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Of Radiation and Libraries

July 17, 2012


I associate microwaves with books.

Probably it stems from the fact that when I eat I must be with someone, reading or watching something.  I’d probably throw Internet surfing in there if my fingers were free.

When I was a kid, though, it was the reverse.  Whenever I was reading (which was most of the time), I had to eat.  No problem for a perpetually underweight kid.  Prior to 10 years old, that usually meant crackers, peanut butter or chips.

Then they invented the microwave.  Living with my dad meant getting all the toys as soon as they came out.  He built a cabinet into the wall and inserted the microwave into it.  We got the kind with a dial; overpowered, as all of the early ones were, probably causing cancer, infertility and mutation, but what did we know?

Today when my kids nuke something, they pop it in, tap the time and hit start, then wander off until it dings.

Back then, microwaves were better than TV.  We’d put whatever in, twist the dial and watch raptly, probably burning out our retinas—no wonder I wear glasses.  Hot dogs became my staple.  I was fascinated how in 15 seconds the Ball Park would curl up, split at the ends and turn to rubber.  Nuke the bun into a doughy state, add mustard, try to straighten out the dog and heaven ensued.  The taste didn’t enter into the equation.  We cooked it in 15 seconds!

I’d normally curl up three or four dogs and sit down with my book.  Other times, my sister and I would experiment.  We all got the speech about the old woman who tried to dry off her poodle by popping it in the microwave, so we knew not to put our pets in.  Marshmallows were something else, though.  Today’s puffballs must be formulated differently, because our old Sta-Puffs could expand to the size of soccer balls.  Completely inedible, but cool to watch.  Oh, and the glory of microwave pizza.  In moments you could create a rock-hard substance with pepperoni curls and a lake of grease on it!

There were microwave snack cakes for awhile.  Six-inch wheels where the center would be delicious and the edges would break teeth.

Don’t put eggs in there, by the way.  No one warned us about that.  When it loudly blew up, spewing yolk in a fine mist and coating the viewing window, my sister and I looked at each other and ran.  Big mistake.  At that point it could have been wiped off.  Once it cooled, it required chipping with a chisel, leaving scratches on the microwave and disappointment in Katie from our parents—somehow, being a year younger, I was immune to parental persecution—alas, not my sister’s fists, though.

I did get chastised by our librarian for getting ketchup on the pages.  I proudly pointed out that she had the wrong culprit.  My books had mustard on the pages.


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