Learning life’s hard lessons about freezers

by Timothy Stephen Pike

The following is a true story. It is a story of humiliation. A story of pain. A story of persistence and eventual victory—but mostly, of frostbite. It is a story of good and evil, but when stripped of all its symbolism and abstract meaning, it essentially boils down to one character-revealing conclusion: if someday faced with the choice of having my finger stuck in a freezer or not having my finger stuck in a freezer, I would probably go with the latter.

Don't be fooled by such an innocent looking freezer.

Don’t be fooled by such an innocent looking freezer.

While most people’s Friday night college stories are madcap tales of riotous keg parties replete with half-naked women swinging from chandeliers, my own accounts are of eating Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and drinking Coca-Cola in my dorm room till all hours of the night. Without Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, the source of my strength throughout my college years, I may not have made it to graduation.

On this particular Friday night, alone in my dormitory kitchen, I happened to be preparing some Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. As I stared longingly at the boiling pasta, which was almost ready, I thought of how well a Coke would go with the mouthwatering meal I was about to enjoy. First, however, I needed some ice.

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Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me make it absolutely clear that I really like my fingers. Almost as much as I like Coke. And I would never intentionally do anything to endanger them. But I had to wash my hands before dinner, and I also had to get some ice. So while you may have opted to live your life in a smart fashion, never reaching into your freezer with wet hands, that’s been your choice. After all, it’s your life. As for me, I often prefer to take a walk on the dim-witted side.

It’s not that I didn’t notice the frost coating the freezer walls. And it’s not that I didn’t know my hands were wet. I simply needed an ice cube for my Coke, and I needed it right then. So I opened the freezer door and reached for the ice, my hand ominously disappearing into a frigid, swirling fog. And as I brought the ice out, that’s when it happened. My right index finger grazed—grazed, mind you—the top of the freezer compartment and suddenly, with nothing more than a doink!, my damp finger instantly adhered itself to the ceiling of the freezer.

No problem, I thought. A bit inconvenient, sure, but I’ll just go ahead and give it a little yank—

I tugged on my finger. Nothing. It may as well have been soldered to the freezer. I looked over at the stove and saw my boiling water was now bubbling over. I tugged on my finger again, but to no avail. Extricating it, I now knew, would be a matter of intense pain at best, and might even involve the fire department. My smile slowly faded as the dismaying truth became clear: I was officially stuck to my freezer.

My life changed dramatically in that moment. No longer could I claim to be among the hundreds, thousands even, who had never been stuck to their freezers. My vision of the future soured—this was definitely not a resume builder. Even if I somehow found work after college, I might be too afraid of freezers to use one ever again.

For the sake of my finger, and the sake of the macaroni, I needed an idea. Quick. Nothing was within reach, so my one free arm and nine available fingers would do me no good. What else could I use? Let’s see…I still had one head, one nose…no…two ears, two legs, one mouth—wait a minute, two legs? Hmmmm…if I stretched my leg out all the way, I could nip the faucet handle and turn on the warm water. Then I could use my foot to flick the water back onto my poor finger.

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The chances were slim, but I was in a bind. By now, the water had boiled away and the macaroni was melting. In fact, the pan was melting. The alarm clock in my bedroom was going off for some reason, a fly was buzzing around my face, and the phone was ringing. And my finger hurt. All hell had broken loose and my life had turned into chaos in the blink of an eye and the sticking of a finger.

The first couple splashes of water only succeeded in dousing my face. But the third—the glorious third—also doused my face. My desperation mounted as I frantically kicked and flicked for what seemed like hours when finally—just as the sonorous song of an angel emanated from the heavens—my finger popped loose. The more I think about it, it was either an angel singing or it was Pam, my neighbor across the hall, who was in a church choir. In either case, I was spared.

Unfortunately, after all that hassle, I discovered I was out of Coke. But I ended up taking away with me two important life lessons that night. First, always stock up on Coke. And second, always take a sewing kit with you when you travel—you never know when you’ll lose a button. This occurred to me while I was stuck to the freezer. Wet hands, cold freezer. Try it sometime—who knows how much you could learn?

