The parade of fruits

I had a lot of roommates during my collegiate years, and to be honest, I didn’t care for most of them. Monica stands out as the only one I’ve kept in touch with; we were friends before we became roommates, and despite my worst (best?) shenanigans, we managed to stay friends afterward.

I emailed her this past week to tell her that one of her collegiate games has stuck with me; that I’ve infected others with it, and it shows no sign of stopping.At some point, just about every person who attends an American college and lives on-campus discovers one beautiful, innate truth: it’s really fun to mess with the heads of your drunken college friends. It takes almost no mental effort on your part, and the rewards are so great that it’s sometimes even worth staying sober at the parties, just so you can be the one to tell the stories about all your friends the next day.

(Or the day after. Or whenever they recover, so that they may bear sober and embarrassed witness to their own stupidity.)

There is a little-known corollary to that truth: that some fruits and vegetables are inherently funny. Through years of sociocultural training and repression, we have learned to steel ourselves against the silliness of their names. But it’s the third to go, right behind inhibitions and common sense.

Mind you, not all fruits and vegetables are inherently funny. If you walk up to someone whom you suspect is tipsy and whisper the word “carrot” to them, nothing happens. Or “green peppers.” Or “jalapeño.” They’ll look at you strangely, and perhaps ask if you’re hungry.

But if you want to know if someone’s had too much to drink, lean over to them and conspiratorially whisper the word “rutabaga.” This has to be done with a look of perfect candor and innocence, as if saying the word “rutabaga” was as natural and common as saying, “Can you hand me another beer?”

If they start screaming with laughter, take their drink away. They’ve had enough.

Now, if you’re the cruel (or thorough) type, you could run a quick second test to ascertain the effectiveness of the first. Lean over to them again and whisper the word “kumquat.”

Again, if they scream with laughter, take their drink away—they’ve had enough.

The only potential problem is if you get in a group of scientifically-minded friends who think it’s funny to try to make their friends spew drinks out of their noses. The end result is a group of semi-toasty geeks who are sitting around in your living room, randomly screaming out the names of fruits and vegetables to any available listeners.

Kumquat!” “Rutabaga!” “Radicchio!” “Parsnip!”

At some point, half of the partygoers have to run to the bathroom because the laughter has constricted their bladders, and the other half have run to the kitchen to mix up more drinks to banish the memories of the names of the parade of fruits and vegetables.

You’d think we’d get tired of this game by now, but it hasn’t happened yet.

(—and you thought your parties were weird.)