There seems to be something about attending an institution of higher learning that creates a deficit in the brain. All that time focusing on the smart leaves the dumb neurons unused, thirsting and growing like a dark-cancer of dumb-energy until, finally, it explodes! And our hapless victim is sent into a frenzy of stupidity: panty-raids on the girls-only dorm, or flushing Jell-O down public toilets... This negative energy, let's call it dumeon, explains why university students are known for their many stupid...and yet stupidly glorious...activities. And while the people at these institutions spend much of their time, backs bent, eyes squeezed through microscopes, in a quest to quantify, understand and explore humanity, perhaps one of the most profound examples is at their doorstep. This is the story of Chocolate Milk Challenge.
I first encountered Chocolate Milk Challenge in my 3rd year of university. I had just transferred to a school on the west coast and was living in residence. One day, about half way through the second semester, I ventured into the floor's common kitchen scrounging for some grub. There, several of my floor mates sat around the table (notably all men): Jim, affectionately known as Toole, the tall Residence Assistant of the floor and as such was in charge of the well-being of the floor and its residents; Andrew, my best floor mate friend who lived two doors down from me a slight fellow with a sharp cutting wit, sardonic tongue and always one hand in his pocket; Dan, a short, wiry monkey-like fellow with curly hair who was born in Jamaica (but was white) and had a penchant for walking on his hands; Ian, the tall, stout loudmouth of the floor who liked to shock, whether by insult or by crudity (a most memorable example would be his loud declaration during a floor meeting weeks before much to everyone's horror - that 'Mike would choose to drink a tall frosty glass of his own cum!'); and Mike, the handsome, quiet engineer who always worked hard and studied, but never managed to quite pull off the grades. They looked particularly pleased and excited with themselves at this moment. In front of them each was a tall glass of chocolate milk and, on the table, several 4 litre jugs more of it. They were all grinning and laughing. Several people had gathered to watch.
When I enquired as to what they were doing I was informed of the Chocolate Milk Challenge. A boyfriend of one of the women on the floor, a jock firefighter of some sort, had regaled these fellows with a tale of the Chocolate Milk Challenge and its results at his school. He claimed that it was impossible to drink three litres of chocolate milk in an hour and keep it down. That was the essence of the Challenge.
Of course, none of those at the table believed him. Ian had been really gusto to take the Challenge as it appealed to his sensibilities of shock and stupidity. And Mike, the quiet engineer, had spurred and egged him on as usual. The others just fell in with them, perhaps owing to it being a Sunday afternoon near exams and this seemed a good alternative to studying. Thus they had quickly rummaged up a car and made a trip down the small mountain upon which our university was situated to grocery store to gather, at ridiculous cost, sufficient amounts of chocolate milk. One can only imagine what the cashier thought of several grinning young men successively coming through the till, each with a four litre jug of chocolate milk. No doubt she could tell their dumb neurons had been sorely neglected as of late.
And so the contest began, each of them giddy at the thought of easily mastering the challenge. The rules? You had to drink three litres of chocolate milk in an hour and keep it down for an hour afterwards. During this time you could not 'cheat' by defecating. Only urination is allowed. May the dumbest man win.
There was no money involved, just the satisfaction of proving the challenge wrong; that it could be done. I know what you're thinking. Three litres doesn't seem like that much. It certainly seems plausible. Now this seems to be a common deficiency in the human brain. When you explain the Chocolate Milk Challenge to someone, they immediately guffaw at your suggestion that it cannot be done. The vast majority of people believe that it can be done, and, quite easily, in fact. Despite any persuasive arguments and anecdotes to the contrary, it only encourages them more to disprove it. They become indignant at the suggestion that they are wrong and cannot do it. "No," they claim, "it's easy. It's a piece of cake! I could do it!" Or, even if they believe that it wouldn't be a piece of cake, then the average person at least believes that they personally can conquer three litres. Arguing to the contrary only strengthens their resolve. Those who have heard of the Challenge before will often dig up a counter-tale of so-and-so so-many years ago who defeated the Challenge. "It can be done!"
And so, owing to this defect in their brains, these five challengers sat at the table grinning at each other and their chocolate milk. They were all quite merry as they drank and the minutes slowly ticked by...cracking jokes, discussing the rules. After a few moments of watching this mundane and silly Sunday afternoon spectacle I retired once again to my bedroom where I played video games...or masturbated. Or both. I don't remember. I probably masturbated. Helps release the dumeon energy. Regardless, I emerged about 40 minutes later, about 50 minutes into the hour, to find the group now standing in the hallway, chatting.
