By Ryan Cady
We've all done things we regret. Maybe you've overdrawn your debit account, or lied to a spouse, or had one too many drinks and suffered a legendary hangover -- me, well, this one time I ate 45 Chicken McNuggets in one sitting.
Excess really is the pinnacle of stupid bro-culture. Sure, pounding shot after shot of cheap liquor is quote-unquote epic, but at least with booze, the more you drink, the better you feel (for the most part). But when it comes to half-assed, harebrained overeating contests, nobody wins. It's not just the morning after that feels like hell -- it's the entire period of time until the next bowel movement (bowel movement included).
The 50 Nugget Challenge is something that my friends and I have been talking about for over two years. I don't remember why; it probably started because of some ludicrous deal Mickey D's was offering. It just a joke of course; we were never actually going to do it. That is, until the stars of stupidity aligned just right, on Nov. 29, 2013.
My friends and I had finalized the plans the night before, on Thanksgiving. We figured our bellies would be fully distended from the turkey overdose, and as long as we didn't eat much in between, our overindulgence would be a walk in the park. My buddies figured a few shots beforehand might even make it easier -- hell, maybe even fun. We were wrong. We were naïve.
The gorging began at around 8 p.m. The lady behind the counter was either fed up or used to our particular brand of bullshit because when we put in an order for 150 McNuggets, she didn't so much as bat an eye. We each walked out with a large Coke, a large fry (to break up oily beigeness with more oily beigeness, of course), multiple containers of each dipping sauce, and 50 Chicken McNuggets. We drifted back to my buddy Sean's house, our spirits high, and the feast began.
It was just three of us tackling the challenge: myself, my buddy Sean, and our mentor, his cousin Travis. A true paragon of masculinity, Travis had already eaten a plate of fish tacos for lunch that afternoon. Our fourth, David Wells, was slated to join in the bacchanal, but he came down with a sudden case of sanity and backed out, though he showed up later to witness the carnage. We attracted an audience: Andy, a mutual pal, Travis' girlfriend and most of Sean's family. It was like a second Thanksgiving, but with twice the sickening gluttony.
The first nugget was fine. So was the second, the fifth and the 20th. The sad fact of it is that, up until the 30th nugget, I was actually feeling pretty good.
I don't eat McDonald's that much, and it was kind of nostalgic, slathering the fried pink ammoniated slime bits in ranch dressing and stuffing them down my gullet. We laughed, we made jokes and the scene was merry.
Then, quite dramatically, it all began to change. At nugget 30, Sean began to stare gravely at his remaining food. He looked like he wanted to belch but had no mouth. I began to notice that what had become a total lack of flavor (even when doused in sauce) was transmogrifying into a hideous, rubbery tang. After nugget 38, every bite was a struggle. Sean's father hovered like a vulture, calling dibs on whatever we didn't finish.
I glanced over at Travis, and shuddered. He was dead.
Or, at least, he looked the part. His eyes had gone vacant, a half-eaten nugget hung grotesquely out of the corner of his mouth and he had one hand poised, wrapped around his empty cup of Coke. Mechanically, he chewed. Once. A few seconds passed. Twice. He chewed hollowly on the same bit of nugget for nearly a minute until he finally swallowed. His eyes met mine, and suddenly, we all knew we had failed.
"We've made a terrible mistake," I muttered. My stomach felt like it was full of lead. It wasn't like I had to puke -- I don't think I could've puked if I tried -- it was that there was literally no more room, especially not for nuggets.
"I'll quit if you will," Sean mumbled. His eyes were pleading. It was all the permission I needed. I silently folded my remaining nuggets into their box and placed them before Sean's father. Travis and Sean did the same, and we each collapsed to various corners of the floor.
I won't describe in detail the physiological symptoms I endured -- bloating, burping, stretching agony -- but I know that my brothers-in-arms felt the same, and that, above all, the truest pain was the pain of our shame:
We had failed.
The final tally was Sean with 42, myself with 45, and Travis as the "victor" with 46. There simply wasn't room to finish all those nuggets -- not for all the felicitations and laurels in the world. We fell to the floor like dogs, and surrendered. The onlookers grimaced, except for Sean's dad, who was too busy munching on the carrion remains of our unfinished nuggets with reckless abandon.
I asked the guys if it was worth it.
"Never in my life had I seen men welcome death so feverishly," said Andy, shaking his head and eating a small sandwich, like a sane person.
Travis fixed upon me with a blank, Nuggety stare and remained silent.
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"I would not recommend this challenge for any human being ever, regardless of how much support one has," Sean texted me the following afternoon, presumably clutching his toilet bowl. "And for those who may still attempt it, may God have mercy on your souls."
As Shakespeare himself once wrote, "Naught's had, all's spent, where our desire is got without content." It was his words that echoed in my ears as I clutched the tile of Sean's bathroom floor, burping up Sweet 'n Sour sauce. I bought my McNuggets, and to all the fanfare that a living room full of acquaintances could give me, I attempted to conquer them, but failed. It was all for nothing.
At least, until we try again next year.