My Job: Stupid bets when I’m not stocking shelves

I’m a sucker for bets. This story takes place over a decade ago, but to this day I still challenge coworkers and friends to ridiculous bets, usually for $1. It’s not about the money. It’s never about the money. It’s about the… well, I don’t know.

In high school, I worked at a grocery store, and it was there I had one of the worst experiences of my entire life. I was working one night with a guy who we’ll call Blake.

That night was an overstock night, not a truck night. We weren’t receiving any new shipments at all that day, so our job was to take the leftover shit in the warehouse that didn’t fit on the shelves yesterday and see if they’ll fit today.

In other words, on an overstock night we would slack off for at least a few hours. How would anyone know any different? Even if there’s room on the shelf the next morning, there’s no way to know WHEN something was bought. Maybe someone came in at 4:00 am and bought 27 jars of Prego?

Teenager Adam didn’t have a particularly outstanding work ethic.

Sometimes we would do shit that would have certainly gotten us fired if anyone checked the cameras. Or if the cameras even worked in the first place. Like the time we rode around on pallet jacks in the back warehouse and had a can fight. We threw metal cans at each other while riding store equipment like skateboards.

Other times we’d do dares and bets. One night Blake and I found a gallon jug of distilled water on the shelf that had minor container damage, so we had to throw it away. But before that, he dared me to drink the entire thing, on the spot. I got about 2/3 of the way through (while trying to suppress the laughter that comes from doing stupid shit late at night) before I had to vomit.

Another time he dared me to down an entire 22oz ice cream from the gas station (they were $1… I miss the 2000s sometimes). Worst brain freeze ever, but I chugged that motherfucker.

The worst dare started out with him betting me $10 that I couldn’t drink an entire bottle of castor oil. Thank God I didn’t. The plant that castor oil comes from also contains ricin. You know, that poison that Walter White used to kill a couple people in Breaking Bad? I probably would have fucking died.

Of course this was 2005, way before that show, and it’s not like I ever knew that ricin came from the castor plant before ten minutes ago when I researched “castor oil overdose.” My only concern at the time was that it would be super inconvenient to shit myself a hundred times over the next 12 hours.

Blake “Okay, how about a habanero pepper?”

Me “That doesn’t sound fun.”

Blake “It’s not that bad; trust me.”

Me “Alright whatever. As long as you actually pay me.”

Blake “Don’t worry, I’ll pay you.” (And he did.)

Break time rolls around, and we go to the fruits and vegetables section. With the bright lights, refrigeration, and those mist sprayers that keep the veggies moist for whatever reason.

He reaches into a small green basket filled with these reddish-orange peppers, about as long as your typical jalapeño but twice as fat. He picks out the biggest, thickest one in the bucket, because he’s a fucking asshole, and we go to pay for it.

I placed the pepper on the conveyor belt, along with a gallon of water, just in case it was too hot or something. The pepper itself cost 11 cents.

You’re probably screaming at your TV right now, “But Adam! You need milk to cool your mouth off after eating spicy foods, not water!” Someone says that almost every time I tell this story. Fucking thanks, Rachael Ray. Let me just go back in time and educate my 17-year-old self. While I’m at it, I’ll be sure to mention that habanero peppers can be up to 140x hotter than jalapeños. Or that you’re actually meant to use a tiny piece of one pepper in an entire stew or dish.

Up in the break room it’s me, Blake, and two other random people who were on break. I don’t know who they are, but I guess they can enjoy the show too.

I’m standing there with it in my hand, holding it a few inches from my mouth, about to bite into it. I mean, it’s just a fucking pepper, but I was still having a lot of second thoughts. Maybe even third or fourth thoughts. But being 17 and packing a nearly pathological God-complex meant I had grown quite accustomed to ignoring the voice in my head telling me not to do stupid shit. I like to LIVE my life, not run away from it!

Blake continues to taunt me, calling me out, questioning my manhood, my sexuality, my potential lack of bravery, etc. I tell him to go die, as I’m the one who has to eat the thing.

Bottoms up.

I pop the whole thing in my mouth, bite it off the stem like a cherry, and start chewing it.

At first, it is possibly one of the worst tasting ‘foods’ I’d ever eaten. It encompassed all the worst flavors and textures that come to mind when you imagine the phrase “shitty vegetables.” Crunchy, chewy, and juicy all at once, in the most disgusting way, with that earthy, leafy taste. Like tonguefucking your front lawn.