Dan, the smallest, lightest and wiriest of the group had, apparently, been the first to go out. Even by Chocolate Milk Challenge standards he had been a big failure. Just over a litre into the challenge he slowed nearly to a halt and turned a shade green. After a few moments of wandering the green, grassy fields of Pukesville, Dan bolted out of the kitchen for the washroom. Did this deter the rest? No. It had served as a confidence booster. They were winning!
As Dan returned, he regaled his fellow challengers with details of the liquidity and viscosity of his purge. Not to mention the volume! Andrew, who had made a quick, fast sprint from the start line in hopes of being able to take a rest halfway through was now slowing down at the 2 litre mark and beginning to sympathize with the way Dan had looked. In this time the others caught up and overtook him. However, before Andrew could dazzle the rest of them with his regurgitation skills, Ian chugged his glass, put it down looking a little funny, jumped up and yelled "Gentle Jesus!" before tearing off for the bathroom. Apparently the splash had been so loud they heard it through the bathroom door, across the hall and through the kitchen door to their table. Ian, in turn, returned to confirm Dan's findings with great glee.
The Toole and Mike had had a close race to the finish line. But engineer Mike soon bowed out, regurgitating the 2.5 litres he had managed. Toole, the RA, was right behind him. He had come the closest outdoing Mike by a glass - putting him but a few glasses short of the 3 litre mark. So close, yet so far. Toole could not go on but he was to disqualify himself from the race in a different matter. As he himself put it: "I don't even care about this contest anymore; I just want this feeling to go away." Taking to the large, private handi-cap washroom he released his bowels. And while he assured the others that it was neither chocolaty nor liquidy, it nonetheless disqualified him from the race. At this time, I pointed out the irony of the Residence Assistant, the supposed adult and role-model of the floor, hosting an event in which everyone pukes. He shrugged it off.
And now the lone hero remaining was Andrew. Spectators had counted him out long ago when he had slowed nearly to a halt. Andrew was of thin build and on the short side of average height. As the second smallest of the group, next to the curiously small Dan, Andrew was not of the finest stock in this mad challenge where height and girth are crucial. And yet, here he stood, the lone remaining contender a beacon of hope to all those who still believed it could be done! But with ten minutes left it appeared the contest was unofficially over. As we stood here in the hallway now, Andrew's face was deathly grim. He didn't join the conversation. He just leaned against the wall and looked the whitest shade of green imaginable. It looked like it pained him greatly to even manage a smile. Just looking at him made you feel ill. He brought new meaning to the phrase 'puke face.' He would drink no more.
However, as we joked and laughed in the hallway, his spirits raised. He made some jokes and colour came back to his face. He felt better, finally. But, apparently, all that chocolate milk doesn't just go to the stomach. When you drink that much the excess must go to the brain. It is the only way of explaining Andrew's belief, in the last 10 minutes of the hour, having just recovered from serious and painful chocolate milk induced illness, that he could finish off the last litre. Apparently even excruciating illness isn't enough to convince one that it cannot be done. Refilling his glass, Andrew sipped slowly as he chatted with us in the hallway, joking and discussing the intricacies of the challenge. Andrew was back to his usual, sarcastic, sardonic, witty, stubborn self again. Andrew sipped very slowly and cautiously. But after only a few sips he suddenly went very white (whiter than before, if imaginable). He quickly and discreetly slipped away to the bathroom where what followed can only be described as an epic struggle between Man and toilet. Ultimately, Man survived the gruelling ordeal he did not puke! but spent nearly an hour bowled over the bowl.
As Andrew, who I am indebted to for helping me put this story to paper, puts it in his own words: "Foolish, indeed. A few sips I downed, perhaps half a glass, and it was over. I spent the next hour hanging over a porcelain bowl and wishing I could simply vomit and get it over with, while reflexively holding my gorge. It was inhuman...it was torture...it was over. We had failed. The goal, which had sometimes seemed so near in our sights that it must be attainable, had eluded us. Instead of being honoured as heroes, we were merely held in awe for our gall." I couldn't have put it better myself.
Though in the general sense there may have been no winners in Chocolate Milk Challenge, Andrew was, in this challenge, at least, the champion. He had come the closest; drank the most without purging. He had fought the stupid fight and went back for more. There were no official winners but, as there always is with Chocolate Milk Challenge, Andrew was the unofficial hero.
The Challenge Continues!
Now, this would be the end of the story, and hardly one worth committing to paper, if it were not for my recounting of this story to my new Residence Assistant on my new floor the next year prompting another challenge: one perhaps even greater, more galling and stupid than the previous, if that can be imagined. As it was brought, innocuously enough, to our floor by the fireman, I had inadvertently brought it to another.
