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The Most Terrible Bad Sausage Day
Life or death hangs in the balance.
It is hard to trace the consequences of some events. Others are easier. This tale is convoluted in that the end result could have turned out multiple ways. And several of those ways end in the tragic death of one or more teenagers.
Young + Foolish + Small Town.
This tale is actually about an event that I experienced personally. And it all starts at my local 7-11 when I was a pre-driving teen. Now, being young and foolish (I’m not quite so young anymore, I’ll leave it at that), I often chose to dine on the fine cuisine always on tap at 7-11 and other fine convenience store fooderies.
The bill-of-fare in these establishments was always fresh (maybe) and hot (nuclear), enticing the refined palate of teenagers who thrived on foods that usually had less nutritional value than the box that food was served in. And frankly, both often tasted the same. But that didn’t matter - remember the young and stupid part?
On the Friday evening in question, I had big plans. Well, as big of plans as you would expect from a pre-driving teen in a small town located in the center of small-town land. Whatever the case, I wanted to be well-fed for the evening’s events and decided to run (literally) out to the 7-11 near my home and dine on that day’s Chef’s special.
The Sausage of Life.
As I opened the door to the 7-11, I was struck by the sharp smell of cleaning fluids, the earthy body odor from the carpenter who had just passed me on the way out, and ultimately, the heavenly aroma of fresh-baked frozen pizza. As I got closer, the other smells dissipated and the perfume of pepperoni pizza warming under a heat lamp consumed my senses.
I stared at the melty, cheesy goodness of that triangle of joy, just sitting there, glistening in the fat sweating from the cheese, waiting its entire existence for me to enjoy its consumption.
Then movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. I reluctantly turned and shuffled three steps to the right.
The hot dog/sausage rack was always a joy to behold as it drew me over to admire the various tubes of meat from various animals and animal parts. Hotdogs, cheesy hotdogs, sausages, hot sausages, and sometimes other exotic choices spun slowly on steel rods designed to perfectly cook the dogs to tasty perfection. They turned slowly, enticingly, displaying the various doneness of each one.
One sausage in the upper right corner drew my attention. Big, juicy, covered in the grease from its own heated fats glistening on the turning rods. I had to have it. I had to have it with mustard and covered in store chili that had been simmering in the store pot for probably five days or more.
Mmmmm…. Pardon me, I need to run out for a few minutes for no particular reason.
The Unexpected Changes Everything.
Okay, where were we? Ah… As you must imagine by now, I chose the sausage instead of that gorgeous pizza. I grabbed the tongs and snatched that fat and perfectly crisped sausage off the rollers before anyone else could (even though there was no one else in the store, except the clerk/cook).
I slapped that sausage on a bun, pumped on a few threads of yellow mustard to add a sharp taste contrast. Then I buried the sausage in a healthy(?) dose of steaming hot chili covering the meat tube from end-to-end. No onions though, I never could stand the texture of the onions. Even so, it was a culinary delight to behold.
I quickly grabbed a Pepsi and some napkins and raced to the register with cash in hand. I paid and bolted through the doors to plant myself outside at the finest seat in the establishment - the curb fronting the parking spot where no one parked due to a nasty pothole they never fixed. Perfect!
I’m not sure it’s appropriate to describe my consumption of that sausage. Let’s just say I hope nobody was watching me eat it.
I consumed every scrap of that meat(?) stick of perfection and sat there for a time to savor the aftertaste and take in the atmosphere (and a fair bit of pre-catalytic convertor exhaust).
Then it was time to head home and get ready for my evening. The walk usually took about 12 minutes, depending on how motivated I was. At approximately minute nine, I began to feel it.
You know the feeling. You're walking along all fat, dumb, and happy. Not a care in the world. Then your gut makes that funny sound and it suddenly feels like something curled up and died in your stomach (to put it nicely). Then the pressure built. Well… you get the story.
I did make it home without incident. That’s the good news.
Life or Death Choices.
So far, this story seems to be all about me, but it’s really not. Sometimes I just get carried away with story. However, I and my sausage are just a bit players in this particular tale. Let’s get into the hard part.
You may remember that the genesis of the story about that sausage was that I was supposed to go out that evening with three or four friends. They were going to pick me up an hour or so after my life intersected with that ill-fated sausage. Only one of my friends had a driver’s license and a car to drive so this was a big deal.
As soon as I was capable of doing so, I called my friend and told him I couldn’t go.
I felt wrung out the rest of the weekend and didn’t talk to anyone. Remember, this was pre-cellphone days, so you had to actually get up and walk over to the wall phone in the kitchen and dial someone.
That primeval activity was just too much for me.
Monday Morning Quarterbacking.
I was not fully recovered by Monday morning, but felt well enough to go to school. Almost immediately, the shoe dropped.
First period teachers made the announcement immediately at the start of the class. There had been an accident over the weekend and one of the students had died. Being many years ago and in a small-town school, none of us had experienced this before and it was quite a shock to both the school staff and the students.
As I’m sure you have guessed by now, that accident involved the friends I was supposed to go out with Friday night.
Three of my friends had been riding around in an old VW Beetle. They lost control going around a corner on a back road. The Beetle left the road and hit a tree broadside. The friend who was riding in the passenger seat took the full brunt of the impact. He succumbed to head and other injuries that night.
Obviously, I went through a lot of things at that time, but I want to be clear again that this story is NOT ABOUT ME. This is not about my reaction, or my feelings, or even sausages. The focus of this story is about choices and how those choices impact the trajectory of our lives and potentially those around us.
So, the question has to be asked… If I had chosen the pizza instead of the sausage, would my friend be alive today? Would he have lived a long and fruitful life, raised a family, and propagated the generations of family to follow?
In this circumstance, that is a very valid question. My food choice was absolutely the cause and effect of whether I went or not. There is no question about that. Therefore, there is a direct correlation between my gastronomical choice and the numerous factors that led to the accident.
Look at it this way:
I was supposed to go, but at the last minute did not because I chose the sausage.
This changed the timing of all subsequent events.
This may have also changed decisions, direction, speed, total weight of that small vehicle, etc.
Did the choice of sausage over pizza save my life? Did it cost him his?
We can never know of course, but there is no doubt it changed the trajectory of my life and the lives of the boys who did go out that night without me. If I had chosen pizza instead, the event almost certainly would have changed. But how?
By delaying their start of the evening to pick me up, would it have prevented the accident altogether?
Did they choose a different path that evening because they didn’t have to swing to the other side of town to pick me up?
Was the change in timing by NOT picking me up the primary cause of the intersection of that car and that tree? (Now THAT is a horrible thought that hadn’t occurred to me before.)
If the accident still happened, would there have been any deaths?
Or would more have died? Would I have died? Someone else?
Remember, the timing, the seating order, the weight of the car, the interactions within the car, the music choice, the speed, and a thousand other factors changed when I chose NOT to go with them as planned.
Tiny moments in time can change the fortunes and lives of those involved. We cannot predict those moments of course. We can only do our best to do what’s right in that moment.
As we've been learning in this series on Unintended Consequences, it just takes to change things is a thought, a slip, a moment of hesitation… or even a choice between pizza and sausage.
Suddenly, I’m not very hungry.
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Author, Consultant, Wonderer of “What If?”
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