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Inside looking out: For 500 bucks …

Published May 18. 2019 06:04AM

I have this weird habit of asking irrelevant questions in the middle of a serious group conversation. I will pick my spots when nothing is left for anyone to say or when a friendly debate has heated to a point where those in conflict are preparing to draw pistols at high noon.

Some time ago, a discussion about White House politics at a dinner table of friends began to veer off the topic and get offensively personal. I kept my mouth shut, having learned from experience to never argue politics or religion.

So when the talk turned tense and the lips got louder, I sprang into action. I looked across at Jack, who I had picked as the more easily distracted from the disturbance of the moment.

“Hey, Jack,” I said pointing to a full jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise on the table. “For 500 bucks would you eat that whole jar with a spoon?”

Jack stared at the jar. “How long you gonna give me?” he asked.

“Twenty minutes, but you can’t get sick for 24 hours,” I replied.

“No way!”

“How about $1,000?”

“For a grand I’d give it a go. What happens if I get sick?”

“You owe me $500.”

“No way!”

“How about $5,000 with the same payback if you get sick?”

“You’re on. Get the spoon!”

Of course, we never play for real. I’ve done this line of questioning with sticks of butter, bottles of ketchup, and even a bottle of ranch salad dressing. That bet got an agreed upon offer of $10,000 with a 10-minute time frame to drink the whole bottle.

They say that every stupid thing we say has a serious message behind its stupidity. I’ve learned that most everyone can be persuaded at a certain amount of money and will do most anything to get the cash.

The other interesting thing I learned was that a challenge is something most of us find intriguing. Whether it is pride, or courage or even the temptation to do something risky, we are excited about trying anything out of the ordinary.

I also have other fantasy idea games that I play. Last week I met with three guys who played football for me back in the day. We remembered actual plays that won some games 30 years ago, but we had difficulty recalling what we had eaten the day before.

Speaking of food, I presented this scenario to my buddies.

“You are sentenced to die tonight for a murder you committed. You’re allowed anything you want for your last meal, from appetizer to dessert. What would you choose to eat?

“Calamari, a slab of pork ribs and a piece of fudge chocolate cake,” Bill said.

“Shrimp cocktail, a rib eye steak and some homemade cannolis,” Nick replied.

“New England clam chowder, twin lobster tails and a banana split with vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream,” Vinny said.

When it came to my turn, I said I’ll take lobster bisque soup, then fresh walleye caught from a fly-in only lake in Canada, hoping they would take at least a week to fill my order! For dessert, I’d want blueberry pie a la mode with fresh picked blueberries from New Jersey and Edy’s vanilla ice cream.

We all laughed and wondered if actual prisoners sentenced to the death penalty would have an appetite. Then we laughed and agreed that we’d chew every bite of our food very slowly.

I like to raise the idea of a fantasy dinner, too. If you could invite three people, alive or dead, to have dinner with you, family and friends excluded, who would they be?

I’ve changed my mind a hundred times from the names I had listed in a previous column I had written. So here’s my new group: Jesus, Lucifer (the devil), and Mills Lane, voted the best boxing ring referee of all time, to help keep the peace! Then again, Jesus was not a fighter, but we’re talking about Satan here, so I would bring along the fight announcer to shout, “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

I also like to throw out the stuck in the elevator for 24 hours scenario. I’d put you in there with a family member with whom you have broken off ties and have held onto a longtime grudge. Of course you’d have no weapons to attack each other with, but you could still get physical with your fists. You might also decide on a code of silence and not speak to each other for the 24 hours, but I’m thinking that by the time you are rescued, the two of you might just exit the elevator with a relationship that’s been repaired at some level.

So if you still hold a grudge against your brother, your sister or whomever for whatever reason, would you make amends for 500 bucks? How about $1,000? $10,000?

Back in the day, your relationship might have been priceless.

So why don’t you get together again and make your peace for free?

Rich Strack can be reached at

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