Could I Have a Straw?

Soda
My ginger ale. Close at hand and safe to consume.

Late last week, a cold that had been playing hide-and-seek with me for quite some time decided it was my turn to be “it” and roared to life. Normally one to “sleep in” on weekends until 6:15 or 6:30, I found myself still comfortably buried under the covers at 8:30 and 9:30. On Saturday, my wife, who usually wakes me with a cup of coffee on work days, asked first if I wanted to use that or Ginger Ale to wash down a night’s worth of post-nasal drip.

Ginger Ale sounds good

Do you want a straw?

No

Do you want it in a glass?

No

You’re going to drink it from the can?

Yes, that’s how I drink soda

You don’t know where that can has been…”

[…pause…]

Can I have a straw please?

Honestly, I didn’t care where the can had been. I was already sick. Any germ clinging to the top of that can was going to feel right at home when it hit my mouth.

I do sometimes rinse off the top of the can, if I have a soda at work, but usually not here at home. It’s like I feel that the act of bringing the can into my house purifies it in some way. The germs it came in with meet all the airborne, catborne and dogborne germs already in the house and an unseen battle ensues. The invaders don’t have a chance against felinus-microbi.

It wasn’t the suggestion that there might be germs-of-unknown-origin, a.k.a. foreign contaminants (I had to add that link for my daughter) that caused me to change my mind. No, it was the deep memory of my Aunt Adel that did it.

Aunt Adel was my father’s youngest sister. Until I was about 10, we lived in an apartment building that my grandmother owned. Aunt Adel and her family lived in a detached house on the same property. I loved her very much and I spent a lot of time at her house. The geography of the buildings made it easy for her to watch me playing in the yard. Much easier than my mother. Adel could see me from her first floor kitchen window while my mother would have had to cycle between several second story windows in our living room.

Aunt Adel never bothered with direct discipline. Her main weapon was the threat of telling my mother what I was doing / had done. However, on some occasions, she tried to correct what she considered bad or dangerous behavior by planting a seed of evil in my impressionable young mind.

One day, I was “working” with my father as he was dismantling and rebuilding the back porch on Adel’s house. I was too young to be of any real assistance, but I wanted to be working too. My father gave me a hammer and a bunch of boards from the old porch. He told me to take the nails out of the boards and then straighten them so that he could reuse them. I realize now that this was the perfect task for a young boy, if the goal was to keep him out from underfoot.

I pulled and pounded until I had a coffee can full of reclaimed, albeit rusty nails. My father did reuse some of them, which made me feel good, but I wanted more, I wanted to nail something together. Of course, I was better at bending nails into useless shapes than driving them home. After a few failed attempts, dad told me that I needed to practice. First, I was to watch him. Then I could begin some hands-on training.

He sent me back to the pile of scrap, armed with my hammer and the nails I had removed and straightened. He told me to stack a few boards on top of each other and nail them together.

Watching him, I learned the technique. Hold a few nails in your mouth. Take one out, tap it into place on the board. Once free-standing, smack it lightly, then harder and then BAM – all the way home. I could do this.

A few days later, I was in the yard, still working on my hammering skills. Aunt Adel saw me through her window and was very concerned about the nails sticking out of my mouth. She came outside and said:

You know, at the nail factory, the men don’t get bathroom breaks. When they have to pee, they just pee on the nails.”

She returned to her house.

I’ve used a nail apron ever since.

Nail Aprons
The cloth one is one of the oldest aprons I own, I think my father gave it to me. The black nylon one is my favorite all around pouch.

45 thoughts on “Could I Have a Straw?

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    1. Yeah, she caught me on the right day, I still think of her when I have that urge to stick a few nails in my mouth. I may not believe her anymore, but it’s hard to keep the nails in while laughing.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Ooh hope you’re on the mend. That bug is nasty once it nestles in your sinuses!

    Love stories about our Aunts and Uncles. They were a mix of love, honey and the fear of God. And had eyes on all sides of their heads 😋

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Whatever this is, it likes being in my head, but I think I’m gaining on it. Aunt Adel certainly had eyes everywhere. If she asked you if you had done something, you could be sure that she saw you do it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your aunt was a smart woman.
    I’m trying to remember when people got so concerned about germs. The only reason I’ve ever wiped off a can of soda was so I wouldn’t taste dirt in the drink.

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  3. I can see why you gave up the straw debate, Dan, but as you go on to say, what difference would it really have made? As I often say, God gave us white blood cells for a reason! As for the rest of the post, well, what can I say except you, ahem, nailed it. xD

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dan,

    Great story. On many levels. If you ever see your aunt again in a dream and it is raining and she does not have an umbrella – tell her that the bear in the woods used to work in the nail factory… it will show her you learned sumtin important….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Aunt Adel knew how to make her point! Funny story😄
    I hope you’re on the mend now. Use that straw!
    When I have a cold, I don’t care for coffee at all and I love my coffee. I want tea instead.
    I can’t see the picture in this post either. Perhaps, it’s some techy situation that can be easily resolved if I power off my iPad.

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  6. Ha! Great post, Dan. I can’t begin to count the number of times that I’ve obsessively scrubbed something (be it a consumable product or otherwise) while telling myself, “Some guy could have peed on this. Or wiped himself with his hand and then touched every last apple on the tree. Or the woman who was just digging through this bin of green beans probably just came from the bathroom and didn’t wash her hands…”

    I’ll almost always use a glass instead of drinking directly from a can (because yes, thinking it’s probably been touched and is dirty/germy). Or I’ll at least wash/wipe the top of it. But as for straws, I like them for certain things, but not for any kind of pop (or soda, as you Americans may call it), for one simple reason — it makes the already too foamy beverage even MORE foamy. I don’t like the foam. Flat, flat, flat. It’s the only way to go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Flat soda – I still can’t get used to that idea Wendy, but if it suits you, then so be it. I did grow up calling it pop, but here in New England, it’s soda and I’ve been ground down over time.

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  7. Nice Aunt Adel. I think long ago aunts were more mindful of their nephews and nieces than today. Especially the ones from the father’s side. I have one who used to be more strict on me than my parents when I was little. She didn’t wait to report me or threaten to report; she would punish me there and then if she found me being cheeky. One day I attempted to stop an older classmate from beating up younger one. It was during lunch break and the guy was just irritable. He decided that it was disrespectful of me to intrude on his business like that. So he attacked me and we fought until we were summoned in the Principal’s office. But when I was sent home to call my parents, it was my aunt that I met with on the way. “Why are you not in school?” she demanded and I hastily explained. But she didn’t care that my classmate had started it. She just took a stick and gave me three good ones on the ass. We returned to school with me crying all the way. She said she expected me to behave better than pick fights.

    And about that nail-straightening business. I did that a lot. It was like a hobby after school. Me and an age-mate named David. We used to collect used nails and straighten them to make our own toys with timber, iron sheets, cardboard, rubber, wires, cans, and transparent plastics. We stopped when David shattered his thumb with the hammer. It was awful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Adel was subtle, but she always made her feelings known. As for that last bit Peter, I’ve smashed my left index finger so many times that I can’t count them. It’s an awful thing because you see the damage before you feel the pain and you know that it’s going to hurt. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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