I take dares.
I’m not terribly discriminating about the dares I take if there’s money involved. Some people think of it as gambling. I think of it as making $600 an hour if I could just get consistent dare-type work.
So far the work hasn’t been consistent.
There is a mass of people that look at a dare and furrow their brows and think to themselves, “No way I’m doing that.” That’s not me, obviously. I will consider anything as long as there’s no moral shame involved and a minimal chance of arrest or infection. The way I see it, this is my opportunity to rise above a life of status quo. Of mediocrity. It is my chance to grossly exceed expectations. When a person dares me to do something, they are really saying, “I’ll give you x to do y, because I don’t think you’ll do it.” It’s my chance to do it with gusto and make a little something on the side. It’s an honest living.
I was trying to sleep in the middle school car line, with my car seat fully reclined and my alarm set for 3:18 p.m., so there’d be no honking horns or embarrassing moments, when I began thinking of the trail of dares that stretches out behind me. I have some moments of radiant glory. I also have some moments of regret.
A couple of years ago at our annual famping trip, my friend, Brent, was suffering with plantar fasciitis, as I am now. He spent a fair amount of his porch relaxation with his foot stuck in a white, plastic cooler that was half full of ice. Over the course of a couple of days, that ice melted to ice water. And by the end of the third day, it looked every bit of the foot water that it was. That’s when the dare came to life. I normally work for about $600 an hour, which breaks down to $10 per 60 seconds. How much I charge depends on the length of time a task will take and the level of intensity or disgust.
Approximately 20 years ago, the lobby of our local Red Lobster contained a lobster tank that was situated between the bathrooms and the maître d stand. I don’t know what possessed my friend to think of this, but upon standing there too long as we waited to be seated in the middle of a Sunday lunch crowd, she said, “I’ll give you ten bucks to put on the mask and snorkel and wear it for a full 60 seconds.” I looked over at the lobster tank to see what she was talking about. The tank was decorated with a dingy looking snorkel set, which was perched and hanging over the side.
“Deal,” I said without much delay. I mean, it was 60 seconds. ONE MINUTE. That almost felt like I was stealing from her.
“I’ll start the timer,” she said as I walked over to the tank. Todd became a tad alarmed at this, as he doesn’t share my love for getting rich by taking dares. But it got away from him before he could reel it back and I was standing at the lobster tank before anyone realized what was about to happen.
I leaned over the tank, pulled the mask over my eyes and put the snorkel into my mouth. Elaine started the clock.
I got this, I thought to myself. 60 seconds. The moment that timer started, my friends scattered. Todd, Elaine, Brent. I was left there with my thoughts, which were darker than I expected. My head was tethered pretty tightly to the tank, but I managed to look toward my right. When I did, there were two Red Lobster employees at the maître d stand staring back at me. Their looks were a cocktail of confusion and contempt. I looked away as quickly as I could.
At this point, I considered bailing. I could take off the mask and snorkel and be done, but then I’d have to live with the knowledge that I did something really disgusting and received nothing in return. I couldn’t go back now.
How LONG is 60 seconds? And where did everybody go? I wonder who the last person was that put this snorkel in their mouth. I hope they didn’t have tuberculosis. Maybe it’s never been in another mouth. Maybe it was bought new for the sole purpose of hanging over this tank. Or maybe it was taken off the dead body of a shallow diver. It tasted way too old to be new. I couldn’t believe how alone I felt in that lobby and how long it seemed that I stood there. The smell of murky fish water was curdling in my stomach. The only thing that could make this worse would be throwing up into the tank of live lobsters.
When it seemed like I was halfway into a life sentence, Elaine walked back over and said, “OK, you’re done,” and I yanked my equipment off and placed it carefully against the side of the tank again. Then I attempted not to make eye contact with anyone who had watched this go down. That night at church, I passed Elaine on the way to my pew and held out my hand. She slapped a crisp $10 bill into my palm and said, “You earned it.”
And that’s why I like dares.
Getting $10 to soak myself at Busch Gardens was a much lower-paying, higher-suffering gig. I was forced into the fountains of Jungala wearing jeans and sneakers and forced back in when I was deemed “not wet enough yet” by the friend who was paying. I was cold for the next 3 hours and had to eat at Taco Bell, still fully drenched from a bet that wouldn’t even pay for my dinner. Although I made $600 per hour with the snorkel, I was reduced to about $3.33 on the Busch Gardens water stunt.
But back to the white cooler and the foot water.
A bet was forming that weekend on that porch that was going to be a pretty lucrative situation. When it began to take shape, I was a hard no on the matter. It was a lot of water. Flavored by feet. But there were others involved that wanted to see this happen and a pool began to form. Before I knew it, that pool was up to $200. I mean, that’s a lot of money. But Todd has suffered many times in the background of my shenanigans. And this time, he was very much on top of it.
“Wait a second, what is this?” he asked, as he caught wind of the dare and the cash reward.
“I’ve offered Missy $200 to drink this cooler of foot water,” Brent said. Others chimed in that they were helping with the financial portion.
“No,” Todd argued. “NO.” He looked at me with a hint of exasperation. “I’ll give you $200 NOT to.”
Aww. Man. It was really important to my family that I not take this dare.
But also, foot water.
Ultimately, I did not take that dare. And no one paid me $200 not to take it. So of course, I sit here in a middle school car line with an aching right foot, thinking about foot water, and planning what I would do with $200.
I like to think I would make a hefty deposit on a new mountain bike.
But I think it’s more likely the money would go toward something practical. Like a new cooler, because I’ve been told I need to ice my right foot. If I do, I’ll end up with my very own vat of foot water—which I would tell you to dare me to drink except that I’m pretty sure you can’t afford me.
But if you can,