I'll never forget the day I became the third person to eat a potato. People eat potatoes all the time now, but back then it was considered a mysterious, bulbous tuber*. It has to be said from the outset that the overriding driving force was hunger, not notoriety. No one wakes up in the morning with the clear intent to become the Charles P. Conrad of potato consumption. I had no idea how many others had tried it, I just knew the shops had just closed and there was nothing else to eat.
My life can be cleanly divided between the time before I ate that potato and the time after. This can be said about every single event that ever occurs, so this statement seems meaningless. But no event in my life has been as pivotal in shaping my understanding of humanity and my very existence. The significance was not felt on the day, but the repercussions shook my foundations for years to come. Stories of zombies are more about how the surviving humans deal with the hellscape they find themselves in, rather than the zombies themselves. This can be tenuously linked to my journey, as it was never really about that potato at all. It was the reaction of those around me, the looks of fear and ignorance as I ate the hell out of that potato, how people chose to live and act in a post-potato world… that's what gave the occasion such resonance.
Apart from the two people who had eaten a potato before (they knew the score) the rest of them stood, watched, and mocked.
“It's covered in dirt!” some of them shouted.
“I washed the dirt off.” I countered.
Silence. Silence, and then a cloud of general uneasiness swept over the ever-increasing crowd as I worked away at the task at hand. I could have done with some water, but I didn't want to give them the satisfaction.
I was shunned by most, berated by almost all the others until I found it impossible to live amongst such hatred.
So I fled. I found sanctuary in a place where people who are willing to take chances aren't chastised for their actions, but are supported and actively encouraged. These places exist, never forget that.
The other two
I'm keenly aware that without the two that ate a potato before me, I would never have been the third (apart from the word potato, this sentiment is strangely similar to lyrics contained in The White Stripes classic Ball and Biscuit). But I owe the original potato-eaters nothing. They are pleasant enough when we cross paths at parties, festivals and such, but they are not to be revered or idolised. Nor am I. Pioneers often stumble into their roles, and are made of the very stuff as you and I; some with slightly more starch.
How good is the word conjecture? I'm also fond of peloton, repechage, jinx, cahoots and trepidation. This list is by no means exhaustive. I'm not a big fan of the word salubrious, the sound of the word doesn't in any way match the meaning. Imagine how a snake would say salubrious and you'll get what I mean.
Over the decades since the event, many have doubted my claim. The objections and challenges may have dimmed, but they never cease. I can't begin to fathom the motivations of all these men and women, although jealousy does seem to drive most of the venom directed at me. In their faces I see the same fear and ignorance as those in the crowd that day. Nothing has changed, we still fear that which we don't understand, and this fear will continue to hold us back as a species.
I see a Greyhound bus in the distance, so I'll end this here. But I'll answer the question I'm asked most often by those curious: would I ever eat another potato?
Well, yes, I'd totally eat another potato if the occasion to do so arose again.
The thrill has not gone.
*I refuse to check whether all tubers are automatically bulbous, let's just move on