Little Traitor Vegetables

Do you ever snap back to awareness after drifting off into zone-out mode without even realizing it? This happens to me frequently. It’s a lot like when you read a book and get through two pages before you realize you have no idea what you just read; your eyes were doing the work they were trained to do, but your mind was somewhere else. There is an odd relationship between the body and the mind. It seems the body can be acting just as it has been trained, going through the motions, taking care of the little details, while your mind is off in some other room, trying on mind-clothes in the mirror or brushing its mind-hair or watching the latest episode of its favorite mind-show (whatever it is that our minds do when they are off on their own) before realizing in a panic (much like we do when we’ve left the oven on, or not put the campfire out completely, or say, forgotten that it is Tuesday, and Tuesday is generally considered a work day, and we are, at this point, nine hours late, because oh yeah, that thing I kept feeling like I was supposed to do today was GO TO MY JOB) that it has left the body all on its own, and who knows what could be going on!?! Those are the moments when we snap back into reality [there goes gravity!] and have to hurriedly assess the situation (Who are all these people?? Where did I get a giant cotton candy?? Are we in China?!?). This situation-assessment usually results in the mind finding no immediate dangers or threats (phew! the oven/campfire is fine, nothing has burnt down!) while having to embarrassingly endure as the body gently chides, <Good to have you back. You’re lucky I can drive this thing on my own>. I hope you know what I’m talking about; a more simple way to describe it might be frequently zoning out, or having times when you feel almost like you were sleepwalking while awake, or being prone to idle, vacant daydreams. I experience this feeling often; my body sinks into the routine, and my mind is able to do other things in its new free time; then, before I realize it, I’m on the subway, almost to work, or out to lunch with coworkers, or in a taxi heading to some strange new place (who are all these people?? Are we in China?!?). Sometimes, I also end up with a giant cotton candy. I’m really still not sure how that happens.

I have one friend who tells of how this happens to him while eating. He told a story of a date in which he didn’t talk for forty-five minutes because he was so engrossed in his hamburger. Upon ‘awaking’, his date informed him that for that entire length of time his comments were focused wholly on describing said hamburger with the most flattering, poetic, hyperbolic superlatives. While perhaps not on that scale, the zone-out happens to a lot of us around food, doesn’t it? Today at lunch, I accompanied a new group of coworkers to a nearby restaurant. When the food arrived, it was like my vision blurred, someone hit fast-forward and all of a sudden the dishes were nearly empty and everyone was full. In China, the party traditionally orders a myriad of dishes and everyone shares family-style. When the meal is over, there are usually a handful of little morsels left over on each plate. Here is where my zone-out was rudely interrupted by two malevolent little vegetables which quickly brought me back to the driver’s seat.

The first incident occurred when I picked up what I thought was an onion segment from one of the plates. I really like onions when they are the cooked, friendly kind; I’m sure there is a special name for them, like sweet onions or spring onions or something. Anyway, as I picked it up, put it on my plate briefly, then brought it to my mouth with the chopsticks, I noticed three of my coworkers looking at me quizzically. I should have taken the hint; when you are in China, eating with Chinese coworkers, and they look at you quizzically, you probably should not eat what you have in your chopsticks. I realized this far too late, as the object was in my mouth and substantially chewed by the time that epiphany took shape. My tongue started to burn, and I realized with a feeling of betrayal that this was not a friendly little sweet onion, which I imagine grow in a cartoon land and have smiley, happy little faces with their big onion leaf hair; this was, as my coworkers pointed out in English, garlic. They chatted among themselves, and I’m pretty sure they were trying to determine whether I was eating garlic to prevent vampire attacks or friendly, everyday conversation.

But, really, that wasn’t too bad. You can eat garlic. What I wasn’t ready for was the very next item I picked up, which I thought was another friendly, harmless little veggie – a plump red tomato! Surely a tomato wouldn’t betray me. I plopped the whole thing in my mouth and realized with horror that I was wrong. The first bite split the thing in half, and I felt a strange, sick sensation as my mouth filled with what could only be – no. <Not possible.> Jalepeno seeds? <The seeds are where the spicy is!> <I know, Brain, I know!> I responded, terrified, while dozens of these little seeds covered my mouth as the not-tomato burst like some sort of evil pinata full of killer bees and those stickers that get on your socks in tall grass instead of beautiful, colorful little candies (which I imagine grow in a cartoon land and have smiley, happy little faces with big wrapper hair). I endured the wave of heat across my body, and knew that the crazy, perfectly round pepper was about to greet my pipes like a cherry bomb down a toilet. My time was limited (like that time Marshall thought he was going to get food poisoning from the soup in the end of Season 6 of HIMYM).

Seriously though, a spherical red pepper? In a soup? That thing was a land mine.

I won’t fill you in on the details of what happened. We’ll skip ahead to right now, as I write this, downing Mentos and hoping to be able to engage in friendly, everyday conversation before day’s end.

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