As I said, I recounted this story to several people one of whom was my RA. The gleam in his eyes as I told it should have been my first hint to make it sound less glorious...but I couldn't help it. It was glorious in a very stupid way...and I wanted to confirm that I couldn't be the only person who believed, off the bat, that this was impossible. Alas, he too believed it could be done. I could see the wild twinkling in his pupils. Through much coaxing I managed to convince him that it could not be done. Though he never believed it in his heart of hearts; he only trusted my wisdom as the teller of the story. But still, he wasn't satisfied. Which is why, a couple weeks later, around nine pm, I found him in the hallway with two cold 4 litre jugs of chocolate milk.
He informed me he had already found people who wanted to participate who believed they could do it. I told him he should have gotten more than two jugs, as only two people could participate. We had one definite combatant already: Adam was a tall guy on our floor with a healthy appetite. The kind of guy who would make a good basketball player if he wasn't so good at being lazy. Adam was in it from the start. I don't know if he ever believed he could master the challenge or not, but it seemed like something Adam wanted to try. As it was, several of the people who had expressed interest or assured us they could do it weren't around or backed down when the time came. And so we were forced to roam the halls to find another contestant. It wasn't that difficult.
Adrian was a computer whiz kind of guy. A friend of another computer whiz on our floor who believed it could be done, but turned down the offer. Adrian, on the other hand, accepted almost immediately. Almost as if it was something at least more fun than sitting in a room staring at a screen. He had had a plate of spaghetti only moments before, but was still sure he could pass the challenge.
So we all gathered in the great hall (the common kitchen) with two glasses, two 4 litre jugs of cold chocolate milk, two challengers, at least a dozen spectators, one hour, and plenty of excitement. The glasses were filled by the two challengers and the contest began. It was as bland a beginning as you'd expect when the contest is drinking over the span of an hour. They took it slowly and people joked and were giddy in the revelry and excitement of what was to come. People wondered who would win. I knew neither would. At one point a woman from the other side of the floor came in and wondered why we were all sitting around watching these two drink chocolate milk. When she was informed she turned up her nose in disgust and left us 'losers.'
This time around, however, something interesting happened. About 15 minutes into the competition, on Adrian's third glass, he began to shake. The milk was too cold and drinking so much was freezing him from the inside out. By the time that glass was finished Adrian had visible trouble pouring his chocolate milk his hands were shaking so badly. About half-way through that glass he couldn't pick up the glass anymore. He had to wait. When he did thaw enough to take sips he had to put his hands back under his armpits afterwards to warm them up. This slowed him down greatly in which time Adam caught up and began to surpass him. Pretty soon, however, almost reaching the two litre mark, Adrian began to show signs of illness. He became very silent, paused for long periods, and stared into the distance. Like a true chocolate milk challenger, when the feelings of great illness subsided, he took a few more sips...then went very still and silent.
Suddenly he jumped up, so very quick for someone who had been so still, and ran for the nearest kitchen exit. Quickly in the hall he turned left and ran a few meters to open the bathroom door. It didn't open up. Looking up Adrian saw that it was the caretaker's closet. Clint burst open the kitchen door right after he saw Adrian turn left.
"No! Not that way! There's one over here!"
Adrian turned around and fled the next 5 meters to the real bathroom door. Andrew, our hero from last year who had come down to the floor to watch, had foreseen this and gone out to open the bathroom door for Adrian. By the time Adrian arrived at the real bathroom door (too late) Andrew was perfectly positioned to have to LEAP out of the way as Adrian, in Andrew's words, "barreled into the washroom and SPEWED chocolate-milk-bile all over the floor. My socks got wet around the edges before I managed to completely escape." Adrian ran through that mess in his socks to make it to the toilet where he remained for a few moments bringing the rest of it up. He felt much better after it was done.
Of course, all of us had only seen Adrian run out the door and didn't know these details...though we could imagine. Clint burst back in through the kitchen door after Adrian had entered the bathroom. He was laughing a little kid laugh, "Ohhh, he totally puuuked." Everyone laughed in a feeling sorry kind of way. But that was the game and those were the rules. When human beings engage in behaviour this mindless their misfortune becomes very humorous.
