Thursday, December 13, 2012

And Yet I Survived To Make It To Adulthood.

I'm not much of a fan of chewing gum. Never have been. I'll chew it, but only on rare occasions. Even when I do I don't keep at it for very long. I think it's because, ever since I was a child, I always considered gum to be pointless. It doesn't build up to anything. In fact, with gum it's the opposite. You start off with something that's sweet and tasty and eventually it looses it's savor and you end up with this sticky, tasteless, wad of saliva that's merely a shell of it's former self. There's no conclusion to speak of, you just chew it until you decide you're tired of it. Now that I think about, maybe gum is a metaphor for so many other things in life...

Or maybe I'm overthinking the whole thing.
I'm sensing a bit of sarcasm here.
Anyway, while I'd love to examine the meaning of life through a stick of gum, that's actually not what I'm here to talk about. While I considered this to be the reason I'm not a chewing gum fan, something reminded me of another reason I may not be such a big fan of it.

Now, what I'm about to tell you is to remain between us. Okay?

You ever have one of those moments you look back on and ask yourself, "How the hell am I still alive today?" I mean, we all do dumb things, especially when we're younger, but there are some things I remember doing that make me wonder if I should be wearing a helmet for my own safety.

The other day I was chewing a piece of gum. Some company was giving out free samples of some new flavor and my wife brought it home. She was tired of it so she left it rest at home, so I decided, "why not?" Somehow some of it got stuck to my upper lip. No real problem. It came off easily enough, but that incident is what brought the memories flooding back.

(Cue wavy background and harp flashback effect)

I was young. How young, I can't really remember. I do know it was back when we only had one TV station. That TV station showed a lot of very, very old reruns. things like Get Smart, Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. I'll remind you at this point that I'm only in my mid-thirties. We just had a lot of really old TV shows on back then. Nothing better to watch, I guess.

Anyway, as I said, I was very young. I remember I was chewing a piece of gum and just like the time in the present, a piece of it got stuck to my upper lip. Only that time in the past it was really stuck on there. I think it was a really cheap, local brand and the darned thing wouldn't budge. Not all of it anyway.

Then I remembered something I saw on one of those television shows. "Which show?" you may be asking. Why, The Three Stooges of course.

I don't remember the scene exactly. In it, I think the stooges were up to some carpentry mischief when the one called Moe somehow got glue in his mouth. Curly, the bald one, grabbed a kettle of boiling water and said, "Hot water melts glue!" Then, before Moe could protest, Curly pours boiling water on Moe's face. Moe screams and that's comedy!

This is what I remembered during that moment when I, an impressionable young boy, stood there with gum stuck to his lip. Did I remember Moe screaming in pain? No. Did I remember him assaulting Curly afterwards? Uh-uh. Did I remember that hot water is... well... HOT? Somehow, it must have slipped me at the time. All I remember is hearing Curly's words of wisdom: "Hot water melts glue!"

So I went to the kitchen. There, my parents had a thermos that they usually kept hot water in for my baby sister's formula. And, just my luck, it was just filled too.

With boiling. hot. water.

I was also lucky enough to totally undisturbed while I implemented my gum removal procedure (I don't know why my parents ever left me in a room alone either).

You all can guess what happened next... Yes, I'm pretty sure I screamed just like Moe. The scar on my upper lip lasted for months. My parents' joked about it for even longer. It was all a constant reminder that I couldn't believe everything I saw on TV (and that pain is only entertaining when it's inflicted on others).

And that I'm an idiot.
Look at their faces. Even can't believe I did something so stupid.
But I'm sure I'm not the only one. Like I said, we all do dumb things when we're young. I'm sure you guys have stories of stupidity on a similar magnitude. Right? Guys? I'm not alone on this. Am I?

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  1. Honestly, the only similar thing I can think of from my childhood was when I convinced myself that writing on the wall with mom's aluminum knitting needles wasn't bad because it wasn't a pen or pencil. The only pain involved from that was after my mother found my graffiti. Now the three boys that lived next door probably have hundreds of these gems, seeing as at one point one shot the other in the eye with a BB gun.

