I want to talk about self control, but in a funny way.
It was two years ago that I made the decision to never eat shredded wheat again. Standing at the kitchen sink, bowl and spoon in hand, frantically trying to picture what it was I needed my esophagus to do for me. Was it a contraction and relaxation cycle that was needed? Was it like pinching a straw and pulling your fingers down its length? Or was it just to relax? And what happens when food gets stuck, exactly? The food was below the larynx, but how much internal pressure and friction could my esophagus (mine, in particular) withstand before it gave out in some way? What would that like?
What would it be like to die from shredded wheat? The shredded wheat, besides having a tendency to plug, was abrasive. I was essentially packing a scouring pad down my throat over and over, with a little milk. Was the milk helping? Isn’t Elmer’s glue made from milk? Isn’t that why the cow? And clearly it was causing the wheat to expand. Besides essentially praying, the only tactic I could think of was sipping milk and pacing.
Later, I would wonder why I didn’t try jumping up and down. Landing hard on my heels.
I knew that high blood pressure causes the arteries to stretch. That stretching causes tearing. Gunk gets caught in those tears, restricting flow, which causes more stretching, which leads to more tearing, which leads to more gunk getting caught, which ends in blockage and myocardial infarction. Or such is my understanding. Does that happen with the esophagus?
My problem, I understood, was that I ate shredded wheat too quickly, and I could not rely on myself not to. If I survived this event, I had to altogether stop eating shredded wheat. I had already made this same promise twice before just this week, so this time it had to be real or else. My intuitive grasp of statistics made me certain of it. There is, in the laws of the universe, some probabilistic ratio of near-misses to terminal incidents, and, while one could not call any given roll of the dice based on the previous one, one could make a prediction about a large enough set of rolls. So my rolling of the shredded wheat dice had to stop. It wasn’t that I was due to die next time, but I had to stop before my continued survival began to appear miraculous.
I thought about this today while wondering if this would be that day that I die, not from a ruptured esophagus, but from a more banal choking death on pinto beans and Cholula.
Is it even possible to stop eating pinto beans?