The first time I heard about the Darwin Awards, named after the father of evolution, Charles Darwin, and given posthumously to people who “improve the species... by accidentally removing themselves from it,” I cackled like I was auditioning for a voiceover gig for the clown ride at the county fair.
It slowly sank in, however, that all the honorees did actually die because of their antics, so I felt a little guilty for laughing. But I was still flabbergasted that anyone more evolved than an early Homo erectus could be more concerned with packing their camera equipment than their parachute when preparing to go skydiving, or deciding the best way to avoid bee stings to the face is to encase your head in a plastic bag.
So, unless you’re an obese P.E. teacher or a doctor who smokes, you’ll appreciate the irony that I, Madam Le Smug, was recently a contender for a Darwin Award myself.
It all started when a dear friend decided I had not been appropriately acknowledged for my volunteer work at the school. But rather than present me with flowers like the other volunteers received, she knew the ideal consolation gift for a friend who seemed to like her pants just like her coffee – filled to the rim – was to give her an iced loaf cake from her favorite bakery.
It started innocently enough as I sliced off a piece (okay, a wedge) for an afternoon snack. I ate it. I may have also, possibly, let out a few sounds of ecstasy while I did so. Nothing out of the ordinary. I then went about my afternoon.
A couple of hours went by and I commented to my husband that a mosquito must have bitten me in the exact same spot on both sides of my torso. Soon after, I declared this mosquito to be the “Where’s Waldo” of his species, popping up as he was on every nook and cranny of my body.
I finally raised my shirt with the trepidation of a dedicated La Leche League mother of five at her first Mardi Gras and discovered a rash and welts so severe that I rushed to the medicine cabinet for Benadryl.
I then spent the next hour feeling like a kid’s Scratch ‘N Sniff activity book, though no one would get close enough to see if I smelled like strawberries, lest it was something contagious.
Once the medicine took hold and my condition was downgraded from epidemic to eczema-like, I pondered the cause of the reaction. And try as I did to blame the healthier items I’d eaten – like the banana, wheat bread or chicken breast – I deduced that the cake was the only thing out of the ordinary I had consumed that day. I digested this sad fact alongside the decadent frosting and settled in for an itchy and restless night.
By 10:00 the next morning, I was itch free and in
desperate pursuit of my second cup of coffee. As I headed to the coffee maker, things
started to go decidedly
on me. I spied the demon cake nearby and, somehow, convinced myself that it
couldn’t have been the cause of such physical distress. The only possible
explanation for this decision is that the secret ingredient in my favorite
pastry is one heaping cup of devil, because I swear that cake called out to me:
“Here, not-so-little girl, one bite won’t hurt you.”
In a trance-like state, I immediately convinced myself that having a second serving would be like conducting a science experiment. I simply needed a controlled sample to exclude any possible variables. (If this doesn’t make sense to you, it’s probably because I made it up as I went along.)
I now understand that real scientists would have started out with a very small bite, or would have conducted the experiment on a rat instead of themselves. This scientist? Well, I cut myself a hog’s hunk of cake, just in case it would be the last one I ever ate. I assure you I meant this in the sense that I wouldn’t be able to order this cake again—not because I would be dead.
I ate it. All of it. I was home alone and may have uttered further sounds of ecstasy, but – just like those proverbial trees that fall in the forest – because no one was home to hear them, they can’t be included in my Honorable Mention Darwin Award application. What may have to be disclosed, much to my embarrassment, is that this time the welts were on the inside as well as the outside of my body. My throat started to close up and I dove for the Benadryl.
As I waited twenty anxious minutes for the medicine to take effect, all I could think about was the fact that if I died next to a plate of these cake crumbs, my husband would have to declare my cause of death to be gluttony. All of a sudden the parachute-less skydivers and head baggers are looking pretty smart, aren’t they?
Award-winning writer* Shana
McLean Moore is a resident of Almaden Valley in San Jose, CA.