    1. Can you imagine if I had a brother? I'm pretty sure at least one of us would have a permanent limp today.

  2. "The Abacus."

    My mom was a librarian in the small town where I grew up. Sometimes, after school, instead of walking home and checking in with our neighbor/baby-sitter, I would walk up to the library and sit in the kids' area and do homework--or mess around among the stacks of books and generally make a nuisance of myself by asking to see the stereoptican and pictures (again), or anything else I could think of. Anything but do my homework. The staff was very patient with me. They fawned on me, actually.

    In the children's area, among all the colorful furniture, standing up atop one counter there was a large abacus. It consisted of a rectangular wooden frame about 2 feet high and 3 feet long, with maybe 5 or 6 dowels interspaced, running lengthwise--horizontally. Skewered on the dowels were lots of big, colorful, plastic molded balls--like large whiffle balls--with holes in them. The balls could be slid back and forth (it was an abacus, right?), could mess with them. Spin them, for instance. If things weren't too busy in the library, I liked to see how many of the balls I could keep spinning. Or see how fast I could make one spin. Once in a while my mom would have to tell me to quiet down a bit.

    One day I noticed that the holes in the balls were about the same diameter as my fingers. (You know where this is headed, right?) Let's little finger goes into a hole and comes back out. And my 3rd finger goes into a hole and comes back out, no real problem. And my middle finger, it...yeah it goes in...but it won't come out. I'm stuck. I'm standing there at this counter in the kids' area with my finger stuck in the abacus. Past the big knuckle.

    You know how sometimes plastic things have sharp edges on them, left from the molding process? "Flash," it's called. Well the edges of this particular hole were sharp. That was a lot of the problem. It HURT.

    For an eternity I stood there and I pulled, I pried, I twisted & screwed, I squeezed, I squozed, I tried everything. I tried reaching in with a finger from an opposing hole to see if I could push myself out--and nearly got the other hand stuck. Once in a while when somebody passed near I just slid some abacus balls back and forth like I was....doing a calulation or something. I started looking to see if there was some way I could pry the abacus apart and...maybe take the ball home with me hidden under my jacket. To no avail. And my finger was getting really sore.

    After about half an hour, the libary janitor came up out of his hole in the basement, keys jangling, and I was almost closing time. Mom is at the front counter checking out books for a line of people. The card stamper going, 'kathunk'. The head librarian comes out of his office, putting on his coat. I'm starting to get worried. Am I going to get in trouble? Will Mom get in trouble?

    After checking out everybody's books my mom looked around for me. She saw where I was standing--and HOW I was standing--and took a closer look. She frowned and said, "WHAT DID YOOOU DO?" She came over and saw the situation and said, "Oh, you dumb bunny." I'll never forget smirk on her face as she cupped her nose with her hand and went "snnnrrrrck."

    The head librarian came over. Mom said, "Can you believe what this dumb bunny did?" He just smiled. The other librarians had to come over too, of course. They were full of suggestions.

    "Just pull it out."

    "I can't! It hurts! The hole is sharp."

    to be continued....

  3. continued....

    The janitor came over, smirked and said, "Not again. I'll go get the soap."

    Turned out they needed to get ice, too, from the fridge in the staff room, to shrink my finger.

    With a little lubrication and cold and a lot of tugging, my finger squeezed and scraped out.

    I was none the worse for wear, really, except for a red sore middle finger and a lot of embarrassment--about as much as could befall a kid in a library in a small town in Iowa in the early 60's.

    I had to help with the dishes and get my homework done pronto, that evening, so Mom wouldn't tell Dad what a knucklehead I'd been.

    --Lefty Lee

    1. That is a great example. Oddly enough, I'm pretty sure if I were in your place, I'd probably have ended up in the same position.

  4. In Canada it is a rite of passage to stick one's tongue onto a chain-link fence. Dumb, but necessary to Canadian citizenship. (You are not alone.)


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