Timothy Pike is a Brobdingnagian essayist who tries to avoid touching frayed, sparking power lines.

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Man carries 24 ounces of cocktail sauce through airport security

by John Johnson, staff writer

DENVER, CO—Despite the Transportation Security Administration’s strict ban on carrying more than three ounces of any liquid or gel through an airport security checkpoint, Ross Jensen, a Westminster resident and cocktail sauce aficionado, risked severe embarrassment, missing his flight, and being fined up to $10,000 when he slipped a full 24 ounces of homemade shrimp cocktail sauce past security screeners at Denver International Airport yesterday.

A metal detector, not unlike the one Ross Jensen passed through, which is designed to detect metal, not cocktail sauce.

A metal detector, not unlike the one Ross Jensen passed through, which is designed to detect metal, not cocktail sauce.

Jensen, 41, was on his way to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to attend his sister’s housewarming party, when the incident occurred. Although remorseful for breaking the law, Jensen admitted that had he known he was violating five to seven federal statutes, he might still have done it, because “the party would have really sucked with just three ounces of cocktail sauce.”

Department of Homeland Security officials are still trying to figure out how such a monolithic security breach could have happened. Tom Mason, director of aviation security at DIA, said, “If we had known how much cocktail sauce this gentleman was carrying, there is no way our agents would have let him past the screening checkpoint. I mean, if he’d been a terrorist bent on blowing up an airplane with cocktail sauce, he could have done it. That’s scary. I want some shrimp.”

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Current TSA regulations prohibit the carriage of more than three ounces of any liquid or gel, whether it be shampoo, lotion, water, or even shrimp cocktail sauce. However, since Jensen was carrying the sauce in eight separate three-ounce bottles, including one in his pocket when he walked through the metal detector, he went unchallenged by any of the TSA screeners. X-ray machines do not have the capability to detect the type of substance inside a given container.

“If there’s one thing I know, it’s homemade cocktail sauce,” said Jensen. “And now I also know how to get onto an airplane with 24 ounces of homemade cocktail sauce. A good chef never stops learning.”

According to Jensen, guests at the party were quick to notice the large amount of cocktail sauce in the bowl next to the shrimp platter, and immediately asked him how he was able to get so much of the tomatoey, horseradishy goodness past security, onto the plane, and into their stomachs.

“I didn’t know I’d committed a federal crime until I got to the party, and everyone kept coming up to me, obviously baffled, to ask, ‘How?’ I swore it was an accident. But they were happy. They loved the sauce. And because they were happy, I was happy,” said Jensen.

After five silent minutes of smiling and staring peacefully toward the ceiling, Jensen continued: “You know, until now, I thought the TSA had been doing a great job making the public feel safe by maintaining the illusion of safety and security in our airports. Now I see it’s all a charade. They just better be glad I wasn’t a terrorist.”

Added Jensen: “I terrorized that party, though. The sauce was a hit. And maybe next time, I’ll make a barrelful—enough to plug the gaping hole I just found in U.S. airport security.”

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My living room is literally a sea of paper clips

Dear Mindy,

I have so many paperclips, I don’t know what to do with them. I mean, my house is FULL of paperclips. Literally. When I walk in the front door, I have to wade through a sea of paperclips just to get to the living room. Then I go to pick up the remote on the end table, and I can’t find the TV. Most people dust; I paperclip. I can’t even eat my cereal in the morning without ingesting paperclips, so I think it’s starting to get a little out of hand. What can I do?

—Rhonda Canner
Raleigh, NC

Mindy Torbett hiking in the Rocky Mountains with her sleeping bag and a backpack full of paperclips.

Mindy Torbett hiking in the Rocky Mountains with her sleeping bag and a backpack full of paperclips.

Every issue, readers from all over write in to ask our featured advice columnist pressing questions about a very specialized field. Whether they hope to resolve a dilemma or find a way out of their quandaries and quagmires, they get their answers here.

Today we are proud to feature Mindy Torbett, a Bozeman, Montana, resident specializing in paperclips.

