Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Where have all the brain cells gone...

Okay, I don't do drugs. I've never done drugs. Until I was a teenager I would gag on aspirin and still to this day despise needles and smoking. I have various reasons for this anti-drug attitude that I may go into at some point.

That having been said I should confess that on occasion I have done chemicals. Not intentionally though. Mostly through stupidity. But still, I have to wonder what they have messed up in me.

Two incidents of chemical abuse stand out in my mind, but I'm sure there have been others. I just don't remember them. That part of my brain is missing, presumed dead.

The first was when I was 9-ish (again) and still living at the house where I had the turtle. How I made it to 10 I have no idea.

One day a bored friend* and I discovered that the powdered weed killer my dad kept in the garage, when tossed by the handful onto the ground, left behind particles in the air that look somewhat like an explosion occurred. This was deemed "neat!" So we started to have weed killer wars. We each took a bag to different sides of the garage and threw the stuff at each other by the hand full. This was "fun!"

The air started to get a bit thick after a while, so we did what any sane 9-year-old kids would do. That's right. We climbed up into the rafters and played "Bombers Over Europe!" After that it's all a blur. Neither of us fell from the rafters, amazingly. And somehow we must have kept enough brain cells undamaged to do a good clean up job because I don't recall getting caught. I do however recall the strange taste in my mouth that persisted for a very long time.

So there you go. 70's weed killer. In my system.

The other incident occurred during my tour of duty in England (RAF Upper Hayford : ’88-’90 : PMEL). It was my first duty assignment and I was assigned to the K6 section. That was the Physical/Dimensional area. In spite of my extremely high electronics testing score all through tech school this is where I was put, and stayed for my entire time in the Air Force. There is virtually no electronics in that department. But there ARE pressure gages that needed calibration. And cleaning. The cleaner of choice was TRICHLOROTRIFLUOROETHANE We called it "Trike" for short. Also known as Freon. I will say this, it's fun to play with. But DAMN were we stupid when we played.

See, I was 19 then, and still considered myself to be immortal. Well, not exactly immortal. I had an overwhelming feeling that I was going to be dead by the age of 25. So I wasn't as careful as I should have been, and the mutants I worked with didn't do much to teach me the important skills of chemical handling. My training was electronics. What the hell did I know about chemicals?

We had these little water bottles that the trike was kept in for ease of use. It had a bent straw so that you could squeeze it into a pressure gage, or across a surface to clean it. Or, you could have running freon fights through the clean room. Or put a puddle of it in a fellow airman's chair. You know. Whatever was most needed at the time.

When the trike hit skin it would tingle, be absorbed and leave the skin it had touched a white color for a bit. One of the airmen, when she was bored, would dribble it over the same patch of skin on her hand until she couldn't take it anymore. She was odd.

The turning point for me was when I had to go to the hazardous materials room to refill the big can of trike that was normally kept in the K6 room and used to refill the small bottles. The big refill barrel was low. So I balanced the can I needed to fill on my knee and tipped the barrel forward. Easily a gallon of the stuff rushed forward and drenched my left arm from my hand to my elbow and my entire left leg. That was my wake up call. It did NOT feel good! I figured that I had absorbed far more of that crap than was healthy.

It was after that that I took a keen interest in looking the stuff up in the MSDS and finding out what the long term effects of the stuff was. All in all, it doesn't look too good for my liver.

So, now I am far more careful around chemicals, to the point of not even messing with them unless I absolutely have to.

And I still don't do drugs.

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*This same friend and I had an interest in my dad's gun bench. My dad would save his shell casings when he went shooting, then cast his own bullets, replace the primers, assemble the cartridges and there he goes. Cheap(er) ammo.

One day I took a box of primers and a hammer and met up with my friend on the footbridge next to my house. I was a latchkey kid, so I didn't have to worry about being caught right away. I had already done this a few times on my own.

Again, around age 9.

What I would do is take a primer, place it on the cement and smash it with a hammer. This would make it go *bang!*, somewhat like a gunshot, and it would echo around the neighborhood. For anyone who doesn't know, the primer is what the firing pin of a gun hits, which then explodes into the casing through a tiny hole, igniting the gunpowder and expelling the bullet down the barrel. The primer itself is only a tiny explosion compared to the gunpowder. Hence, primer.

This time my friend was with me and he was BEGGING me to let him smash one. I was reluctant to do so because he was a bit spastic when excited and I had a good idea of what I was doing and a lot more practice at it. But then he pulled the 'I won't be your friend any more" card, so I let him. I stepped back. He put down the primer, raised the hammer, smacked it down *BANG!* and then grabbed his head and started screaming.

When I got him to settle down I looked at his forehead. He had a half moon cut on his head where the primer casing leaped up after exploding and nailed him in the head. He ran home in a panic and crying, afraid that he was now brain damaged. Needless to say, the jig was up. I got in trouble and I learned many lessons that day. And I'm keeping them to myself.

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"Boring a hole in the patient’s head creates a door through which the demons can escape, and - viola! - out goes the crazy."