This excerpt is from my unpublished manuscript, Too Young to Save: Our Premature Baby, My Weakness and God’s Strength. This section appears about two-thirds of the way through the book. Here, we’ve been in the NICU for about three months, and things are looking are starting to look up, well enough for me to go on a 204-mile bike ride with my brother Patrick while my wife stayed in the NICU for the weekend. Every book needs a “crisis” at the two-thirds / three-quarters point where things really go off the rails before the climax, so this light-hearted banter is meant to lull the readers in to relaxing a little so they can be shocked 10 pages later. I’d love to hear your comments.
At the rest stop at mile 80, we had to stand in line for about 10 minutes to use the port-a-potties. We had learned from years past that this was better than the 30-minute waits you’ll have if you start the ride later in the morning and go in the middle of the pack with the people who intend to do the ride in two days.
As we came out of the port-a-potties, Patrick said, “You know, this reminds me of an app I’ve been wanting to create.” Patrick is a software developer. At that time, he’d recently gone from a company doing search-engine optimization to a company writing scheduling software for dentists. “I’m going to call it CrapChat. A location-based app that you log in to anonymously and you can chat with other people nearby who are also on the toilet. You can send emojis and memes, and rate the bathroom that you’re using.”
“Can you ask for extra paper to be brought if you run out? Can you recommend places to go buy laxatives if someone is uh… unsuccessful?” I asked.
“No, but it will collect data and make predictions for which bathrooms on which floors are mostly likely to have empty space. That was actually the reason I came up with the idea. In a big office with hundreds of programmers, it’s often difficult to find an open stall.”
“I think you should call it ShextChat.”
“Shext? What’s that mean?”
“Texting on the potty. Like drexting is drunk-texting.”
Patrick let out a quick, startled laugh and then glared at me, a little annoyed.
We got on our bikes and continued. A while later, we passed a grocery store that was advertising fresh Atlantic salmon fillets for $6.99 a pound on a sign outside.
“Did you know,” I asked Patrick, “that when you buy pen-raised Atlantic salmon, about 40 percent of the cost goes to pay for an additive dye in the food that the fish eat?”
“Yes, if the dye wasn’t there, the flesh of the fish would be an unappetizing gray. Apparently wild salmon get their color from a variety of shellfish that they eat, but for the pen fish who eat pellets, it’s dye. The formula for the dye is a proprietary blend controlled by the company that invented it, so they charge a huge amount to the fish farms and then you have to pay that. I read this in a book called Bottomfeeder, about seafood sustainability.”
“But wild fish eat food, too. So you buy a wild salmon, and you’re paying for its color and the food it ate.”
“I think that would be considered a sunk cost.”
“Oof,” Patrick moaned. “That was bad, even for you.”
“But seriously, the fish dye is a variable cost for a pen-netter, but there’s no choice to be made for…”