, no gluten, no …

I want some sugar.

I have resisted the urges to eat something sweet for three months, and it’s finally getting to my head. The grocery store is a mere 10-minute walk from my apartment. My roommate is staying with his girlfriend tonight because she has air conditioning. We don’t. I need something to distract me from the oppressive humidity.

No! Resists! You’ve done so well for three months. You’ve even lost weight. Losing weight is good for running.

But … dark chocolate is … okay …

Right?

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Technically yes, but I think it has to be at least 90 percent cocoa or something. Basically, past the point of any enjoyment.

Eh, whatever. That’s good enough for me. I’m going.

Satisfied with my rationalization, I head out the door, wallet in hand. Fifteen minutes later, I find out the grocery store doesn’t sell dark chocolate above 66 percent cocoa. Probably because it fails to attract any buyers.

The angel on my shoulder should be putting up a fight, but for whatever reason, my willpower has completely disappeared. Discounting three months of success, I pick up the palm-sized chunk of dark chocolate. It feels good. Light. It’s a trusted brand.

The devil on my shoulder smiles characteristically. He promises me I’ll only have one square.

Satisfied with my faulty logic, I head toward the checkout aisle.

Then I see it. I do a double take. It’s almost surreal.

I didn’t know they made chocolate bars that big outside of the Hershey’s store in Time Square. It has to weigh at least a pound. Children could do bicep curls with this thing.

The paleo diet is founded on consuming things only found in nature. There is nothing natural about this chocolate bar. But the signals in my brain telling me to EAT ALL THE SUGAR are 100 percent natural and extremely hard to resist.

I’ve spent three months exhausting my willpower. I put the small bar back and replace it with the bar five times its size.

Wracked with guilt, I step through the self-checkout. There is no way I will let another human give me the judgmental stare.

I literally run home.

I jaunt up the stairs.

I sit down in my chair and throw on a YouTube video. It’s of professional triathletes racing. Clearly, I’ll just burn the calories vicariously.

I eat a square. Three months of denying my dopamine receptors has made them extra sensitive. My low-carb diet has made my insulin receptors much more powerful to small changes in my blood sugar. 66 percent cocoa leaves room for a huge sucrose dosage, and even after eating one square, I feel gooooood.

I eat another.

I place the rest of the chocolate in the freezer — it will melt otherwise — and continue watching the race, marveling at how skinny these professional athletes are.

The chocolate begins calling my name. Loudly.

I can’t focus on the race. It’s taking all of my focus to not focus on the chocolate. Don’t think about pink elephants.

I am suddenly reminded of the problem with sugar. Once you start, there’s no going back. Like each new season of House of Cards, I may as well get this over with.

Forty-five minutes later, the race ends. I stand up to throw away the wrapping, deliberately covering the nutrition facts. I don’t want to confirm my suspicions that I’ve just eaten 3,000 calories worth of chocolate.

I realize I may as well have just raced the actual triathlon. My heart is pounding. Like OMG-Frank-Underwood-just-shoved-her-in-front-of-the-Metro pounding.

Is this what cocaine is like?

Running Route Boston

I usually have time to enjoy the trees on my run. Today, they were a blur. Photo credit: Amy Emily Photography.

I’m super aware of my sense of touch. The world seems a little brighter. Thoughts are flying through my head with increasing speed. I could do 100 push ups right here.

I drop down and do 15.

I sit back down to put on another race. I have nothing else to do; today is supposed to be a rest day so there’s no working out.

I can’t sit down.

I stand up.

I sit down. Bored.

If I put on the race, that will distract me. I click the suggested video. Watching the start line of a triathlon releases adrenaline as I relive memories of Cross Country races. My heartbeat jumps to 120.

Screw the rest day.

I’m going to run a marathon.

I haven’t felt this good on a run in a long time. Pushed forward by the skyrocketing levels of glucose in my blood, combined with the incredible guilt and sudden need to burn off 3,000 calories, my legs rocket me forward.

