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?”
“Do you want it in a glass?”
“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…”
“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.