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Turn Your Head and Cough #10
by Jason Torchinsky

The day after yesterday I was locking my bike to the door handle of a parked car when, looking at the bike rack next to me, I noticed something odd. Resting peacefully atop the bike rack, minding its own business, was a small plastic bag filled with some blue liquid. At first I didn't think much of this little baggie, figuring it was just some little sack of Windex that fell out of some unknowing student's lunch.

But as I made my rounds handing out Game Boys to all the good boys and girls of Chapel Hill in honor of the Jewish holiday Simchas Torah, which, I might add, is not scheduled until a few months from now, my mind was led back to that little bag of fluid. Why, you might ask yourself, provided you are a real lame-o, did my mind return to that bag? Why, I'll give you why, you. Because the campus was teeming with these crazy little plastic bags full of colored liquid. All over the place. In nooks of trees, on the sidewalk, in the pit, taped to a vice-chancellor, on the ground, and this time I'm serious, there were these damn little bags of different colored liquids everywhere. Really. You must have seen them. I'm not mad. They're around. Really. Stop looking at me like that.

Now, I've seen some pretty nutty feces in my time- soups that eat like meals, candy bars that somehow have cookie crunches, even a toothpaste dispenser that combines the neatness of a pump with the pleasurable squeezing of a tube, but never before have I encountered anything that involves as many little plastic bags and colored liquid as what invaded our campus that fateful day.

I'm proud to say that I have the mind of a scientist- Neils Bohr's, the famous atomic theorist, which I keep in four separate Mason jars on the headboard of my bed. I also have a keen interest in things scientific and an intense curiosity. So, naturally, these little liquid pockets piqued my curiosity. Utilizing my vast knowledge of chemistry gained from the complex process of digesting food that I have been doing so skillfully these past five years, I reasoned that the best thing to do with any unidentified, unknown liquid reagent is to consume as much of it as possible. Driven with purpose, I proceeded to collect about 40 of these little fluid bags and suck them down with the speed of a professional liquid-in-little-bag swallower. As I was coughing out the plastic bags (I was too excited to open them) I realized that perhaps my logic was flawed and that the best thing to do with a found, unidentified colored liquid was not to immediately consume, but rather to keep as far away from any orifice as possible. Luckily, I found an old copy of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, so inducing vomiting was no problem and within seconds I soon had the unknown substance out of my body and on my shoes, where it belongs.

Still hoping for some answers, I, quite truthfully, took some samples to the chemistry labs in Kenan where, after repeated suggestions to see my clergyman, I finally found a grad student bored enough to run a few simple tests on the substance to determine if it was anything notable, or, better, cold fusion, which would be my ticket out of here. The tests, a simple solubility test and a pH test, did not completely determine what the substance was, though it did seem to be simply the mundane combination of water and food coloring, ironically the exact same ingredients as my mom's famous chili.

The little various-colored liquids in the plastic bags at least now were no longer such a mystery, chemically. Now I only had one question left. Realizing my dearth, I went out and got a whole trunkload more of questions, and one of the first ones I used was "Why the hell are these little bags of colored liquid all over campus?"

Perhaps before this column goes to press the reason of the bags will be revealed, rendering this entire column to little more than the half-wit ramblings of a madman, a particularly inaccurate description of my work. Unless you count the opinion of one fringe, nonessential group that calls itself the "readers." But I'm digressing. And boy, does it chafe. So back to the main subject. Oh, yes. What the hell's going on? What possible cause could anyone have had to spend the time creating large vats of multi-colored fluids, dole them out into little baggies, knot them, and carefully distribute them all over campus?

Perhaps to prove some point? To make some social commentary? Probably not an environmental message, as little plastic bags littered about the ground full of strange goo probably isn't the kind of stuff Ma Earth really digs. Some social commentary, perhaps? I don't know. Well, whatever it is, they've curried my favor. What could be more effective in swaying someone's opinion about a touchy subject than bags of juice? Why, I'll bet that if the great Mahatma Ghandi had such resources at his disposal Tiennamen Square would never have occurred and Mexico would be a land free from the cruel hand of a royal dictatorship today. Little plastic bags of colored liquid. Everywhere. Little bags of colored liquid. Little bags. Colors. Liquid. Oh. Gasp. Liquid. Color. Bags. Oh, it's enough to drive you mad! What do they mean?! What do they want from me?! Why won't they leave me alone? Get out from my head, little colored fluid bags! Set me free from your cool, moist, jiggly tyranny! Quit my head! Exit my mind! Darkness...Oh...gasp.

It's four hours later now, as I wake up from in front of my computer, where I'm typing in this column. I seem to have eaten the lower left corner of my keyboard, so don't expect to see the letter after 'y' in this column now. I can't let this get to me. I'm sure some reasonable explanation will make this whole nasty business apparent soon enough. Then again, based on the data I have, it is just as likely that aliens landed and left these little bags as seedlings of their kind which shall eventually grow up to be massive beasts that eat humans and sing show tunes as it is that some goofball, really bored student spent lots of time doing this just for the hell of it, or maybe to impress some chick or stud. Who knows.

Well, dear readers, I'm spent. I've still got a lot of thinking, and, yes, my most treasured readers, exfoliating to do before I can be at ease with this whole plastic bag and colored liquid event. But perhaps this is exactly the kind of thing I need to shake me up and make me realize that ... I needed to be shaken up and realize. Yeah. Uh, anyway, just to be on the safe side, if you encounter one of these bags, stand proud. Tell it who's boss. It's you, trust me. If not, don't worry, who's going to tell? There. So be careful. Take cover. Solidarity.

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