Alex and the Would-Be Wonder Stomach

As I mentioned last week, I've got a few older posts that fall into the "Life, Work, and Faith" category that I'll be posting sporadically. This post was written almost four years ago but it's still a night I remember vividly. I'm not sure if that's awesome or pathetic. I'll let you be the judge.  Last weekend I was at a big party for a couple of friends who are getting married soon. It was a huge deal with somewhere between 100 and 12,000 people in attendance (maybe closer to the 100 side, but still big) all gathered together to celebrate our friends and their upcoming marriage. At some point in the evening, however, the focus of part of the group shifted from the happy couple and landed squarely on the shoulders of one of the guests.

As our hosts were cleaning up the food, I and some of the people at my table decided it would be in our best interest if we ate another dinner roll or two. Our gracious host left the tray of rolls with us but after we’d all had our fill there were still eight rolls remaining. Enter Alex Walton and the Would-Be Wonder Stomach.

Alex moseyed over to our table (because, you know, we’re awesome and everyone wants to hang out with us) and before long started eying the rolls. He said something to the effect of, “Those rolls look good. Too bad I’ve already eaten three.” Still he slowly reached for one more and began nibbling at it.


Over the years I have been a part of an amazing number of stupid adventures, dares, and competitions. Sometimes these revolve around food, sometimes physical exertion, but no matter what, the key is always idiocy. I have a friend who has attempted the “Gallon Milk Challenge” at least twice. Once I convinced a friend to, while on a first date, always refer to any food item as “num nums” in exchange for my paying for his date. I paid; he did not get a second date. In college a group of us decided it would be a great idea to take one of those mechanical wraps that are supposed to work your abs and strap to our thigh, and then try to walk with it. The goal was to see who could put the wrap the farthest up his leg and turn the power up the highest and still be able to walk. My roommate Shade cranked that sucker to ten and made it approximately eight feet while whimpering like a baby before falling and yelling to, “Get it off! Get it off!” (Every single one of these feats was done, mind you, without the influence of alcohol.)

More often than not I am not one of the participants but rather the jerk who talks other people into doing them and then sits back and laughs. I’ve learned to gauge what approach will most likely work in these situations. If I feel like its money I’ll throw out a number that I would contribute to get the bit done and see if people will chip in. It’s amazing how quickly you can raise 20 bucks in order to see someone eat a plate full of deviled eggs. Occasionally the proper approach is to question the subject’s manhood. Sometimes it is just as simple as to annoy them so much that they’ll take on a stupid challenge just to get you to stop saying, “Come on.” This is my role and I’m okay with it.

When Alex reached for the roll my Stupid Sense (the equivalent of Spider Sense) went off. What would it take to get him to eat all of these rolls, I asked myself. As he was nearing the end of roll number four, I simply threw it out there that it would be a pretty amazing feat if he were to finish the remainder of the rolls, bringing his total for the night to 11 (plus a full dinner and cheese cake). I expected to have to work hard to get this challenge accepted. In a trial, for instance, the lawyer always starts with his opening statement and then moves on from there to present evidence, character witnesses, etc. It’s much the same with a challenge. To my surprise, Alex bought in almost immediately and reached for roll number five.

Now Alex is no behemoth. He stands somewhere around 5’7 and probably weighs a buck thirty five soaking wet. And these rolls were the worst kind, small and compact, the kind that expand tremendously in your stomach. But Alex could sense the impending glory of this night and without speaking he had accepted the challenge.

Over the course of the next hour, Alex binged on the compact, spongy rolls. He moved quickly at first but his progress began to slow around roll number seven. A crowd gathered as they, too, could sense the great things that were to come. I continued to talk Alex through his challenge, usually with encouragement but admittedly with occasional insinuations about what we would think of him if he were to bail out. One of the girls questioned his manhood. The most valued of these comments seemed to be, “If you only eat nine rolls tonight, for the rest of all of our lives this will always be remembered as the night of Angela and Joe’s engagement party. If you eat ten rolls, however, this will be forever remembered as the night that Alex ate double digit rolls.” This seemed to push him through to roll number ten.

Roll number ten was a battle. Alex began to sweat. Jason and I got him numerous bottles of water and encouraged him to just drown it down. Someone handed him a tray to throw up in if necessary. Most of the girls scooted as far away from him as possible. Angela seemed less than enthused that this was taking place at her party. (Sorry Angela, opportunities like this just cannot be scheduled.) At one point Alex gave me a look that was part, “Help me” and part, “I hate you so, so very much right now.” Finally, with about a half of a roll left, he got up and began walking around the pool in an effort to clear space to shove the bread into. He made somewhere around 47 laps, looking miserable the entire time, before finally dejectedly throwing in the towel. As it turned out that last half of a roll was far bigger than it looked.

The crowd quickly dispersed with sighs of disappointment and a sense of pity for what our poor friend had been through (and what he would go through the next day). The events of the evening left me thinking about all the ridiculous feats I had participated in and/or watched my friends take part in over the years and made me ponder how these things come to pass. Perhaps it’s boredom, perhaps a desire to impress girls, perhaps just a need to show how strong we (or our stomachs) are. But for some reason or another, even at 25 or 35 years old, we find a motivation to take on these absurd challenges, to look stupidity right in the eye and say, “Yup, that sounds like something I want to do.” It’s still amazing to me what we, and by we I refer mostly to guys of course, will do for the sake of challenge, for adventure, for respect, and for sheer idiocy.

Perhaps we’re all a little less mature or refined than we’d like to think we are, but on some level (or maybe all levels) I’m okay with that. We live in this world where almost everything revolves around work, money, and responsibilities and maybe it’s a good thing that on a random Sunday night, we can act like idiots and get one of our friends to eat enough rolls to feed the population of a third world country. (At least they didn’t go to waste, right?) Maybe we need a little stupid adventure in our lives to keep us all sane. But aside from all that night will always be remembered as the night Alex Walton ALMOST ate double digit rolls and nearly died at a party.

Anyone up for the Gallon Challenge? Brian