“Eat the salt!”
“Eat the salt!”
“Eat the salt!”
The chant was getting louder and gaining steam. There was no way out. I asked myself “How do I get into these things?” But I knew the answer. Men are idiots, especially when around their buddies.
It all started innocently enough. Dave, Mike and Justin had all joined me at our regular table in the back of the cell block. We spent most of our time back there making something to eat after a workout or just sitting around telling lies about the good old days. Since it was a story telling session and not a food session, the stomach grumbles got the better of us. Dave’s cell was the closest, but that wasn’t the reason he went for food. He was the group Sasquatch, seriously. I once had to dig an in-grown hair out of the bottom of his foot. But the size of his big ol’ heart matched his hair-suit body. So he fed us. We were hungry so Dave went to get a bag of pretzels to share. I like food, so I like pretzels. With four guys in their early 20’s the bag did not last long.
The fates did not look kindly on me that day. That particular bag of pretzels ended up having an unusual amount of salt in the bottom. Prison is a supremely boring place so anything out of the ordinary is noticed and commented on.
“That is a crazy amount of salt in that bag,” I said aloud to no one in particular; a statement I would soon regret.
Justin was the first to comment. He was the group provocateur, so his simple question made sense. “Well, what can we do with it?” It was hard to read how serious he was behind his dark purple sunglasses. Justin had a serious light sensitivity so he got to always look cool with the glasses. Mike was the peacemaker in the group. There were few flare-ups, but Mike still kept a lid on our disputes. He was the one who suggested “We should have somebody eat it!” Right away those three started a chant of “Eat the salt!” And all their eyes turned to me.
All dares implicit or explicit are accepted in our group, as they probably are in most groups of immature males. Guys are always concerned with the chest thumping pecking order. Or proving how tough they are. Or just are stupid. So it wasn’t a question of IF I would do the dare, the question is what will happen after I do it. I grabbed the bag and poured the contents into my mouth. I knew instantly it was a mistake, but there was no going back. My ego would never allow me to spit it out. However, right away I realized I couldn’t have if I had wanted to. The salt and pretzel flakes sucked even the thought of moisture out of my mouth, maybe out of my entire head. It formed into concrete, filling every contour of the inside of my mouth. The taste was simultaneously cold and burning. Not sure how that was possible. I knew I was
in trouble. The only thought in my head is “Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit.” It took some time for there to be enough saliva build up to turn the concrete into a thick paste just around the edges. There was so little moisture in my mouth that I actually felt relieved when a tear falls down my cheek. I think it means I may not actually die from dehydration. After some longer amount of time passes, minutes maybe, the thick paste is dissolved enough to maybe do something with. I can feel my karat heart rate is up, my breathing is shallow, and cold sweats have set in. And finally I try to get some salt down the old hatch. with the first little swallow, queasiness sets in.
It takes most my concentration to get my tongue to move, just a little. The little bit of my mind not freaking out about having a ball of poison in my mouth realizes that I and my table mates have become the focus of the guys in the cell block. Everyone is looking at what an ass I was making of myself. My stupidity is making me famous.
The more saliva I can work up, the more little swallows I can take. And with every little swallow the queasy feeling gets worse and worse. After several minutes, but what seemed like hours, and lots of laughing from my friends and the whole peanut gallery, the salt is gone. That’s the good news. The bad news is the queasy/heart rate/sweating thing is near crisis. In that moment, that bag of pretzels became my mortal enemy. I try some deep breathing techniques to get things back under control. As soon as I feel like I might just not die, I hit that tipping point every drinker knows: the moment you know when you just won’t be able to will your stomach to keep everything down. I was puke free since ’93, but now I was only moments away from tossing my cookies. I get up id quickly without saying a word. I’m afraid if I open my mouth it’s not words that will come out. The good news is that I’m confident I can make it all the way up the stairs, down the range and to my cell before the inevitable happens. The bad news happens when I make it to the top of the stairs and turn the corner onto the range. I’m behind a slow walker, and the range isn’t wide enough to go two wide. Normally if I was in a hurry I would just say something and go around him. But again, fear of opening my mouth.
Of course this new twist brings more laughter from all those that were watching me on the bottom range. And of course the slow walker hears the laughing and stops to see what is going on. Really!?!’.’ I do take the opportunity to slide past him though. I should have just went to Dave’s cell. It was only a few feet from our table.
I finally make it to my cell, and just in time. My wall almost got what the porcelain did. The heaving sounds made it all the way back to the table. Justin came up to check on me. When he gets there I am ralphing so hard my toes are throwing up gang signs. As the waves of nausea rack my body, I hope for death. But my body finally rejects all the salt and within a few minutes I feel better. After I clean myself up I rejoin the table for the inevitable. Such a display will no doubt get me months of ribbing, maybe years. But when I sit down the onslaught of jokes doesn’t start. Weird.
The guys are actually concerned. I must have really put on a show. Justin feels guilty since he was the first one to look in my direction when the chanting first started. He felt so guilty in fact he says he will eat the salt too. I try to warn him away from it, but to no avail. His guilt or his ego are too strong. It didn’t really surprise me. Justin has the strongest sense of morals in the group. He is the guy who would cut off his nose to spite his face. So the hunt is on for an empty bag of pretzels. Strangely it only took a few moments to find someone who just finished a bag of pretzels. Justin eating the salt must have been fate.
His bag had slightly less salt in it than mine. At least that’s what I tell myself when he doesn’t seem to react. However, his run from the table happened a little faster than mine. He heaved so hard blood sprayed out of his nose. His good fortune was that he didn’t have to slow walk behind somebody to get to his cell. It was near our table.
When Justin rejoined the group, Dave decided he wanted to try the salt. I was done warning people away from the experiment so we somehow found ANOTHER empty bag of pretzels. Dave choked it down and then we waited. And waited. Nothing. Dave had no reaction. Apparently human/sasquatch hybrids, when in their natural habitat, must have lived near natural salt licks. More than having to puking reaction, eating the salt apparently revved-up Dave’s metabolism because not twenty minutes later he went to his cell and came back out eating a big salty summer sausage like it was a Slim Jim. With the last bite he just said “You guys are soft.”
The next day Mike succumbed to the lure of the salt bag. He puked three minutes later.
Amongst us four, to this day “Eat the salt” is synonymous with, “Man up and do it.” And to this day, the memory of that queasy feeling I got from the salt has never gone away. I still hate pretzels.
Wayne Snitzky #312456
PO Box 57
Marion, OH 43301