fear and loathing at the health and wellness expo

Dialing the numbers to respond to an advertisement in the newspaper for an unspecified “scientific study”, Rodney Whiffleberry, then 38, had no way of knowing he was about to meet his destiny, but as his ghostwriter said in his 2005 autobiography that you can probably still buy at Dollar Saver supermarkets, “this thing chose me.” A mild-mannered engineer from Stepps-Felkman, NE, the bespectacled father of two answered a few questions about his lifestyle habits from the bored voice on the other end of the line, then two weeks later found himself carefully draping his beige London Fog knockoff jacket across the back of one of the plastic orange chairs placed in a circle under the green institutional fluorescent light of the room where he had taken high school history twenty-two years before. Other people had left their jackets on, but he had wanted to convey a friendly demeanor. It kinda felt like jury duty, he thought to himself. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea. Once the chairs were filled, the man in the sweater who had collected their clipboards cleared his throat and addressed them in an accent so thick they were all pretty sure they had misunderstood what he had said until he wheeled the blue plastic trash can containing the keg into the room, confirming that, yes, they were finally updating that video they show you in defensive driving where the people do a bunch of driving tests before and after drinking.
After they all completed their initial round of parallel parking, navigating cones and stopping from 30mph on wet pavement, they gathered back inside for the first round of drinks and all remarked to each other how they had all chuckled to themselves at whatever weisenheimer had inevitably made a “hey, how do I sign up for this study?” joke at the various times they had seen the video, then chuckled again during the third round when a lady said that she hoped their clothing and hairstyles wouldn’t look too ridiculous in a few years. By the fifth round, the raw footage included a woman demurely covering her mouth to burp as she answered questions assessing her own performance to an off-camera voice, lots of folks giggling, and an older man weeping openly when shown how many cones he had knocked down. It also included Whiffleberry’s amazing performance, during which his driving actually improved dramatically with every beer consumed. The scientists who analyzed the data had to edit Whiffleberry’s entire presence, save for his participation in a sloppily executed group high five in the fourth round, out of the finished video out of concern that viewers would incorrectly imagine themselves similarly gifted, setting aside Rodney’s footage for a separate scientific study.
The fellows at the local Demolition Derby were reluctant at first to accept an entrant that had to shotgun a few Erlich’s Lights before he could even put in his teeth guard without gagging, but found themselves convinced by his speed and precision on the mud track once they finally gave him a chance. He quickly rose through the World Driver Rankings, and by season’s end he was the favorite to take home the crown at Nationals, setting up a wildly anticipated showdown with five-time reigning champion Dave “Water Bug” Mellontien. Though the independent investigation never could conclusively determine whether the rumors were true about the groupies Mellontien sent to Whiffleberry’s trailer to distract him while he replaced his customary pre-race pitcher with one of O’Douls, there was certainly no contesting the results of the Derby. Poor Rodney never raced again, content to return to his old job richer a lifetime supply of his main sponsor’s product, Cool Beans: the only barbecue baked beans with a refreshing menthol aftertaste in every can.


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August 2012
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