Dear Rhonda,

I can identify with your situation, because as you may have guessed, I too own a ton of paperclips. What I’ve done, however, is taken all my paperclips and thrown them into my backyard swimming pool. Swimming in paperclips might be a little rough on the skin, but not only does it save me from constantly checking chlorine levels, it frees me up from the hassles of getting buried in a flood of paperclips every time I open the refrigerator.

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Dear Mindy,

Sitting at my cubicle desk yesterday, I suddenly ran out of paperclips. For half an hour I had been paperclipping things so helter-skelter and willy-nilly that I didn’t even notice I was running out. I needed another paperclip, so I took one off of my co-worker’s desk. He caught me, and got all bent out of shape about this one little paperclip. How can I smooth things over with him?

—Carla Flemmer
Long Island, NY

Dear Carla,

Some people, like your co-worker, don’t understand the frustration of running out of paperclips without any warning. But if you really want to smooth things over with your colleague, present him with a paperclip collage. Gather several dozen paperclips (of varying sizes, of course) and paste them all on a piece of poster board. Underneath your collage, write him a poem like “You have a beard / And you’re a little weird / But you’re my friend / And I don’t want it to end / So hopefully we can skip / This fight over a paperclip.” Then sit back and watch the hostility melt away.

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Texas dies in fiery car crash at 162

by John Johnson, staff writer

KENNEBUNK, ME—The state of Texas was killed yesterday in a multi-car pileup along I-95 near Kennebunk, when his car plowed straight into a concrete overpass and burst into flames after he attempted to swerve around a previous pileup. Paramedics tried unsuccessfully to revive the state, and he died at the scene. Texas was 162.

The recently deceased state of Texas

The recently deceased state of Texas

Longtime neighbor Oklahoma told The Teaspoon Times that Texas was a great state to have as a friend. “He was just your typical, old-fashioned, down-home, hootin’ and hollerin’, nitty-gritty, Tex Mex, greasy spoon, shoot-‘em-up kind of state. He was a big guy, but he had a big heart,” recalled Oklahoma.

Texas, who would have turned 163 in December, had endured his share of tough times. Even though the Mexican-American war ravaged many parts of the state in the 1840s, Texas met Louisiana soon after, and the couple settled down to a life together on the southern edge of the United States. Most recently, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike had caused some tension between them, but the two were just beginning to put that discord in the past.

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“There are just too many memories,” said Louisiana, choking back tears. “I still have the yellow rose he gave me when we first met. And I remember…excuse me…I remember…the Alamo.”

Texas is survived by his father, Delaware, his wife, Louisiana, as well as his three children, Austin, Dallas, and Amarillo, who all live nearby. An estranged son, Waco, moved to San Diego in 1994 and could not be reached for comment.

Officials have warned anybody with plans to drive through the state of Texas that they will only find empty space devoid of all substance and matter in place of the familiar, painfully long stretches of large-state nothingness and small-town mentalities devoid of all substance and matter.

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Global warming attributed to liberal imagination

by John Johnson, staff writer

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A recent study by the Multinational Council on Climate Research, a Washington-based think tank, found that global warming, the phenomenon that is causing average temperatures on Earth to rise, is actually nothing more than a collective figment of overactive left-wing imaginations across the country.

A major source of greenhouse gas emissions, which exist only in the minds of liberal snobs.

A major source of greenhouse gas emissions, which exist only in the minds of liberal snobs.

“We were astonished by the results,” said Jacob Harcourt, managing director of the MCCR. “I had always thought the primary cause of global warming to be gases in our atmosphere that trapped the sun’s heat and caused an increase in surface temperatures. Turns out it’s nothing more than a penchant for foreign films and organic food.”

The study also found that glacial retreat, extreme weather events, and the melting of polar ice caps is not so much due to emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as it is to an infatuation with universal healthcare, unwavering support of communist governments, and an affinity for high taxes.

