The Penguin Prop Bet
Last week, I told you about my fight with Gus Hansen, a bet I could've escaped if I'd really wanted to.
As I told you then, I'm always getting myself into prop bets, and some are impossible to out run. This is one of those.
We were invited to a baby shower and ended up at a fun table of people. We were having fun, drinking beers, eating, and having some great conversations. The lady on my right was a zookeeper, and as it happened, she was in charge of the penguins.
As the night wore on, I heard myself saying,"It's amazing how fast these penguins are in the water and how slow they are on ground."
I know. It's not the brightest line of conversation I've ever come up with, but that's not the point. The point--and where things start to go awry--is what the zookeeper said next.
"You would be surprised, Theo. I would bet you that our fastest penguin would outrun you over a short distance on ice," she said.
So, what am I supposed to say to that one? Am I just supposed to sit there and turn down this obvious challenge to my manhood? I might as well have stood up and cut off my testicles right there at the table.
I couldn't bear the idea of listening to myself say, "Yeah, she's probably right. Of course I can't outrun a penguin. What was I thinking?"
The idea of wilting in front of the zookeeper made me want to puke.
So, of course, we made the bet. The loser would pay for a dinner for four if we could figure a way out to make the race happen.
See, the logistics of the race were no small problem:
How do you make a penguin run? And as if that isn't a hard enough problem, how do you make it run in the right direction? Obviously, a lot of questions were still unanswered when my girlfriend and I got home.
But, know this: Unanswered questions about which way penguins ran and how to make them run? They weren't bothering me. I was feeling great about this bet.
Indeed, friends, I felt great until the mother of my two kids couldn't keep her mouth shut anymore. At some point she got tired of listening to me bragging about this fantastic, funny bet. Then, she started asking questions.
"How fast do you think Lene (the zookeeper) reckons you run? Fast, medium or slow?" she asked me.
"Well, I know my soccer coach says he has seen oil tankers make U-turns faster than I do down in the defense," I conceded, "but considering the fact Lene doesn't know that, I would say medium."
"That's not to your advantage, since we both know you are slower than that, right?" my girlfriend said.
I didn't argue.
"So you are already behind before my next point, which is: who do you think knows most about the speed of running penguins? You or her?" she said.
I'd heard enough. I shut her down with this line: "Well listen, sweetie. It's only a dinner so I'll survive."
The love of my life, a woman I'll now call Miss Smart Ass, woke up with this: "It's not just a dinner. If you win, you win. If you lose, you are the guy who was outrun by a penguin.
That's where the conversation ended and my nightmares started.
The next day, I was on the phone with Lene fishing to see if she could really pull it off. In the meantime, I had to practice.
I packed my car with seven pairs of shoes. I conscripted a guy to time me and analyze how I was sliding on the ice. I was off to Rødovre Skating Arena. There were tactics to discuss. There was speed to consider. There was the fear that I was going to be bested by a freaking penguin.
In the end, though, it was all just practice for a race that never happened. Lene couldn't kidnap a penguin without fear of risking her job. The logistics of the match simply got in the way. Indeed, in the end, that might have been a good thing.
No, I didn't outrun the penguin, but the penguin didn't outrun me. In my book, that's a win.