When we were growing up, Eli drove us everywhere. Cliff still lived abroad, McCannon was too lazy and too stupid to pass his permit test before Virginia bumped up the age minimum, Bart was a a loser, I didn’t really know Al that well yet, and I was way younger than everyone else. So we’d pile into Eli’s creepy white Plymouth Voyager (literally held together with duct tape) and roam the hard streets of Northern Virginia trying to convince people we weren’t the DC Snipers. As time went on, our group posted a car collection that would make Jay Leno blush: There was McCannon’s iconic ’95 Corolla known simply as ACE, Bart’s ’92 Tercel (that had a huge dent in the side of it from where I kicked it while drunk and later convinced him that he must have been victim of a hit and run), Eli’s upgrade to the ’94 Accord that leaked fluid onto the feet of whoever rode shotgun, and Clifford’s Ranger pick-up truck which once hit 100 mph in a residential neighborhood.
We may have been driving ticking time bombs and playing jeopardy with our lives each time Eli stalled out in the middle of an intersection, but one thing we never did was drive under the influence. Even if it meant that we’d end the night with nothing in our stomachs but the poisons of C2H6O. Every now and then, we’d summon our designated designated driver to bring us to the hellhole that is Amphora Diner in Herndon. But rarely would one of us bite the bullet to stay sober so that our friends could raise hell in a public venue at 3:00AM. So what would it be like to race around DC to our favorite late night eateries? And what would the food taste like without the aid of a couple cold ones? LET THE GREAT EXPERIMENT BEGIN!
The rules to this event were a bit more complicated than its predecessors, so stay with me here:
Rule #1 – Each participant must be 100% sober and alone in an automobile of their choice. No shotgun riders or groupies are allowed to be in the car with the participant.
Rule #2 – Each participant may not carry a location-aiding device, including but not limited to: GPSs (obviously), cell phones (a game changer), and paper maps (who still uses those?).
Rule #3 – Each participant will roll a 20-sided die to determine the pole position to start the race. Once pole position has been established, each participant will place their cell phones on a table and start a timer on their phone. Each participant will then line up their cars and take a pace lap across the street from Rudy/McCannon/Bart’s house. Each participant will be required to blast a rowdy song with all their windows down during the pace lap. Once the cars return on the main road, it’s on like Donkey Kong.
Rule #4 – Each participant must return with a receipt from Julia’s Empanada’s in Dupont Circle, any Adam’s Morgan Jumbo Slice establishment, and the Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street. If the participant chooses, he may purchase a slice of pizza from Jumbo Slice, a half-smoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl, and any empanada from Julia’s Empanada’s and return to the starting location with these food items (this comes into play later).
Rule #5 – Upon returning back to Rudy/McCannon/Bart’s house, each participant must enter the home, stop the timer on their phone, and tape all three of their receipts to the front door in a similar fashion to how Martin Luther aired his gripes against the Catholic Church. The participant must then grab a chair from inside and sit on it in the front yard so that they can laugh at everyone who finishes after them.
Rule #6 – If the participant returned with all three food items, the man has the option to consume all three food items within a 15 minute time window. Upon successful completion, 5 minutes will be removed from their overall time. There is no penalty for beginning the eating challenge but failing to finish within 15 minutes.
1. Al – 10 points
2. Rudy – 7 points
3. Clifford – 5 points
4. McCannon – 3 points
5. Eli – 2 points
6. Bart – 1 points
1. McCannon – 27 points
2. Al – 24 points
3. Rudy – 19 points
4. Eli – 17 points
5. Bart – 13 points
6. Clifford – 12 points
Testimonial from the Winner – Al
One hour, six minutes and twenty-three seconds after we started our phone timers I was the first to pull into the driveway.
Like everyone else I had meticulously researched my route on Google Maps. Almost all of us had independently come up with the same “course.” I must note here that Cliff actually drove his path the day before the event and told Rudy he was “out doing something with his mom,” after an unexpected call. If I had enough free time I probably would have done the same thing.
My sate inspection sticker was a month expired and I was missing my right sideview mirror. I was terrified of getting a ticket and if they nabbed me it would have been a doozy. The fine(s) would have hurt but the embarrassment of pulling up long after everyone else had finished, ticket in hand, would have been far worse.
I wasn’t the fastest driver into the city and I wasn’t used to being in D.C.’s First Ward sober, during daylight hours or in a car. After getting Jumbo Slice I took a wrong turn on the way to Ben’s Chili Bowl and lost valuable time getting to the U St. restaurant, but it was at Ben’s that I won the Drunk Food Derby. It was here that I played my cards just right and took the lead.
I cut in front of a blind man.
I’m not proud of what I did. Ben’s had the longest line I had ever seen. It went out the door and wrapped around the corner, extending almost half way down the alley. A doorman was standing outside to prevent the place from getting too crowded. I chatted up the “bouncer” and learned the line was for people waiting to sit down and eat. Because I was planning to stroll back outside very soon, I walked in just as a blind man who had waited through the line realized he could do the same. I like to think I have a kind heart despite my somewhat-abrasive personality and I felt terrible as the blind man followed me in. The fact that he didn’t know I had arrived 30 seconds earlier made me feel even worse.
Bart and Rudy were already inside. After standing in line for a minute I remembered our event had a loophole. I needed to buy food from each location and provide a receipt, but it didn’t have to be my food. I tapped the shoulder of a girl about to pay the cashier and explained my situation. Everyone around us laughed and the girl was more than happy to let me buy her Half Smoke. I was even asked if I was a part of a TV show. No longer being a part of the line, I felt a little better about my method of entry. My conscience wasn’t completely cleared until the blind man himself piped up to say he would have let me cut if I had been behind him.
A few minutes later I was running from Ben’s with a receipt in hand and had sole possession of first. I knew the Foggy Bottom roads extremely well and my route was much faster than the one Google had suggested. Rudy caught up with me at Julia’s and we got back into our cars simultaneously. With the finish line being the only stop left, I knew victory was mine as soon as Rudy took a turn I didn’t need to make.
One hour, six minutes and twenty-three seconds after we started our phone timers mine was the first to stop. Without all three food items I couldn’t eat to secure my lead and was in danger of having Rudy and Cliff overtake me. We had so much adrenaline in our systems we could have done anything at that moment; anything except eat a couple thousand calories of cold, congealing, coronary clogging food. Once everyone had thrown in the towel on the eating challenge my victory was in the books. We all had ridiculous stories from that day, but mine was the only one with ten points attached to it.
Testimonial from the Loser – Bart
All I have to say is these shitbags whored themselves out while I played the game fair. Also, Julia’s Empanadas could not be worse sober even if you added human excrement. Goodbye.
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