I’m smooth. I’m fast. I’m unaware of anything other than the rocket strapped to my back. That chocolate bar must have been laced with jet fuel.

I increase speed. I feel even better.

Two miles into the run, and I’m still flying. I made today a rest day because I woke up this morning with high levels of fatigue in my legs. I’ve since traded them for the legs of an Olympic athlete.

Faster, faster, faster. Yesterday, I read something about the butterfly effect, and it comes to mind. I wonder if I’ll cause a hurricane in China.

Three miles.

Four miles.

Based on the loop I’m running, I’ll end up doing about 6.5 miles, which is a long run for my current level of fitness. This summer I have been focusing more on strength training, which means I keep the runs at 45 minutes or less.

My energy levels are starting to normalize, so I accept this distance.

I’m home before I realize it.

I still feel good. Three months of no sugar has left my body incredibly sensitive to the stuff, and still have enough of a caloric surplus that I could probably run the entire loop again.

I decide to go to the grocery store instead.

I want some chocolate.

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The Time I Took a Kickboxing Class and Couldn’t Walk for a Week

It’s not that we’re frenemies, per se, but we’re definitely rivals. We are cordial to each other, but we compete over everything. Who is in the professor’s better graces. Social networks. Grades.

Especially grades.

Until today, we have never competed in fitness. We ran together once, but it became pretty clear it was an unfair competition. Four years of cross country played to my advantage. Plus, she hates running, so she doesn’t practice often.

Still, she can’t lose, and the run left her bitter. She challenges me to join her at a kickboxing class.

She goes twice a week. She has an obvious advantage. Sounds like a challenge. I hate losing, so I say yes.

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I’m pretty fit, right? I did a half marathon last month, and she can’t even run five miles.

The class

This is such a typical workout class. I’m one of two men, and one of three people under 30. I remember why I don’t like workout classes. Even though I’m not, I feel like I’m on display.

We begin with jumping jacks. How tame.

As we move through the warmup, I narrow my focus. It’s just me and her. She has challenged me to this duel. I will not crack first.

I need a little mental readjustment as we switch from kicking our right legs to kicking our left. But after swinging the wrong arm three times, I get the syncopation down.

Is that all you got?

Step-and-kick is a little tougher — mentally, that is. Physically, I feel great.

Me and her. That’s all there is in the room.

We’re now doing a strange box step combination. We’re still kicking. Always kicking. This is taking some serious focus. I feel as if I’m cheating myself because I have to mentally readjust to kicking in the opposite direction every time we switch legs. She transitions as if she’s done it a hundred times.

I then realize she has done it a hundred times.

We step up on the box. We kick. We step down. We back up. We jump squat. We pirouette. We repeat.

Other side.

She’s still chugging along. I have slightly less physical energy than when we started. Mentally, I’m exhausted.

Drop down and do three push ups. Jump up. Step up. Kick right. Kick low. Kick high. Switch legs. Switch back. Swing your partner do-si-do. Do a barrell roll.

Slide to the left. Slide to the right. Now kick! Now kick! Now kick! Now kick!

Suddenly, she stops.

I pretend not to acknowledge. I’m getting somewhat tired myself, and it’s taking all my mental capacity to keep up with the current Macarena absurdity.

We turn, and I get to look at her full-on. Yep, she’s definitely taking a break. She glances at me and smiles, conceding.

I’ve won! I mean, we still have 30 minutes to go in the class, but I have won this battle. I have outlasted her yet again.

Now, it no longer becomes about winning, it becomes about how much can I win by? Bolstered with adrenaline, I soldier on. We’re now doing the Dougie.

Thirty minutes later, my physical exhaustion catches up with my mental exhaustion, and I’m grateful we’re now stretching. The hard part has ended.

Afterward, she doesn’t directly acknowledge that I’ve beaten her, but that’s okay. We both know what happened.

The next day

It’s really hard to stand up. My hamstrings … no, my glutes (I think?), aren’t working. My calves are tight. My quads feel useless. Cross Country races placed less strain on my body.

Refusing to admit what has happened, I hop in the shower. The stiffness will pass, I tell myself.