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Although many question the study’s findings, Harcourt insists they are based on sound science. “We did experiments,” he said. “For example, we showed people an assortment of spatial variability charts, and the only ones who were in any way alarmed or somehow interpreted them to mean that subsurface temperatures worldwide are directly impacted by rising atmospheric heat gradients were the people that drove Volvos or had body piercings. It was crazy.”

Experiments also found that listening to hip hop music or even just thinking about France caused the average liberal to remove his or her sweater. By contrast, a control group that was shown clips of Bill O’Reilly immediately reported feeling a chill in the air.

“What was really weird—and this is very revealing—was that a chart depicting seasonal oscillations in carbon dioxide measurements, which were directly proportional to temperature increases, correlated almost precisely with people’s wine and cheese intake during those same periods,” Harcourt said.

The study pointed out that decades of burning oil, coal and other fossil fuels, which have raised our atmospheric carbon concentration to almost 400 parts per million, mean little when one considers the number of soy lattes consumed and the amount of volunteer work at homeless shelters over those same years.

Patty Simmons, one of the study’s participants, said the results opened her eyes. “I grew up in a household with two mothers, and every day they reminded me that the quickest and best way to become a godless nation of gay, socialist, flag burning weenies was carpooling. Now I can see that won’t work, because climate change is all in our heads.”

Harcourt said that those suffering most from delusions that the earth’s sea levels are somehow rising, or that permafrost is thawing in polar regions, are welfare mothers and single parents.

“The more you hate your own country, or eat tofu, the more likely you are to feel as though the earth’s surface temperatures are increasing in direct proportion to greenhouse gas emissions, and to entertain fantasies of someday reducing your carbon footprint,” Harcourt said.

He added: “My six-year-old daughter went trick-or-treating last week and had to put a coat on over her costume because she felt ‘chilly.’ My daughter, by the way, is a solid social and fiscal conservative. So you tell me.”

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Lonely house getting lonelier, contemplating suicide

by John Johnson, staff writer

OAK PARK, MI—7124 South Becker Court, an off-white, two story, four bedroom, two bathroom house that has been empty for nearly a month, admitted it has been entertaining thoughts of suicide for several weeks, citing loneliness and heartbreak as main reasons for its depression, despite regular visits from parties interested in buying it and moving in.

7124 S. Becker Ct., far right, pictured here hanging out with its friends.

7124 S. Becker Ct., far right, pictured here hanging out with its friends.

“When the Reeds moved out last month, I was a little sad, but thought they might be coming back,” 7124 told The Teaspoon Times. “Then [neighboring house] 7132 told me what the sign out in my front yard meant—that I was for sale, and the Reeds would never return. After that, it just got worse. Now I’ve decided nothing would please me more than dying a quick, painless death.”

7124’s circle of friends, consisting of neighboring houses in the quiet suburban cul-de-sac, have sought to comfort the troubled house whenever possible. One friend, who asked to remain anonymous, said that 7124 is “usually a very sweet, house-next-door type, but lately has been nothing but a house of blues, what with the closed curtains and sullen demeanor and all.”

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Another friend, 7102 South Becker Court, said it baked a cake for its friend yesterday, and that although it had no way to bring it to 7124, “I let the aroma waft over in that direction.” 7102, who acknowledged being romantically involved with 7124 for a brief period of time in December of 2002, did not hold back praise for its friend. “’24 is an all-around great house,” 7102 went on, “but I was on the rebound at the time and looking for more of a fling than anything…and ’24 was…well, a very attractive house.”

One of 7124’s neighbors, 7110 South Becker Court, whose owner is a therapist, claimed it had learned enough about the symptoms of depression from its inhabitants to be able to offer its support to 7124. “I understand ’24’s emotional state to a tee,” said 7110. “Heck, I was there once myself, back in the eighties when that cold snap froze all my pipes. It was very painful and I didn’t see the point in going on, but eventually I thawed out and made it though. We houses are a strong lot. You know what they say: the odds always favor the house.”

7124 said it was considering several suicide methods, including developing a leak in its basement walls during a rainstorm in the hopes of growing mold, leaving the oven on for a few minutes and somehow creating a spark, or just waiting for tornado season and “hoping for a direct hit.”

