I was reading over at Miriam’s last night. And you know she
always has the best recipes. Perhaps it’s the Lebanese background, maybe she’s
just a good cook. But either way, her
food always just sounds so scrumptious and savory.

As I was reading her account of stuffing the peppers,
though, I was reminded of my own times of too much heat. And I have had my share of salsa making
experiments gone waaay wrong. But this
story has nothing to do with cooking.

Several years ago I was living in a rather downtrodden area
of Seattle. Now don’t get me wrong; Seattle
doesn’t really have any terrible areas. It has spots with cultural and economic diversity. But by and large,  Seattle is a really safe, clean place to live. Or at least it was until everyone found out and moved there…leading to
our eventual exodus. But anyway there I
was living in my diverse neighborhood feeling very cross-cultural and
enlightened. Who cared that I had to
pick up condoms and vials from my front yard some mornings before Maya could go
out to play, or that I had to take two busses to and from work, and that my
commute was almost two hours – and I got off at 10:15 pm? I was living the urban chic life I’d dreamed
of as a teen in Arkansas, Missouri, and Iowa. 

Well, I made the big mistake one day of mentioning to my
mom, my coffee hour yard work routine. She was, understandably, horrified. She’d dealt with my Grateful Dead – On Tour days, my living in a VW bus
in the woods and communes of Oregon and Washington, and many more of
my personal historic exploits. But
this was simply too much. 

So I wasn’t all that surprised a week or so later when I got
a care package from my mom. In it was
but one item…a key ring with a tiny canister of pepper spray. Hmmm…I thought. This should be interesting.

I really don’t like weapons. Can I say that again? I REALLY
DON’T LIKE WEAPONS. I’ve always been of
the opinion that any weapon I carry can be taken and subsequently used against
me. But I put it on anyway, because I
could just imagine the phone conversation from my hospital room. “Well, did you try to use your mace?” “Actually, Mom, I didn’t have it with me.”
…followed by fuming silence from the other end of the line.

So there I was commuting the urban jungle with my capsicum
in tow. I always hated the nights when I
got onto the later bus. On those nights
the express had stopped running, so I had to walk 23 blocks home instead of my
usual 5. My fearful awareness was only
slightly belayed by sheer boredom. Old
run down buildings are not very interesting at midnight. And at that time of night, the walkman was a
super no-no. So I’d think up games like:
count the garbage, or your steps. I’d
sing songs or whistle… “Give a little whistle.” 

On one of those nights, I was gently fondling my pocket tube
of heat. (Imagine what that sentence
will bring in from google searches…ha ha ha – the jokes on you, pervert! Now go do your homework.)

Then I remembered that you were supposed to test it every
once in a while. So I waited until I
found a likely spot. About a block and a
half from my house was a doorway to a building that hadn’t held a business for
as long as I’d lived there. While it did
have a lovely uric odor, I’d never seen anyone trying to sleep there; so I
wasn’t worried about displacing anybody.

I turned the top of the cylinder, aimed and spritzed with a
short but distinct “phht”. Oooooh,
looky, I thought, I had forgotten that it glowed in the dark. So, gearing up, I sprayed a nice gently
sloping rainbow arc across the front of the doorway. Pretty! And then I was on my way.

I was ascending my stairs when my nose began to run a
little. So I dabbed at it lightly with
the back of my index finger. And that’s
when it hit. My eyes joined in with my
nose, and thinking that we were in Boston,
and there was some huge marathon, began running like Steve Prefontaine on speed. They were there waiting for me as I got to
the door. They were still screaming as I
stripped my way into the bathroom. And
they were there to tell me I was a total idiot when the water hit my naked body
and began to spread pepper spray into my eyes, armpits and (eek!) nether
regions. In case you were as blissfully
unaware of the nature of mace type sprays, always remember that they are
apparently oil based, and trying to wash them off in the shower is a bad, bad

After an ungodly amount of time, I was finally able to think
about touching my body with a towel. My
boyfriend at the time came in chuckling to bring me a nice clean one and tell
me that I was kind of a dumb blonde. He
was always the ultimate master of the obvious. This was, understandably, near the end of that relationship.

After donning my PJs, I went directly outside to the big
garbage can and tossed my “protection” away. And you know, while there are definitely some big bad meanies out the in
the world, I just knew that I wouldn’t be able to spray anyone when the time
came. More than likely, I’d just stand
there holding the stuff in my outstretched arm as they took it away from
me. Then I’d, again, be the victim of
the hot stuff. And I could never go through
that again. So, I figured, if anyone
ever came out to grab me, I’d just run. Yep I’d run like the wind nose.


6 thoughts on “HOT STUFF, BABY

  1. You are a great storyteller – and I laughed very much, even though I can imagine how painful that must have been! I actually never made the connection between “pepper spray” and peppers…go figure.

  2. Miriam:
    Well I’m glad that SOMEONE enjoyed herself. But seriously, I’m glad you liked the story. The funniest anecdotes always seem to be the ones where I admit to being a total doof.

    It’s interesting, isn’t it the connections that we don’t make? I can’t think of what it was right now, but there was something that gave me a huge “ahah” moment recently. Chris just laughed and laughed at me. I’ll have to try to remember what that was. Hmmmm…

  3. I have missed you!
    Now that I have an accessible and reliable computer, hopefully I won’t anymore.

    This was hilarious to hear about and must have been just awful at the time.

    I laughed because I would have done the exact same thing.

    I actually have the same stuff, I carry it when I am running in the parks where I live, mostly in case of coyotes – there are a lot here.

    My buddy who is a police officer has told me that I should always remember that an attacker might be able to fight through it and that I should try a little on myself,in a safe location, so that if it is ever used on me I can fight through it too!

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