I have a four mile run scheduled that day. I could do it in my sleep.

I start the run and begin to wonder if I am, in fact, asleep. My legs aren’t moving correctly. It’s as if the nerve signals are only being sent to half of my muscles.

Running feels like a foreign act.

It will get better after a few minutes.

It doesn’t.

It’s worsening. Filled with stories about over training and injuries that result from pushing too hard, I decide to call it a day.

“Are you walking?”

WHAT THE…

How is she here? Did she plan to come here to see this happen? How does she look so good? Why are her leg muscles working?

A thousand other questions run through my exhausted brain.

I smile and mutter something about a rest day. I don’t directly acknowledge that she’s beaten me, but she knows that’s okay.

We both know what happened.

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The Time I Ate Lettuce and Passed Out in the Library

Passing out is riveting. As the human body spews adrenaline into the bloodstream, the downward fall is accompanied by a drug-like rush.

This afternoon, I complete a hard swim workout. I’ve overscheduled myself (pretty common these last few weeks of junior year), forcing me to rush to join dinner with the on-campus club. They are catering Subway. Not my favorite, but if I eat the meat and vegetables off the bread, it’s still technically paleo.

I have been paleo for about two weeks. I have no idea what I’m doing.

All the socializing distracts me from how hungry I am after the swim workout. Any endurance magazine will tell you to eat a mixture of protein and carbs to replenish lost glycogen stores. I decide I know better and take my meal sans carbs. Just a little lettuce, please.

I’m surrounded by friends. My drive to be the center of attention propels me to ignore the signals telling me to eat something sweet.

One of the selling points of the paleo diet is that copious amounts of protein and fat kill hunger pretty quickly. It obviously works because I no longer want to eat. Weird, because I’ve only consumed two slices of meat and a handful of lettuce.

Whatever … only eat when you’re hungry, right?

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The party ends and I make my way to the library to hammer out some work. Because I hate lugging around my 17-pound laptop, I visit the computer lounge. So far, so normal.

Twenty minutes go by. This paper seems to be writing itself. Everything is flowing.

Five minutes go by. I feel jittery. Overstimulated, but exhausted at the same time. My heartbeat starts to increase without explanation.

Passing Out on the Paleo Diet

How I would have appeared if this had happened 700 years ago. I like to imagine I would have been royalty.

Because I drink too much coffee, periodic rushes of adrenaline are not uncommon. But this feels slightly different. For starters, the feeling is not going away.

In fact, it’s getting worse.

I’m suddenly panicking.

In the computer lounge.

You’re fine. Everything is going to be fine.

My field of vision starts to shrink. My brain goes into primal mode.

Suddenly, all of the books and magazines I have read about survival and mindset (I am a big fan of National Geographic Adventure) come to mind.

You are fine. Everything is fine.

It’s a simple case of mind over matter.

You are fine. The words are starting to lose meaning. My vision is almost completely obscured.

You’re fine! Everything is fine. I continue to calm myself in an increasingly panicked manner. Ironic, much?

What is happening?! It’s like my body is short-circuiting. I think I’m having a panic attack. This would be a little more acceptable in my apartment, but I’m in the library for goodness sake. If I make so much as a loud exhale, I will get judgmental stares from the studious.

My world caves in. My vision disappears. I feel a faint sense of falling.

Suddenly, it’s over. It happened so quickly, no one around me has noticed. I breathe a sigh of relief. I may be dying, but at least I’m being dignified about it.

I’m still in my chair, and the cursor is still blinking on the screen in front of me.

What just happened?

I decide it’s probably best to call it a night. I pack up and head to the bus station. I noticed I’m drenched in sweat. My entire body feels electrified.

Still unaware that these are common symptoms of fainting, I decide to do some WebMDing when I get home.

I come to the conclusion that I passed out from low blood pressure caused by dehydration or a lack of replenishing my glucose stores. This paleo thing is no joke.

