Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Day 233 - The Cinnamon Challenge

I have never attempted the cinnamon challenge. In fact, I have never had any desire to attempt this viral internet challenge, which entails eating a heaping tablespoon of cinnamon without water in less than 60 seconds. My knowledge of the burning sensation and the absorbent, drying effects that accompany high quantities of cinnamon were enough to deter me from attempting the challenge alone. That perspective was only reinforced when I encountered reports of the challenge causing severe medical problems for some as a result of the caustic nature of inhaled cinnamon powder. Prior to my “I have never...” year, taking on the cinnamon challenge simply wasn’t a risk I wanted to take, and I was quite confident that would remain the case even as I started my journey.

That stated, today’s “I have never...” blog entry makes it apparent something changed that perspective. My encounter with the cinnamon challenge actually began several months ago when a co-worker of mine, Keeth, encouraged me to make the cinnamon challenge a part of my “I have never...” year. Sticking to my underlying goal of taking on new experiences that have a meaningful impact or help me learn and grow, I told him I was trying to avoid stunts of that nature didn’t really fit my objectives for the year. Continuing, I told him I that meant the cinnamon challenge wasn’t likely to make my list of new experiences. As far as I was concerned that decision was set in stone; until Keeth said one final remark. “Yeah, I get it. I hear it’s really tough to do anyway. It’s not likely you would make it... but it would be funny to watch!”

Although it certainly wasn’t his intent, Keeth’s passing remark gave me the push needed to convince me to take on the cinnamon challenge. My stubbornness getting the best of me, his comment about the unlikely nature of my success stirred in me a desire to prove him wrong. I didn’t disagree with his assessment given the very limited number of people that have been able to complete the challenge, but I wasn’t about to be written off without trying. As a result, I reluctantly added attempting the cinnamon challenge to my “I have never...” list, figuring it would make its appearance some point during the winter months of my year of new experiences.

At first, I never anticipated my first attempt at the cinnamon challenge would coincide with New Year’s Eve; however the holiday’s coinciding with a Tasty Tuesday in my journey and a flurry of plans for the night required me to come up with a quick and easy “I have never...” event for today. As a result, I set aside time to attempt the cinnamon challenge this evening before Rachael and I prepared to hit the town for a night of fun and celebration. With a little preparation, that plan resulted in me sitting at my dining room table with a stopwatch, a small plate, a spoon, and a container of ground cinnamon before I fully had time to process the ridiculous feat I was about to undertake. Despite the risks, the discomfort, and the mess that would undoubtedly come from the experience, I was about to take on the cinnamon challenge.

 Realizing the longer I delayed the more likely it was I would build myself into a nervous mess, I promptly loaded up my table spoon with cinnamon and lifted the heap of brown powder to my face. I paused briefly to think through my strategy, which entailed attempting to hold my breath as long as possible, breath only through my nose as needed, and roll the cinnamon side to side to saturate the dry powder with saliva as quickly as possible. With that, I stood up and moved away from the dining room table in preparation to start the challenge. My spoon of cinnamon at the ready, I took one last deep breath, opened my mouth, and plunged the cinnamon into my mouth.

Here it goes...
The sensations of burning and dryness immediately made their presence known as the cinnamon came into contact with my mouth. Coating every surface it came in contact with, the cinnamon sapped every bit of moisture around it, which induced an involuntary desire to cough. Doing my best to maintain control, I suppressed the action and began moving the cinnamon around in my mouth. In an effort to manage the pain from the burning, I quickly reminded myself of the agony that came with eating a ghost pepper. In comparison, the burning sensation caused by the cinnamon was incredibly mild, which helped me force through the discomfort and continue my progress toward downing the spice.

To my surprise, I was making good progress at mixing the cinnamon into a paste, but the continued discovery of dry pockets of the powder caused me to continue rolling the cinnamon around my mouth. Eventually, that led me to begin contemplating my ability to swallow the mixture and end the challenge; however, my desire to ensure there was no risk of me breathing remaining bits of powder caused me to hesitate. After a few final rolls of the cinnamon in my mouth, I was satisfied it was ready to swallow, which caused me to take one big gulp.

As the burning mix of cinnamon and saliva crept down my throat, I raised my hand in assumed victory. In what felt like only a matter of seconds, I had taken down a spoon full of cinnamon with little ill effect. Excited by the outcome, I took a quick look at the nearby clock to check the duration of my effort and confirm my success. To my dismay, my cautious approach resulted in me taking 70 seconds to complete the task. Despite the fact I had worked past the burning, the gag-inducing dryness, and the remarkable adhesiveness of the cinnamon, I missed my target by 10 seconds. I had failed to complete the cinnamon challenge.

Defeated, I moved to my living room and took a seat on the couch. In a state of disbelief, I looked through the video of the effort in hopes I had miscalculated the time, but the video only served to support my earlier conclusion. I quickly worked back through the series of events during the challenge that led to my results, pinpoint where I could have gone faster or done better, but I stopped myself in that effort after only a few moments. Although I didn’t make the 60 second goal, I thought about the fact that I managed to tackle a task most people can’t handle for more than a few seconds before coughing out a cloud of cinnamon. I had the resolve and control to work through the discomfort and the pain to take down a spoonful of cinnamon without any assistance, which is more than can be said by most that have tried. Sure, I failed to meet one part of the challenge, but I didn’t go down in a ball of flames. I wasn’t defeated. I had emerged no worse for wear, and considering the risks, I chalk that up as a victory of its own nature.

After my first attempt at the cinnamon challenge, I’m quite confident I could successfully complete the task if I gave it another try. That stated, I doubt it is likely I will take on the task again in the future. Letting my stubbornness and pride convince me to take on such a foolish task once is enough for me, especially when the risks are taken into consideration. With that, I can say after experiencing the cinnamon challenge firsthand no one should ever try to complete this stunt. The rewards simply aren’t worth the risks, and there are much better ways of having a few laughs with friends and loved ones. Perhaps a twist on an old adage passed on by mothers around the world best sums it up. “If the internet jumped off a bridge, would you do it?” The logical answer to that question is, “no” which is probably something I should have considered before I decided to tackle today’s new experience.

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