The stomach steps into the spotlight

The human body has 78 or 79 organs depending on which Google result you choose to go with. But only five of them (brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver) are deemed vital.

That has to be a discouraging feeling to be the stomach or the small intestine. The heart shows up in a Ferrari. The brain lands her helicopter on the roof of the building. But the stomach has to enter through the "non-vital" entrance. Steps into the elevator, can't even select the top floor. That requires a vital ID card. Instead, the stomach hits the floor for the digestive system (down in the basement, no windows) and gets ready for another day of fighting off Cheetos and buffalo wings.

stomach-cheese-puffs-1But today is no ordinary day. Every year, there's a big keynote event in the body, similar to when Apple launches a new iPhone. All of the organs, blood cells, bacteria file into the arena.

The lungs go on stage first to kick things off. Right Lung is a little bit shorter and stockier than the left lung. He's like an intense gym teacher. Left Lung is more of a chill yoga instructor.

Right lung: We can do this! Come on! This year it's all about giving 110%. Never quit.

Left Lung: Alright everybody. Go ahead and stand up, I want you to do this with me. Breathe in. Hold it. Hold it in. Alright, Breathe out. Let's do it again. Breathe in. Breathe out. 

The lungs never fail to get the crowd both energized and relaxed.

The kidneys go on stage next to go over numbers and bar graphs. They always take the air right out of the room. The kidneys have kind of an inferiority complex. No one's really sure what they do and one year there was even a bacteria in the back who heckled them mid-presentation. "We only need one of you!" he shouted. The kidneys were flustered, had a hard time regaining their composure and finishing the presentation.

Liver goes next and he's a bit of a killjoy. He gets on stage to go over the alcohol and sugar policies. The crowd rolls their eyes, checks their watches.

But then it's time for Brain and Heart. Those two are worshipped by every organ, blood cell, bacteria in the body. And it's hard to determine who is more important between the two. One is the President, the other the CEO. It's a real Kobe and Shaq situation.

Brain goes on stage wearing a turtle neck. She presents new ideas. New plans. New strategy. The crowd is in awe. How does she come up with that?? But then Heart gets up, his story is all about passion. Love. Caring for your neighbor. His speech this year was titled, "Everyone is vital." He leaves the crowd feeling inspired. Those two, together, keep the body alive. Everyone gives them a standing ovation.

Well, I should say "almost" everyone. The digestive system remains seated and unimpressed. They don't even come to the arena, just watch the live stream from their desks.

"Surprise, surprise, another year, another no mention of the digestive system," Small Intestine says, x-ing out of the video.

It's always the same gripes, over and over again. Small Intestine complains about his title. "Small intestine? Small!? 20 feet long. There's nothing small about me!" Large Intestine always replies, "You know we can just switch titles, it's not a big deal to me." "No, it's the principle of the thing."

The esophagus is never impressed either. She has a bitter rivalry with the trachea, who always seems to be right in front of her. "Did you see what the trachea was wearing today? Employee of the year my ass. All she does, let's air in and out. The easiest fricken job in the body. I'd like to see her try and handle two ounces of burger at a time with pieces of fricken French fries flying at you. Yeah, good luck, windpipe." 

The stomach just tunes it all out. And, realistically, the stomach has the most reasons to be bitter. He's the only one in the crew who has actually had his ideas poached from the vital suite. The main offense was years ago when he presented a research paper to the vital organs about a serious health threat called acid reflux. He proposed calling it, "The ol hot stomach." A week later, the heart swooped in, stole the idea and branded it: "Heartburn."

Another time he was out for lunch with Heart and Brain. It was part of an employee outreach program where Brain and Heart liked to hear what was going on from "the organs on the front lines." They randomly selected six employees and sent out the invite. Stomach was joined by the testes, eardrum, spleen, prostate, and bladder. Bladder got up to go to the bathroom three times during the lunch and blamed it on the prostate. "If you would stop pushing on me and give me some space here. You really need to lose some weight." Heart and Brain lectured the testes on why they needed to follow instructions, stop coming up with their own ideas. Eardrum kept flinching throughout the entire meal. "Sorry, thought I saw a Q-tip. Sorry." And Spleen, like a scene in Office Space, was asked at least four times during the lunch: Remind us, what exactly do you do here?

Brain turned to Stomach and smiled. "Any new ideas, new research projects, buddy?"

Stomach looked over and saw Heart roll its eyes.

"Yeah, I mean, it's kind of corny though. Probably a dumb idea."

"No such thing as a dumb idea," Brain said.

"You know when our human meets somebody for the first time and I just get this sense that I don't trust the person? You know how I do that little twisty thing?"

"Yeah, we've been meaning to talk to you about that," Heart cut in. "Have you ever heard the expression 'stay in your lane?'"

"Right, no, I totally agree," Stomach said. "But, well, I started keeping a tally over the last five years, wanted to see if I was right or wrong with my opinions. And it turns out I'm batting like 95 percent."

"By what measure?" Heart said, continuing to be a mix of annoyed and unimpressed. The conversation was clearly raising his blood pressure.

"By what measure? Look at you being all analytical. You're starting to sound like me," Brain said with a laugh. "I think that's super interesting. So what do you think we should do with that?"

"I don't know," the stomach said. He took a sip of Pepto Bismol and paused for a second as if working up the courage to say the next sentence. "I came up with this corny little catchphrase. Kind of stupid but, 'trust your gut.' I don't know."

"I love it!" Brain said. Heart was silent.

A couple of weeks later, Brain announced the "trust your gut" slogan in an all-company email. "This is why we do these lunches. The best ideas can come from anywhere in the body." For a week, Stomach felt what it was like to be in the spotlight. Like he was on top of the world. High-fives all around. "Might need to get you a vital ID card, eh?" Small Intestine said in a way that was half supportive, half jealous.

But a week later, Heart stole the thunder again. He announced the overall company motto for the year. "Follow your heart." Everyone was in awe and quickly forgot about "trust your gut."

Stomach shook the memories off. He grabbed his tool belt and saw the notification on the big screen that spaghetti and meatballs were coming down the esophagus, never an easy battle. Right as he was about to leave, the phone rang on his desk.

"Stomach, how are you buddy?" he heard Brain say into the receiver. Stomach replied with some jumbled mix of, "Hey, hi, good. Yeah, good. How are you?"

"So, I've been doing some research and found some pretty interesting stuff. Had no idea all of the things that you are responsible for on a daily basis. I don't know if you even know how important you are to this body. Or maybe you're just that modest. Anyways, how does lunch sound? 12 o'clock?"

I think this post is the result of watching too much Toy Story over the last few weeks. But the whole premise started with this idea of could you write a science textbook for middle schoolers/high schoolers that told everything through a story vs. the normal way of doing things - here are the terms, here's what they do, memorize it, take a test. I'm at about a 60/40 split whether this will end at one blog post or continue into a science storybook. 

Next week, no stomach post. No talking organs or fast food restaurants as characters. I'll be posting a regular blog called, "Feeling overwhelmed? Try giving it 79%." It's kind of the reverse argument of giving things 110% and a slightly different spin on the concept of work/life/balance. To subscribe via email, just enter your email address in the box below.

Thanks for stopping by and see you next week!

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