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The Time I Made My Friends Eat Pizza and Run 4 Miles

“There are only two options regarding commitment; you’re either in or you’re out. There’s no such thing as life in-between.” ― Pat Riley, President of the Miami Heat

I can no longer participate in scavenger hunts.

Objectively, I know I should be organizing this hunt ― not acting as a participant. The memories of my loss in New York City, which prompted a six-mile run at a blistering pace through Central Park to burn off the anger, still rings sharp in my mind.

That was two years ago, and I’m still not over it.

I should take the hint that no one wants to be on my team.

Not-so-lucky for my teammates, we don’t get to decide. Partner 1 and Partner 2 are forced to endure me this evening.

Also not lucky for them, we are having a pizza dinner with the on-campus club beforehand.

The con

Scavenger hunts are one giant con. Often pitched as a mix of endurance, strategy and energy, nothing could be more wrong.

These things have nothing to do with skill.

Nothing to do with endurance.

Unlike triathlons, in which the win comes down to who can grit through the pain for longer, scavenger hunts are decided by one thing: Who is most lucky.

Any level of success is entirely a roll of the dice.

The pizza is filling

The club president lists the rules. Find 12 objects on campus, take a picture, come back to the starting line. First team wins.

Competition is the ultimate drug, and I’m feeling the full effects.

Partners 1, 2 and I quickly strategize our route. We plan to start at the farthest point and work our way back. Each of us is in our junior year, and mapping campus is fairly simple. Stomachs full, we depart.

Quickly, we realize nearly every group has formed the same strategy. A group of 20 college students migrates to the first location, en mass.

This is absurd. We have to distance ourselves somehow.

Naturally, that means we should start running.

I plead.

My teammates ignore me.

I plead harder.

Some eye-rolling, which is better than no response at all, but not the desired effect.

I plead even harder. Loud enough so the other teams can hear me. I want them scared.

Nothing.

Screw wooing flies with honey. I begin running. If they want to call themselves winners, they had better keep up. A few hundred feet behind me, I hear their footsteps quicken. I pretend not to hear the moans.

Object 3

We’ve managed to distance ourselves. Our running has become a walk-run-shuffle, but I look around satisfied that no competitors are in sight.

After snapping a pic in front of Object 3, I feel myself relaxing.

Relaxing is no good.

Winners never relax. I decide to coax my teammates into a faster pace. I gently tell them I think we should be running. Again.

They roll their eyes and comply. By now they realize it’s pointless to argue.

While I don’t admit it to myself, I think I see Partner 2 rub her stomach before I turn around.

Object 11

I can’t believe how well we’re doing. As long as I manage to ignore the complaints from my team, I allow myself to think about winning.

We snap our photos next to Objects 11 and 12, and begin to head back. Running, of course.

Partners 1 and 2 are now openly holding their stomachs. Dean Karnazes has done it before, I tell them. They remain silent. They don’t know who that is.

How could they not know who that is?

Why we didn’t win

We arrive, the first to return. Triumphant!

But before I can celebrate the campus president tells me there is another winner. Suckerpunched.

I immediately look around the room and laugh. Unless the entire team is using the bathroom at the same time, I don’t see how that is possible.

We are the only ones in the building.

You’ve overlooked a rule, I am told. A team does not have to arrive back to the starting line to finish the challenge ― they merely need to text the campus president all 12 photos.

Meaning… I don’t understand.

Meaning, the president explains, that it was strategically wrong to start at the farthest point and work our way back. Instead, we should have worked our way outwards, snapped the last photo, and then leisurely headed back to the start, having already won.

Suckerpunched again, I’m irate.

My teammates are irate. They realize the massive pangs of indigestion are ultimately worthless. I roll around in emotional misery. They roll around in physical misery.

I protest the win for the next two hours.

I plead.

Nothing.

I plead harder.

Nothing. The entire club makes fun of how completely inept I am at losing gracefully.

Furious, I leave, vowing to claim tonight as a win.

Today

Four years pass. I never participate in a scavenger hunt again. I won’t let myself.

I’m too bitter at being conned.

Image from: Pixabay.com