My First Science Lesson or How Not to Melt Your Manhood

It was a hot August night.
I would soon do an imitation of this album cover
Let me back up a bit.
In my house, it was a bad move to ask for Coke or Pepsi. Not because it would start a fight over which was better, but my mother didn’t buy much of either and it was only for special occasions (Saturday nights) not for every time we were thirsty.
Inevitably, when I would ask if we had something to drink, the answer would be: water. We had a well, the water was, well, free.
There was one exception to the rule and it was anything that could be made with water. This DID include Kool Aid (IF mom bought any) and Tang, although after bugging mom for months to buy the ‘spaceman soft drink’ after a few tries, we all admitted we hated that crap.
Because here on Earth, it sucks.
There was coffee, which as a kid; I didn’t understand why anyone would drink this evil stuff, and tea. Everyone could drink tea.
The Beatles bring decent tea to America
We could also have iced tea. Of course, like Tang, ice tea mixes had to be bought and, well, like everything else kids wanted, it was ‘too expensive’ to be anything other than a sometimes treat.
BUT, we always had tea bags (Lipton, of course, we’re Americans, thank you). 
Brits wouldn’t be caught dead drinking this shite
And you can make iced tea the old fashioned way by boiling the tea first.
As a side note, ‘iced tea’ is somewhat of a weird concept to Canadians. When you ask for it in a restaurant, they will bring you hot tea with a glass full of ice. This may have changed over the years but the last time I was there, that is what they served. That and Beaver Tails.
It was the August before starting eighth grade (1976) and, of course, there was no Pepsi, Coke or even that God-awful Tab or Diet Rite my mom would buy. No one wanted water, there was no iced tea mix and so I went about boiling the water and adding tea bags.
Then I got out the pitcher. It was a very nice pitcher. I remember it to this day – cut glass, a sort of golden color, held a gallon. A veritable work of art.
I poured the tea into the glass pitcher. Boiling tea. Glass.
I still remember how it disintegrated, allowing scalding tea to cascade over the counter on to my legs and, yes, nether regions.
For a moment, I was in shock. My parents heard the pitcher crash and then a few beats later, my screaming.
I ran into the living room, screaming. I could not elucidate. I could only scream.
Then something happened I will never forget.
My mother, in her frustration over my inability to articulate that my balls may have just been melted off, drew back her hand and gave me a good slap across the face.
It was worthy of Bette Davis.
Articulate damn you!
In further shock, I ran upstairs howling, went into the bathroom and proceeded to peel off my jeans and the top layer of leg skin went with it.
Long story short: ER trip, Silvadene cream, bandages and dressings, home from school for a week.
In answer to the inevitable question (which my classmates asked as well), I later had two children.
What happened after that was relatives on both sides of my family spent weeks giving me what they felt was useful advice on how not to scald your balls off. My sainted Grandma Gottschalk advised putting a wooden spoon in the middle of the pitcher to absorb the heat.
Even at 13, I knew that would not have helped.
The moral of this story is that we wait too long in school to teach our children the laws of thermodynamics. We think that telling kids not to put their hands on a hot stove and stick bobby pins in electrical outlets are enough. 
Either that or we feel some lessons need to be learned the hard way. As John Wayne said, “life is tough; it’s tougher when you’re stupid.”
One thing I couldn’t quite figure out. Why is it that when mom made Jell-O™ she would boil water and put it in the glass measuring cup and then into a glass pan without either the cup or the pan similarly shattering?
So if I could pass on one of life’s great pieces of advice to all other young people it would be in one word: Pyrex.


This entry was posted in advice, childhood terror, growing up, When we were very young. Bookmark the permalink.

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