Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fiestaware-Induced Superpowers

Dear Friends,

The Hard Taco song for October is called, "Muscle Memory." I strongly encourage you to use this as your audition song on "So You Think You Can Dance." Rest assured, none of the other contestants will be dancing to my father's trombone playing, and that itself should be enough to get you to the final 8.

Infertility: The Consequence of Unavoidable Actions

Mr. Feltyberger asked our AP Physics class to break up into pairs and stand with our partner at one of the lab benches. At each station was an object; a rubber duck, the mantle from a camping lantern, a rusty thermometer, a shapeless lump of metal. Ethan and I chose a station and inspected what appeared to be a piece of a broken plate with a glossy orange finish. Mr Feltyberger announced, "One of the objects in this room is radioactive. I will go from station to station with a Geiger counter and we will use it to find out which one."

I was immediately disappointed. There was no way that my broken orange plate was radioactive. I was 100% sure. Jyothi Vinnakota had laid claim to the shapeless lump of metal, and she was already smiling, because everyone knew she had chosen the radioactive object, and the rest of us were wasting our time. Stupid radio-inert plate shard.

So I did what any 16-year-old boy would do with fragment of dinnerware that was decidedly not radioactive.

I put it down my pants.

This was quickly followed by a loud announcement to my lab partner, "Oh no! I accidentally put the radioactive plate down my pants!" I placed my hands on my cheeks and shook my head from side to side with mouth agape in feigned terror. I was confident that this was a pretty accurate impersonation of a man with an object in his pants that was emitting dangerous doses of radiation. Did Ethan find this hilarious? Yes he did.

Meanwhile, Mr. Feltyberger held the Geiger counter up to the box of fertilizer. No sound. Mr. Feltyberger held the Geiger counter up to the shapeless lump. No sound. "Huh," I said, and removed the plate from my pants.

The rusty thermometer? No sound. The Geiger counter continued its voiceless journey from station to station. At each object, the tension heightened, as if Mr. Feltyberger were saying, "Duck..... duck...... duck....." The old coffee tin? No sound. When I looked down at my station I no longer saw a broken plate, but a shiny orange shard of doubt. Radioactive things are supposed to glow or at least make a subtle humming sound, right?

If you've never heard a Geiger counter, it sounds vaguely reminiscent of a DJ scratching out a beat on vinyl. When Mr. Feltyberger pointed it at my shard, the DJ went to town. I felt strangely itchy. I closed my eyes and imagined that the scratching was the sound of Run DMC bursting through the classroom door. As the beat started, the rappers stood back-to-back with their hands on their shoulders and started laying down rhymes...

DJ Run: Well they call me Run
DMC: And my name's Darryl
DJ Run: And your 501's are filled with... peril!
DMC: Cuz Sucka MC's gonna end up... sterile!
DJ Run: For dropping that nuke down your... apparel!
DMC: The orange glaze was uranium... laced!
DJ Run: So now you got ill with a nuclear...
Both: Waist!
Jam-Master Jay and Geiger Counter: Wik-wik-wik wikky wikky woo!

Mr. Feltyberger than explained that the reddish-orange Fiestaware got its distinctive color from depleted uranium. Obviously, it was not safe to eat off these plates, so the line had been discontinued in the early 70's.  

And so I spent the next 12 years of my life convinced that I would never sire a child, or at least one with an even number of nipples. Happily, this turned out to be a baseless fear, and when my kids were born with the traditional allotment of limbs and organs, I quickly blocked out the Fiestaware Incident.

Then yesterday, I was watching my children play. Scarlett was sitting on the floor and Malcolm walked over and sat in her lap. It was if they were stacking on top of each other, and they fit together almost too perfectly. I began to wonder, could it be that these children have… unusual aptitudes? Then I realized that all of those years I had been worried about the wrong thing. My children are not normal. They will never be like the other kids, because they are endowed with special, unnatural... plate powers.

With warmest regards,