Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
As I kid I used to think that black olives were a tasty snack. And I’m not talking imported Kalamatas, either. I mean those black, shiny, pitted olives from a can, like you find in salad bars. In my family they were treated as a delicacy. My brother and I adorned our fingertips with them and savored them like caviar.
Last week I found a can of these black olives in the pantry and thought, hey, I’m an adult, I’m gonna treat myself! I know it’s not a holiday or a special occasion, but I’m gonna open this can and eat these olives! Because I deserve the best!
I opened the can, drained off the murky water and popped two olives in my mouth. Then two more, because I know how to live it up. And then it hit me ” these are gross.
No, seriously; they’re lifeless, textureless, flavorless, soggy little lumps of brine. Yuck. I ate two more just to be sure. Yep. Nasty.
What? My childhood taught me that these are awesome, but they’re actually disgusting. And they have been all along! What I learned was wrong! And what’s even worse is that a lifetime of associating them with goodness will guarantee that the next time I visit a salad bar I’ll pile black olives on my Thousand Island-drenched plateful of bacon bits and iceberg lettuce like this epiphany never happened.
What other things, I wondered, while spitting olive bits into the sink, did I learn as a kid that are actually wrong ” things that I may never be able to unlearn, no matter how diligently “facts” and “experience” try to intervene? And then I made a list …
Wrong Things I Learned
– “Rubber bands are deadly.” We all had rubber band guns, so my grandmother constantly lectured us on the evil nature of the elastic band. Apparently a flying rubber band will put your eye out, cause a TV set to explode and, if it hits you just right, break your neck. A ricochet could accomplish all three at once. I don’t believe any of this, of course, though I suppose under the right circumstances they could put your eye out. But then, under the right circumstances a black olive could put your eye out. Still, as an adult, whenever I’m around rubber bands, I’m overly protective of my eyes. For certain rubber band-centric projects I wear goggles.
– “Coca Cola is a magical healing liquid.” Being a curious young kid, I once accidentally inhaled some burning sulfur (long story, but true.) I ran inside gasping for breath, my throat and lungs scorched. My mother rushed me to the hospital so I could be treated by medical professionals. HA! Kidding! No, actually she drew a bath, put me in it, and handed me a glass of Coke. With ice. And you know what? I was fine.
I don’t drink Coca Cola anymore ” to me it’s kinda the black olive of beverages ” but I do keep a few cans in the first aid kit. In the event of a mustard gas attack, I’ll be teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony.
– “‘Fart’ is a very, very bad word.” I love profanity and use it daily ” professionally, medicinally, recreationally, you name it. So-called dirty words don’t shock or offend me in the least. Love ’em. Yet due to some quirk in my family, to describe the passing of gas using … that word … was just the worst thing a human being could utter. To this day it’s a word that makes me cringe, though my sophisticated knowledge of profanity assures me that it’s not even technically a “dirty” word.
For the record, I prefer “poot.”
– “Adults know what the hell they’re doing.” Remember being young and thinking that adults had it all together just because they were old? Ha! What a scam! Sometimes I still call people “sir,” though.
– “All the vitamins are in the potato skin.” Oh really? According to a bit of web research, potato skins DON’T contain vitamins. And not only that, they’re actually housing toxic compounds called “glycoalkaloids.” Apparently this stuff can cause headaches, nausea and diarrhea if eaten in sufficiently large amounts.
This information is going to seriously affect my mood the next time I whip up my famous Black Olive and Potato Skin Casserole. Which will be later this week, by the way. You’re all invited.
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Teachers are underpaid. They can’t find housing. Turnover is unacceptably high. If you are a teacher in Aspen today, you face losing your entire current work group five years hence.