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Turn Your Head and Cough #5
by Jason Torchinsky

This morning,or, if you're reading this before noon, right now, I had a wonderful memory while choking on the ridiculously large handful of wood scraps I was attempting to swallow in order to impress this chick sitting in the Pit. Though my little plot failed, I did manage to get a painful stripe of splinters running all the way from that little punching bag in the back of your (and my) throat and down into my intestines, a feat which, the doctor at student health informed me, gets me a free meal at the Sizzler.

But that's just trivia. Not to belittle anything having to do with the Sizzler in any way, shape, form, or caloric content, but my point here is to retell my memory, luring you into the rest of this column and making me seem, perhaps, more introspective. I was thinking about my kindergarten class. I was lucky in that when I was about to go into kindergarten a whole new series of magnet schools opened up in my city. My mother, naturally, wanted nothing but the best for me, and, though it was already too late for me to take the entrance tests needed to get me into one of these wonderful experimental magnet schools, thanks to her perseverance she was able at the last minute to enroll me in one of these fine institutes.

I think the one I got in was the Magnet School for Children with Inflamed Gums. It didn't really matter; what mattered was that I was in. I was assigned to Mrs. Elsinore's kindergarten class. She was perhaps the best kindergarten teacher in the state, and world renowned for her research into the dynamics of teaching scissors. Oh yeah, people from all over the globe would send their children to learn scissors from her. In fact, I think she even taught Prince Charles.

Those first few weeks of kindergarten were a marvel. I was progressing into toddlerhood with the ease of a professional, all thanks to Mrs. Elsinore's guiding hand. Yeah, everything from sharing to snack time to nap time was no match for my skills. I was impressing all of the neighborhood kids with how easily I could sit Indian style (both kinds of Indian) and put toys away. Her only quirk was an intense affection for the idea of the "thinking cap." Glory days indeed. Then it happened.

Mrs. Elsinore was struck by lightning. They think it happened when she was out in a vast open field during a storm, washing her collection of antennas and long aluminum rods while standing in a large tin basin of water. Anyway, she survived but she was never quite the same. When she began to teach our class again, after a recuperation period of about 45 minutes (she had a hell of a work ethic) she smelled like burnt hair and had a new obsession. Her previous quirk of affection for the "thinking cap" idea now became her driving force. Not just thinking caps, but the entire idea of having a specific garment for our activities. Within days we were issued "outdoor play pants," and then "eating scarves" and "blocks sombreros, " "coloring spats," "naptime belts," "walking shoes" (well, okay), "jumping earmuffs," and finally a "metabolizing truss." Needless to say, she was mad.

Seven years later, when I left kindergarten, I was obviously affected. For most of my life after these events transpired and I perspired I felt alienated and insane. Was I some lunatic, mind bent out of all recognition? But then, I encountered something that convinced me that I was not so bad off- that the real insanity was going on around me.

I was opening a new pair of shoes, or maybe it was a stereo- It was hard to tell, but the price was good. Anyway, in the box, nestled in the styrofoam and tissue paper, was a little white packet with these words printed on it: "Silica Gel- dessicant," and then, in bold print below that were the words, "DO NOT EAT."

I was aghast.

Willing to heed nearly any order I read, I proceeded to fast for the next several days. Luckily, a friend, noticing my weakened condition when the 12 cents change given to me at a supermarket sent me crashing to the floor, took me aside and explained that the "DO NOT EAT" order was only referring to the Silica Gel dessicant pack itself.

I began to think. They print "DO NOT EAT" on these little plastic or fabric dessicant packets for, I imagine, safety reasons. I guess that makes sense.

Makes sense? Who the hell said that? Why is necessary to warn people not to eat a little white piece of funny-smelling plastic? Since when do these things even remotely resemble any kind of food whatsoever? What kind of genetically-flawed lunatic would open up a pair of shoes, find a little white cylinder and think "Yum! White plastic cylinder full of water absorbing chemicals! Snackatastic!" and proceed to choke it down? Come to think of it, has there ever been anything you would get in a box of some electronic equipment or whatever that you should eat? Did Sony used to throw in a couple of Tootsie Rolls with every Trinitron sold? No. Sadly, I'll bet they never did.

At first, you would think that these companies must take the general populus to be a pack of soft-thing-rubbing idiots. Why else would they print "DO NOT EAT" on something that is about as appetizing as a stapler? Why else? Because some ninny probably ate one, got sick, and sued whatever company stuck that little water-absorbent thing in the dork's purchase. I guess we really are that stupid. Or at least that idiot who devoured the entire contents of his Air Jordans box, making all of humanity look bad.

This sets a really bad precedent. Now any idiot who can manage to gag down a pair of pants or a radio or some spark plugs or something can go and get a court order to have "DO NOT EAT" emblazoned all over everything. Dammit, that's not the kind of world I want my children to grow up in. Sigh. This being human is a nutty business. If you'll excuse me now, I'm going to enjoy a nice bowl of darts. Solidarity.

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