Marolt: Haunted by the ghost pepper on wings
Dear Steamboat Springs Tap House Sports Grill,
I figured out why you are so good at cat and mouse. It’s because you don’t play it. I thought your ghost-pepper hot-wing challenge was a publicity stunt. I treated the release-of-liability form like a 2007 no-doc loan agreement.
You have to admit that it sounds like a joke when you say the cooks have to wear gloves handling the things. It doesn’t help that the hostess pleaded with me not to try downing six of those babies in five minutes and then forgo drinking anything or wiping my hands off for another five. I thought it was reverse psychology. And the prize, a T-shirt; that’s what you get for knocking down lead bottles with a softball, not for something this insane. For Pete’s sake, we’re tourists!
I’m not blaming you. I got myself into the magma-hot miserable mess that came with “winning” your challenge. I learned, though. From now on, I swear I’ll do the research beforehand, and I will not wait until after I have taken the plunge and am wondering if death or permanent physical damage is occurring as I cry and frantically search the Internet for medical advice and antidotes only to learn instead that ghost peppers are 1,000 times hotter than jalapenos.
I thought I was prepared. I spent the holidays in Texas, and I was looking for things to do when we had lunch at a Taco Villa that inexplicably had habaneros in the condiment cart. I just popped one of those things in my mouth and waited for my head to explode. But three hours later I nearly felt back to normal. It’s mind over matter, right?
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Of course, you want to know how your ghost-pepper wings compare to a raw habanero. Let me put it this way: An hour after eating the habanero pepper, I thought I was going to die. For 18 hours after ingesting your hot wings marinated in ghost-pepper extract, I sincerely wished I had. If I had been so lucky, I never would have walked into your establishment.
I will say I was surprised when the hot wings were served. I was expecting them to be coated with sauce, not paste. There was no way to shake any off between bites. I guess you’ve had cheaters before.
When the clock started, I began chomping. I ate without problems for about five seconds. Then the heat hit my tongue. It felt about the same as a wayward framing hammer on your thumb. I kept eating because I believed the pain couldn’t get any worse and that stopping then wasn’t going to bring any relief. I guessed wrong.
When all the meat was in my belly is when what must feel like hell in a heat wave broke loose. My eyes gushed with tears like my nose poured out snot. This was mixed with a Niagara Fall of sweat running off my forehead.
There was a sudden, loud rushing sound in my ears that turned into a maddening, high-pitched hum. The searing pain at the back of my throat was at my threshold, and I felt a panic attack coming on. There was absolutely nothing I could do to reverse course. My vision narrowed. Everything in the room became a blur. I heard voices that seemed far away, but I couldn’t understand them. Imagine trying to concentrate on what’s happening in the real world with each earlobe in an ever-tightening vice, hanging there like 20-pound earrings. My hands and cheeks began to vibrate violently. After that my arms and legs went numb. Scared? You better believe I was!
I hyperventilated while telling myself that it was only a sensation and no real physical damage was occurring to my body. I can’t say so much for the festering emotional wounds.
After an hour I barely was able to support my own weight again. Walking to the car, my son took the keys and said, “I’m driving.” I was still shaking, dazed and wondering if anyone got the license-plate number.
Back home four hours later, I kissed my wife and set her lips ablaze. About every 20 minutes I was downing yogurt and guzzling whole milk on the rocks. Unadulterated misery! Sometime around 6 a.m., the incredibly painful end to what may be the most poorly constructed chapter of my life closed with me cursing on the toilet.
What was the motivation for this stupidity? I did it for the kids. I wanted to make my teenage son and his buddies laugh. I apologize if the convulsions, mine and theirs, alarmed some of the lunchtime crowd.
Roger Marolt has been to hell and back, and all he got was a lousy T-shirt. Contact him at email@example.com.
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