I wanted to throw up just from the taste; it was that bad. So I chewed what I could and swallowed it as fast as I could. Probably only five seconds had passed since I first bit into this monster, but it was an eventful five seconds.

Right before I swallowed the last remnants, still probably only six or seven seconds in… I started to feel it coming. The spiciness. This would be my final moment before I became a man. My last prerespite from what I did not realize was an imminent wave of excruciation.

Mouth was starting to get kinda hot.

This kept increasing. After a few seconds, it was getting pretty uncomfortable. Wow, this thing is… kinda… HOT… okay, this isn’t supposed to get THIS hot, right? Oh man. Oh WOW. What the hell! WHAT IS THIS? WHAT IS THIS BURNING?

I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that for the next ten minutes, I experienced more pain in my mouth and throat than I had ever felt anywhere, at any time, on any part of my body, even counting my numerous childhood injuries. Even including the time I fell on a fire hydrant (I was 4 years old and climbing on one) and literally cut my nut sack open.

All this mayhem and destruction from a one-inch little piece of shit called a habanero pepper.

When I was rewriting this story in my transfer from Blogspot to, I had to look at the Wikipedia entry for habaneros, and I had to find a stock photo for this post. I still get a shaking, deep chest shudder when I even LOOK at the picture. And this was THIRTEEN YEARS AGO.

This pepper was proof God exists. No natural cause could have produced something this evil. Forget mosquitos, Noah should have left these fuckers off the ark. Televangelists should just feed habaneros to the nonbelievers and tell them this is what Hell will be like.

I was screaming to nobody in particular, frantically waving my hand at my mouth like a fan, as if that was going to do anything.

Of course Blake was laughing his fucking ass off the entire time. He was holding back a mild snicker before I ate it, but after I popped it into my mouth and it was too late to back out, he was howling. Fucking prick. His face was redder than the pepper, and I think he was eventually crying because he was laughing so hard at me.

Or maybe I only thought he was crying because I couldn’t see clearly through the tears that were most certainly flowing out of my own eyes. I was in such pain that if someone had shot me in the face, I would have been relieved to die.

My water was the only thing that gave me any relief.

But it only felt good AS I was drinking it. Immediately after I swallowed the water, the pain went back up to 100. And I couldn’t just sit there with water in my mouth, puffing my cheeks out like a bawling squirrel, because it wasn’t just my mouth that was in pain. My throat shared the same fate.

So I just kept drinking and swallowing water.

As if I didn’t learn anything from already doing that exact stunt just weeks earlier, eventually when you drink TOO much water, you’re gonna have to vomit.

Well that’s what I eventually needed to do. And when it called, it did so with immediacy. I needed a toilet NOW.

I barely make it to the bathroom stall, if you count throwing up partially on the floor and toilet seat as “making it.” It wasn’t just water in my stomach though. Vomiting water would have been annoying but fine. My stomach contents had two residents paying rent that night. I had forgotten the mechanics involved in human digestion.

Okay enough with the poetaphors. Bits of the pepper came up with the chunks I was hurling. Habanero particles got to make a second trip through my mouth, starting the pain process AAAALLLLLLLLLLL over again.

So what could I do to ease the pain?

I just drank more water. I wasn’t in a position to strategically consider my available options, and this was before I could grab a smartphone and google what to do in 15 seconds. I had a flip phone, where the only “internet” feature was that button you would occasionally accidentally press, and then frantically hit the End button to cancel whatever hell you’d just unleashed before it racks up a bunch of charges on your family’s phone bill.

Blake laughed so hard throughout the ordeal that he probably sprained his diaphragm. We never did any dares after that, because we didn’t need to. He won. Forever.

Coincidentally, my girlfriend-at-the-time (still one of my best friends today) showed up for some shopping about 10 minutes after my break ended. I wasn’t literally begging for Death’s sweet embrace at that point, but I was still in a ton of physical pain. That didn’t completely go away for about 40 minutes. But even after that, late into the night, there was a dull, tingling, slightly numbing feeling in my mouth and on my tongue.

Blake explains to my girlfriend what happened because I’m still having trouble with complete sentences. She says to me with resigned bewilderment:

“You have no one to blame but yourself. I don’t feel sorry for you.”