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  • Sam Salerno

Friendship is Just One Bad Chicken Away


Food poisoning leads to friendship...at least for Stilts (left) and myself.


There are several ways to go about making friends. In fact, if you Google “How to make friends” you’ll find 5,140,000,000 results (in 0.77 seconds if you’re connected to a Starbucks wifi). But I almost guarantee there’s one way to friendship that has never, in the history of mankind, been recorded. There’s a possibility it’s never even been contemplated. Until now.

So today, I propose a revolutionary new way of quickly making friends.

Food poisoning.

Let me explain.



I knew something was wrong. Really wrong. I’m sure we’ve all had that 3am morning, the calm right before the storm, where our stomach decides it’s an Olympic gymnast and attempts a triple backflip, only to come crashing down and send us running to the nearest bathroom to…uh…fix the problem.

Well, full disclosure, it was one of those mornings. And as I furiously tried to scramble out of my sleeping bag and roll out of my hammock (a feat in and of itself when your stomach’s decided to lead the next rebellion against the Empire without telling you), the prayer kept repeating itself over and over in my head: “Dear God, I haven’t even been in Oregon for two days! Please remove this demon from me!”

God answered my prayer, and the porcelain throne accepted me with open arms just in the nick of time. Unfortunately, as is the case with most food poisoning, that was only the first battle of what would become an arduous, brutal seven-hour war.

I knew I couldn’t go back outside to the hammock. It was cold, and I’d already played the scenario out in my head – the one where the Empire Strikes Back and my sleeping bag zipper gets stuck. It wasn’t pretty, so I opted to just crash on Jordan’s couch in the living room.

Except…

“You feeling alright, dude?” the mass of blankets on the couch whispered. Witchcraft. I knew it! Begone, demon! But slowly, as the fluorescent blindness I had acquired in the bathroom faded away, a face materialized from the darkness.

“Stilts?” It couldn’t be Stilts. He had been assigned to a cabin, tasked with keeping the summer camp boys from killing each other in their sleep. Why was he on the couch? Who was watching the kids? My brain burned with questions. “What are you doing here?” I asked.

“I am sooo sick right now,” he said painfully. "Sounded like you…” he looked toward the bathroom door.

“Yeah, my stomach’s gone. I feel better now, but….” We let the moment sink in, both silently accepting that our fates had been intertwined in a strange, sickening way, leaving us helpless. I had met Andrew (aka Stilts on account of his height) not even two days earlier when he picked me up from the rental car office in Albany. Sure we had gotten to know each other during the 40-minute car ride up to camp, but, like all new relationships, the path to friendship takes time and shared experience before you can really say “Yeah, we’re friends.”

It looked like we’d just been given both.

As he recounted the literal and figurative turn of events that had led to him sprawling out on the couch with a “just-in-case" bowl nearby, it became clear that food poisoning was our culprit. A group of us had gone out for lunch after church that morning, and now we could only hope that the others hadn’t been infected. (I won’t name the restaurant, but I will say that whoever decided chicken fried in Kentucky should be available for consumption in the middle of Oregon was on drugs).

It was agony; the kind that you can only endure because you know it’ll go away in 24 hours. In the moment, though, dull achy-ness, hot sweats, cold sweats, sprints to the bathroom, and delirium pervaded our existence. Sleep was impossible; comfort was elusive; our sanity was fading. The simple act of closing your eyes triggered what felt like an acid trip, and wild images and scenes played themselves out on the inside of blinking eyelids.

And then it happened. Looking back, it was probably a byproduct of exhaustion and delirium, but we couldn’t ignore it.

Laughter. Well…more like painful chuckling.

Two strangers in the woods, violently struck down by foul chicken from Kentucky, losing their guts, deliriously babbling, wishing for death, praying for deliverance, and painfully laughing in the dark at our predicament. The story was too good; the circumstances too comedic. Every ache and moan was followed by a short burst of laughter. Right there, regardless of the pain, we knew that not only was survival guaranteed, but that this sickness would be our first hilarious foray into the realm of friendship.

As it always does, the sickness passed several hours later. Camp protocol dictated that we remain confined to the house for 24 hours since the last abdominal rebellion, so we just watched movies and tried to catch up on sleep as the world spun on. Food was slowly reintroduced to our systems, the achy-ness gradually faded, and soon we finally returned to the land of the living. But things were different. These two strangers had suddenly become masters of inside jokes, able to quickly establish eye contact (regardless of distance) at any mention of “Kentucky” or “Fried” or “Chicken,” and laughter came easier and more naturally around each other. It was like our friendship had happened overnight.

Since our endeavor, this lesson has cemented itself in my mind. There are many avenues to friendship – food, conversations, outings, laughter, the list is exhaustive. At the end of the day though, our friendships are only as strong as the most strenuous, difficult situations that we’ve weathered with someone else.

So, if you want a fast track to friendship, don’t rule out food poisoning. Truly, friendship is just one bad chicken away.

Thanks, Stilts, for laughing with me through the pain. Thanks, Jordan, for not abandoning us to die in your home. And thanks, porcelain throne, for supporting us and accepting our offerings.

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