Later, Clint would bring the mop into the bathroom and hand it over to Adrian...making it clear whose mess it was and who had to clean it up. Clint: yet another fine choice for floor role-model and Resident Assistant. So Adrian, reluctantly, in his barf soaked socks, mopped up the floor. It took 45 minutes to clean up the mess. While Adam was still going I went to check on my friend. I went in the door on the opposite side of the bathroom to avoid the mess near the door. To my surprise, when I opened the door I saw that the puke had made it all the way across from the one door to the other - about 2.5 metres!! It was unbelievable. If there had been a puking distance challenge Adrian would have won. And the smell was unbearable. While the odour of vomit smell is bad enough, there is something about chocolate milk curdled in stomach acid that is, perhaps, the most hideous smell in the world. I couldn't go in to see if my friend was ok. And so I returned to the kitchen to watch Adam.
Adam was still going strong. Though he had really slowed down after passing two litres and appeared ill. There was only 10 minutes to go. Slowly he sipped millilitre by millilitre, but, by two minutes to, it was obvious he wasn't going to make it. He still had about 2/3rds of a litre left. But Adam was determined and so he began to take paper towels and line the sink with them. He was now prepared. With one minute to go Adam took the jug and downed the remaining milk. It was amazing. Of course, there was no way he was going to keep it down. The only question now was when it was going to come back up...and how.
What followed was about 15 seconds of suspense thicker than chocolate milk. After downing the remainder Adam quickly leaned over the kitchen sink and waited. He looked like he was going to die and the scene had the funny feeling of something gone too far, beyond the point of being funny. We all worried if he was going to live. Actually, it wasn't that that was bugging us though he did look like he was going to die it was the suspense. Finally, he opened his mouth and the most tremendous flood of chocolate milk fell out of his mouth, like he was a bucket full of chocolate milk and suddenly the bottom of the bucket just disappeared. With tremendous force it splashed up the side of the sink to fall back inwards in a perfect cascade.
In the hallway afterwards, for about 15 minutes, we wondered if Adam was going to survive. He looked very ill and didn't have the typical quick recovery. But soon he was fine...and everyone marvelled over the fact that he was the first to actually FINISH three litres of chocolate milk! He was a new hero and no doubt this story of 'the guy who almost made it' inspired another challenge the next year.
Clint, the Resident Assistant whose job it is to take care of his residents and look after their well being, claimed the event to his bosses at the Residence House as a 'floor event' meaning that the university paid for the chocolate milk and the event counted towards 4 of the 'cohesive, resident education programs that an RA must organize throughout the year to build and educate his floor.'
The bathroom stank for the entire year, and still did a couple of years after. Kelsey, the woman who turned her nose up at us halfway through the event, was not amused. It was the bathroom nearest her.
Chocolate Milk Epilogue
Now this is, so far, the end of the story except for a certain footnote. Informing my unusually intelligent girlfriend of this event the day after, instead of receiving reproach for talking gloriously of such a bizarre and stupid spectacle, she shrugged and claimed that 'she could do it.' Amazing. Apparently, dumeon build-up even affects university women. Anyway, this is not the footnote. Not long after this my brother and father came west to visit me. The challenge had now reached mythical proportions. It was amazing. It needed to be told. I couldn't not tell it. And so, of course, I regaled them with the story.
My brother, who prided himself at the time on being able to conquer any meal (and felt ashamed when he couldn't) and who was the physical type to be an excellent contender, believed he could meet the challenge. He being my brother, I felt obligated to prevent him from pursuing such a silly action. Surely, a handful of large university students over two years failing would be enough to convince one...but apparently not. He could not be swayed. Indignant, I challenged him, if it was so easy, to do it at Christmas when I returned home. He agreed but I figured it would be the last I heard of it. However, when I talked to my Papa over the phone a few days later, I learned that Anatol had bought a litre carton of chocolate milk and swigged it on the drive home. "He's training," my dad said. He was going to practice for the challenge! It had never been attempted. My brother confirmed his intention to train and practice before I came home himself in further discussions over the phone. He was serious about taking the challenge at Christmas.
November passed and it was well into December. I hadn't heard or mentioned Chocolate Milk Challenge to my brother as it was now fading in history. But, upon returning home and having dinner one night near Christmas, I suddenly remembered my brother had wanted to attempt the challenge. I still believed he would come to his senses so I asked him about it. My father told me that in late November, my brother, during a lunch break at school, had picked up a 2 litre jug of chocolate milk and chugged it all back as practice. 15 minutes later he went back out behind the school and puked his guts out. He had failed the challenge before it had even begun.
And so, to this day, the Chocolate Milk Challenge remains undefeated. I am more than ever convinced that it cannot be done. Are you?
*first or last names, where necessary, have been changed or omitted to protect the silly
by William Taylor Jr
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