Chances are you have probably heard about the five-second rule, which in some circles is shortened to three seconds.

For the uninformed the five-second rule is a food hygiene concept that states there is a defined window of opportunity where it is permissible to pick up food after it has been dropped and potentially exposed to contamination.

Obviously such a “rule” is not written in stone. There are different considerations that must be weighed before picking up a morsel of dropped food and popping it in one’s mouth.

What dropped? If, for example, it were a bite of asparagus that I had “accidentally” dropped, it would immediately go into the trash because one can’t be too careful. However, if it were a piece of pepperoni that had slipped off a slice of pizza, you can bet I’d be scrambling to pick it up before the five count had expired.

It also must be taken into consideration where the item landed. If it were in an area only frequented by the occasional dust bunny, chances are the fumbled food article is still safe to eat. However, if it’s a space were both man and beast are known to trod, and maybe more, I might have cause to pause and rethink just how bad I want that bite.

Such was the dilemma I found myself facing a couple of Fridays ago.

Before my wife, Nancy, headed out of town to assist our daughter, Amber, after the birth of her second son, Jackson, she prepared a number of food items for me to eat during her absence. Among them was a batch of cookies that featured as key ingredients chocolate chips and prunes, which insured they were moist and pliable.

With my bride out of town I decided to do my post-workday walking in the downtown area. I quickly discovered early in the week that if I didn’t have a snack before heading out on my walk by the time I had completed a couple of miles I was running on fumes, which is not a good feeling. Beginning on Wednesday I started taking a couple of Nancy’s homemade cookies to eat as I headed out on my walk. The difference was amazing. Even after walking 2.8 miles Wednesday and 3.5 miles on Thursday, I was still feeling quite good.

Not one to argue with success, I headed out Friday with two of the cookies in hand. But as I fished the first cookie out of its plastic bag, a particularly intense Parkinson’s tremor took command of my right hand which happen to be holding cookie No. 1. Before I could take a bite of the cookie, much to my horror, it broke in half. I watched helplessly as a perfectly good half cookie plunged to the concrete sidewalk.

At that point I was on the clock.

One Mississippi, two Mississippi…

“It really is a good cookie,” I reasoned. “And as sidewalks go this patch doesn’t look too disgusting.”

Three Mississippi, four Mississippi…

“Plus nobody is watching.”

Five Mississippi.

“What are you thinking?” demanded the annoying voice of reason that speaks up from time to time. “You still have a perfectly good cookie and a half to enjoy. You don’t need that cookie on the ground! WALK ON!!”

After jabbing at the fallen piece of cookie with my foot a time or two, as if searching for a sign of life, I reluctantly turned and continued my walk. I made a point to pop the remaining pieces of cookie into my mouth whole and eating them so that history did not have a chance to repeat itself.

As I completed the first lap of my four-lap walk, I paused to pick up the fallen half cookie, not to eat, but to throw away. After all, if I choose to ignore the five-second rule, there was no way I was going to eat it after more than five minutes.

The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Courier-Post.