PHOENIX - I kept putting it off.
Even when the hunger struck and gnawed at my stomach like a ravenous coyote, denial remained a constant companion.
It could wait.
Wait until I finished my Saturday assignments, until I slept, until I finished my Sunday assignments.
The reality hit around breakfast time Sunday.
I needed to eat something, and didn’t care what.
With great hesitation, I walked to the fridge, and pulled out a plastic sack full of food.
It all looked innocuous enough: a cookie, two buns, two oranges, lunch meat and a 236 ml carton of fat-free milk.
There was even a knock-knock joke on the back of the milk carton.
How bad could it be?
Still I could feel my stomach churn.
“It isn’t too late to back out of this,” I told myself.
“It’s just a job.”
The meal was given to me by a worker at the Tent City jailhouse, at my own foolish request.
It’s the exact stuff they feed to inmates locked up in the notorious Phoenix institution, which now includes Edmonton Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.
This exact dish, wrapped the exact way, and prepared by the exact people has reduced grown men to such misery that I was hesitant to try it.
“It’s really gross, actually,” one prisoner assured me.
Another told me about having green carrots mixed into his dinner slop, while a third recalled finding ants in her peanut butter sandwich.
They all seem to love whining about how vile it is.
I wish I would’ve have just taken their word for it, but I was curious.
The best way to explore a new culture, after all, is to try the food.
But the thought of trying this was downright scary.
Mind you, I wasn’t frightened to tour the jail Saturday and get heckled and hissed at by scores of burly criminals.
This sandwich was another story.
In a cowardly move, I started out with the safe standby, a pre-wrapped oatmeal-with-cream cookie.
It was delicious and devoured instantly.
I was less eager to bite into the rotting orange sitting beside me.
And so, it was onto the sandwich.
After taking a deep breath, I pulled open the lunch meat for a closer inspection.
It was soggy, smelled like eggs, and was covered in black specks.
The bread looked all right though.
Proceeding cautiously, I pulled out a napkin and wiped all the brown specks from the meat, before planting it inside the bun.
I stared at this creation for several minutes, wondering what type of meat I was about to ingest.
My stomach was already queasy from this unbearable Arizona heat, and chasing the sandwich with a mouthful of milk was out of the question.
Then I took a bite.
The sogginess of the meat combined with the dryness of the bread made me gag.
I struggled to swallow just that one bite, before the aftertaste of mould overpowered my tastebuds.
I promptly tossed the rest into a nearby trash can, and moved onto the rotting orange.
My face crinkled into an unnatural position as I bit into it.
Alas, I was deceived by the sketchy peel, as the fruit tasted just fine.
Overall, though, I’d say the food they serve at Tent City should be enough to keep anybody out of jail.