This week I tried Cinnamon Life cereal for the first time. I couldn't stand it! I've only mentioned this to a couple people but so far seem to be alone in my opinion. This may have to do with an experience I had a few years back - an experience worth sharing. Indeed, an experience that could save your life.
The time was summer 2002, the place was my friend's basement. A younger and thinner Benji was still a little disoriented due to his recent return from a two-year stint preaching the good word in a far away land. While sitting around wondering what to do with our evening, one of my buddies mentioned that he had heard somewhere that it is impossible to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon. None of us had ever seen it done and he didn't know what the difficulty was, just that it couldn't be done.
I immediately jumped on the challenge. Perhaps it was because after two years of losing myself in a work that can best be described and challenging and intense, but above all rewarding, I felt I needed a little excitement in my new life. Indeed, at the time I identified with Tommy Lee Jones' character in Men in Black II, where he trades his life of saving the galaxy from aliens to being a postmaster in a quiet town.
Whatever the reason, we quickly drew up the terms. I had to place the spoonful in my mouth, say aloud the word "cinnamon" three times, and then swallow it. If I were successful in said task, everyone present agreed to carry me around everywhere we went that night! (This might be an appropriate time to introduce my theory that small towns produce creative minds.)
So there I was, large spoonful of cinnamon in hand, emergency glass of water nearby, determined to will the cinnamon down my throat. I placed it in my mouth and, not surprisingly, was overwhelmed with the taste of cinnamon. This I had anticipated so it didn't phase me. What caught me by surprise was the almost instant change in the environment of my oral cavity. Instead of the dark, moist food-softening compartment I was used to, the inside of my lower face became a dry, arid, desert wasteland - completely bereft of even a hint of humidity.
I spoke my first "cinnamon" and saw a little brown poof come out of my mouth as I spoke. I felt like some sort of dorky cinnamon dragon-boy. I couldn't help but laugh at the sight of my words being visible, and as I let out a little chuckle I discovered that my laughter was even larger and more visible than the word cinnamon. Thus ensued the positive feedback mechanism of me finding humor in my own laughter and creating bigger and bigger brown cinnamon clouds with each burst.
The cycle finally broke about two seconds later. Completely oblivious to my impending doom, I drew the breath I expected would enable me to continue my verbal quest of glory. I found instead that the air which now filled my trachea, bronchioles, and alveoli, contained a very generous portion of cinnamon, and that they were designed for no such thing. I experienced an urgency known only to those who at some point have found themselves thinking, "Wait a second, I can't breathe."
I quickly began assessing options and realized how inadequate my emergency glass of water was. I ran to the sink and turned on the faucet and coughed as violently as anybody has ever coughed in the history of the world. My friends ran to my side - not to assist me but to inform me that the dirty sink water wasn't for drinking, that's why we'd poured a glass of special drinking water from the fridge. They must have thought I'd somehow forgotten that information in the one minute that passed since we went over it.
I can't blame them too much, though. Seeing as how I had temporarily lost my ability to communicate with the outside world, they couldn't have known that I wasn't just a little thirsty from all the cinnamon, but was actually trying to remove my lungs and turn them inside out so I could give them a good scrubbing and put them back where they go. The next few minutes consisted of coughing at the sink, occasionally inhaling a little water and coughing it back up in hopes that it would do some internal scrubbing, and gasping "can't....breathe..." so everyone felt like they were in the loop.
Bless their hearts, later that evening my friends carried me around to a few places even though I had failed. The next morning when I woke up I tasted cinnamon. Every time I blew my nose for several days, I smelt cinnamon. Several months later when I poured myself a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, I remembered the taste of my near-death experience. Now that several years have gone by I've learned to tolerate and even enjoy the occasional cinnamon treat, but I think I have a valid reason if I'm the only one who doesn't enjoy Cinnamon Life. I've already tried Cinnamon Death.