Dear Witness:

Are you aware of the five second rule?

Or, perhaps you are familiar with one of the many variations that are circulating in different parts of the country. Some will say it’s acceptable if you pick up a fallen item before 10 seconds pass. Then there are the extremists who enforce a zero-tolerance policy for fallen items. Those are the same people who wash their hands three times before leaving the bathroom and leave the faucet running until they can come back to turn it off with a paper towel.

I myself am a five-second faithful.

Let’s now consider the issue of how best to count seconds. The “Mississippi” method is rampant down here in the South, but it has spread to many parts of the nation. There is also the “one-thousand” approach, but I find that mathematically counterintuitive.

I was trained in the Beat School, in which the pause interval is simply one tap of an imaginary drum. That is the shortest interval, and thus more seconds will pass in a shorter amount of time.

Now, on to this morning’s incident. Let me begin by providing some you with some context. I awoke this morning to the realization that I could no longer sustain a lifestyle without breakfast. Between the need to wake up early and attend a three-hour 8 a.m. class, I had not found a way to fit in breakfast. But I had had enough of the morning famines and the onset of devouring hunger during lunch in which I truly believed the entirety of a cow would not suffice my appetite. Today I would eat breakfast and I would be late to class and dammit, I wouldn’t care.

Sausage, potatoes and a biscuit. I found an empty seat by the door of the cafeteria so I could make a quick exit and only be 10 minutes late for class. That was acceptable. But as I plopped down on the cushioned booth my fork plopped down onto the ground.

Witness, here I must insist THREE and ONLY THREE beat-seconds passed before I retrieved it from its fallen state. I looked around to see if anyone had seen.

You sir, sitting catty-corner from me.  I caught you unsubtly retreating back behind your laptop screen. Yes, I saw you just as you saw me. I saw your questioning eyes, eagerly prying to see what I would do next – proceed to eat with the fallen fork or retrieve another one?

What you didn’t see, however, were the mental processes that set off in my mind in an explosive fashion when I realized how far away the fork dispenser was. I glanced at the floor to see if I could gauge its dirtiness. It was painted, I thought, an odd brown color.

Was I going to die if I ate from this fallen fork? Most likely not.

But was it really about dying?

What kind of person was I if I followed through with this breach of hygienic habits?  Not a good kind. But wasn’t the fork already likely covered in germs? Whoever placed it in the container from which I plucked it surely had germ-laden hands. Just the other night I had eaten cookie dough from the container that said not to consume it uncooked. I was still alive. Was that applicable here? Were my standards simply falling into disarray?

All of this is to say that if you sir, had not been there, I would not have been thrown into this tumultuous debate in which my own character was put into question. All I wanted was to eat breakfast for once before class and not be more than 10 minutes late.

And this sir, is what led to my decision which you were too cowardly to give further witness to – as you packed up and walked out, red-faced and huffing. Given the disastrous circumstances I decided the best move, perhaps to your satisfaction, was not to eat with this fallen fork after all.

Instead, I proceeded to halve the biscuit with my bare hands and stuff it with sausage and potatoes. A breakfast sandwich to-go.


Mind Your Own Business

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