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Don’t park your trunk in the City of Fun Times

by Timothy Stephen Pike

And now a word about parking tickets. I hate them. I got one the other day for an expired meter. The biggest problem with all this is that they want you to send in a check, which is difficult because the department you have to pay is the department that takes care of forty-five different things around town. So there I am making a check out to the “City Department of Traffic Control, Parking Tickets, Money Collection, Downhill Skiing, Nose Blowing, Lawn Mowing, and So Many Other Things All Combined Into One Department That If You Can’t Fit Our Name On Your Check Just Attach a Separate Piece of Paper.” Whew! But oh, I fit in on there. Just to spite them.

A photo of Paris featuring several unused parking spots.

A photo of Paris featuring several unused parking spots.

Ever seen a parking ticket with an attitude? You should have seen this one. I know you’re thinking, “How can a piece of paper have an attitude?” Well, it can. And this one was glaring at me. It looked so downright menacing, in fact, that it might as well have been issued by “The Department of You Better Pay Us or We’ll Send Johnny After You and Johnny’s a Big Guy.” So I promptly mailed my payment, and a week later, I got a very nice letter from the Department that said something like, “Dear Mr. Pike: Congratulations, you are the first person ever to pay a parking ticket! We are so grateful, we are refunding your money, and we feel so bad for ever giving you the ticket in the first place that we are throwing you a party. Just come on up to our office, we’re in the City Department of Traffic Control, Parking Tickets…” Six pages later, it went on: “Our sincerest gratitude, signed, Grace Smith, director of the City Department of…” You guessed it. Six more.

So maybe I should move to Paris. It’s a great city—there are no ‘NO PARKING’ signs, no parking tickets, and no cars bigger than the left rear wheel of one of our obnoxious American SUVs. What I’m getting at is that it’s awfully easy to find a parking spot in Paris, because the entire city is a parking spot. Two cars already parked close together along the curb? No problem. Just slip yours in perpendicularly between them. Won’t fit? That’s okay, just go ahead and shut off your car and leave it in the middle of the street—you’re good. One time I was watching a guy trying to park his car in the Latin Quarter, and although I couldn’t be sure, it looked like he was using a forklift to stack his car onto another. Perfectly acceptable in the City of Light.

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That’s another thing that bugs me. Being from Denver, I think my hometown needs a better nickname than “Mile High City.” That’s like saying, “Come to Denver! You’ll pass out in our thin air and your nose will bleed for a week, but it’s not a bad place.” The problem is that Denver is not the “City of” anything. You’ve got Las Vegas, “City of Sin,” Los Angeles, “City of Angels,” Philadelphia, “City of Brotherly Love,” and of course Omaha, “City of…Omaha.” So I’m going to lobby for Denver to be the city of “Fun Times.” Yes, a name like that would be very descriptive and certainly lock in Denver’s reputation as a place to go to have fun times. But now that I think about it, it’s not always fun times in Denver. Like in the morning, when everyone in town feels the need to drive to work at exactly the same time. I guess our pamphlets could say “Denver: City of Fun Times Mostly But Not Always*” (*Like when you’re driving to work.)

But back to the main topic of this article and the whole reason you started reading it in the first place: our discussion of Paris. I can’t say enough good things about it. In addition to being the parking capital of the world, they have really good cheese, and a very romantic language. Cheese and language are always a deadly combination in my mind. Also, as I mentioned earlier, they have extremely small cars. And when I say small, I mean you could fit one of these suckers in your trunk. In fact, for the most part, they are trunks. Just trunks with wheels and a seat that people drive around, mainly because they get close to 450,000 miles to the gallon.* (*well, you know, kilometers to the liter, but still.) These cars are also handy for when you’re stuck behind a truck that’s going too slow—you can just drive underneath it and be on your way. On your way across the Atlantic to the City of Fun Times. You’re always welcome here. But just a warning: when you get here, don’t park.

Timothy Pike is an antediluvian essayist who kills time for sport.

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