Pride and the Chocolate Fountain

The Bible says that, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov 16:18). Not only have I seen it in many people, I’ve experienced that firsthand.

I was a graduate student at UCM in 2009. I was the station manager for KLJC Kansas City. The station’s owner, Calvary Bible College, actually sent me to earn the degree in order to oversee the communications department at the college. It was a pretty sweet deal.

Going back to school later in life was a challenge. I was surrounded, mostly, by younger students right out of college. So, I was the “older guy.”

In one of my classes, our professor decided to invite us all over to his house to cook burgers, have treats, and conduct class at his house. This was very cool and an experience I had never had before. He was actually retired, but used to be the department chair. He had also been a career military man. I had a deep respect and admiration for him.

He offered to cook the meat and asked all of us to bring something. Since all of the students were younger, I decided to let them choose first what they would bring. They signed up for the normal stuff, chips, dip, cookies, etc. I asked, “what should I bring?” One of them said, “how about a salad or something?” It sounded boring, but okay. Maybe someone was on a health kick.

The day of the get together, I ran in the store to grab a bag of salad and fixings, but the salad looked terrible. I decided to go with a veggie tray instead. At the professor’s home, I set my offering down next to all the others. My broccoli and cauliflower just seemed to pale in comparison to all the other treats.

The professor’s home was magnificent and he was so kind. We had a wonderful time, but as the night went on, everyone else’s food began to disappear. My veggie tray, however, went untouched. I was a little defeated. Surely, I could have done better.

At the end of the semester, the professor suggested that we have an end of the semester party at his house again. This was my chance to show my fellow students what I could do. Actually, I was going to show them what my wife could do. She’s an excellent baker and I figured I would wow them with one of her cheesecakes, pecan pies, or a number of other delectable treats that she could make. Redemption!

As our class decided what to bring, an idea popped into my head. Almost like a vision from heaven, a lightbulb went off and the angels’ sang. “I’ll show these guys that I can bring good treats,” I thought to myself. I’ll bring my chocolate fountain! Actually, it was my wife’s, but same thing, right?

The class was elated and excited about the prospect of the chocolate fountain at our party. We would have a great time and I would find my place in the annals of history in treats for Communication Theory. I may have been a little prideful.

My wife was not as excited. “Fountains can get messy,” she said busting my balloon. “You do know you’re going to have to cook the chocolate over at his house and use a double boiler system so you don’t burn it.” Uh, actually, I knew none of that. My wife is generally the voice of reason, so I decided to call my professor and give him the bad news. “I’m worried it might take up too much room and be too messy,” I said. “No problem at all,” he responded, “it will be fine.”

My wife gave me a quick lesson on melting the white chocolate. She also wrote out explicit instructions and I took everything I needed with me. I got there about an hour early and got everything going. I was a little nervous about all the space I needed to take up and the time it would take. Two of the other students helped out and it went fast. Not only that, but the chocolate did not burn. It was perfect!

We put the fountain center stage on the island in the kitchen. All the food was situated around it. It was a thing of beauty.

We poured the white mixture into the fountain and turned on the switch. The fountain roared to life and beautiful white chocolate dripped off the mechanism into the pool below. I gazed in wonder. It was a hit!

My fellow students were amazed and could not say enough good things. I was a superhero. We put chocolate on everything: pretzels, marshmallows, cookies, chips, you name it. It was glorious.

As we wrapped up dinner, our professor told us to finish up and get ready for our group discussion. I threw my plate away and then noticed, on one of his tables, there was a small dish of almonds. They weren’t really set out with the rest of the food, but I was pretty positive they weren’t off limits. All I could think of was a homemade Almond Joy bar.  

I grabbed the almond and went over to the fountain. Rather than put the chocolate on a new plate, I decided I would just hold the almond under the mixture. I was so full anyway and this was probably the last thing I would eat.

As you know, almonds are not that big and attempting to hold it under the mixture was a little harder than I had imagined. But I was not about to give up and could already taste the Almond Joy. What happened next is kind of a blur, but I remember holding the almond under the mixture, but then having it slip out of my hand into its chocolatey grave.

For a quick moment, I wanted to grab it, but I knew better than to put my fingers in the mixture. There was no time to grab a spoon. I just watched it sink. “They’ll never know,” I thought. “Anyway, it’s my fountain, so it’s not a huge problem.”

To my surprise, the chocolate fountain began making an odd, grinding noise. The almond must have gotten stuck in the mechanism. To my horror, white chocolate began spraying in every direction out of the fountain. It was a pulsating, rhythmic spray pretty similar to the spraying effect you get when you put your fingers over a garden hose. The vertical streams reminded me of a light show on the Fourth of July.

But this was no celebration. It was like a bad dream, but it was really happening. I watched as the white chocolate sprayed all over my professor’s counters, the food, the floor, and all over me. It was a white chocolaty mess. Although it felt like an eternity, I quickly unplugged the fountain and allowed it to die a natural death. But not before it had taken its revenge. Everything within a four foot radius was covered in white chocolate.

I was speechless. My classmates were horrified and sprang into action grabbing paper towels. I was so totally embarrassed and apologized profusely. “Don’t worry about it,” my professor said, “we’ll get it cleaned up.” After the mess was cleaned up, we sat down in the living room. By we, I mean the class. I was relocated to a patio chair with a garbage bag on it to ensure that white chocolate did not spread anywhere else. That night, I learned a valuable lesson about pride and chocolate fountains.

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