Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Scud Soda

When I came to I was on the ground, leaning against the back of my house sticky and soaking wet. There was the unmistakable taste of blood in my mouth and I could feel it running down the back of my throat as well as flowing unchecked out of both nostrils. My right hand was throbbing painfully. I had a dull ache in my right knee and an excruciating spell of agony in my lower stomach of an intensity I had not felt since I was kicked in the crotch by a midget I once dated in high school.

My neighborhood was strangely silent, as it should have been well after midnight, but if there was anything to hear it would have been drowned out by the deafening ringing that filled both of my ears. As I shook my head to try to get my wits back about me, I noticed that lights were starting to go on down my block and though at that point I was still not quite sure what I had done, I had woken up in similar circumstances before and if history was any judge, the police would likely be on the scene in short order. I needed to pick myself up off of the ground and get back inside before anyone spotted me at the scene of the disturbance.

I had just ducked into the garage when my thoughts turned to the dog. I was too disoriented at the time to remember if I had brought him outside with me or not, but as he could normally be found at my side every time I stepped out of my back door, the odds were that he was on my heels when the incident occurred. When I was in the army the elite Ranger unit, which my dog was named after, had a saying that went, “No one gets left behind”. Fortunately for me, I was not a Ranger. Not only was I content to leave the mutt outside to fend for himself, I would be spending the rest of the night trying to think of ways that I could blame the calamity that occurred in my backyard on him if he survived.

When I finally made it indoors, I was greeted by the sound of the hysterical crying of my children upstairs, who no doubt had been rudely rousted out of sleep by the explosion outside. I rushed up the stairs to calm them down but my appearance was not exactly the soothing apparition they needed. I told them that nothing had happened and that there was nothing going on that they needed to worry about. My feeble attempt at reassurance obviously lacked credibility though, judging by the look of sheer terror that remained on their faces. I am sure my efforts were severely undermined by the fact that I was still drenched and had large amounts of blood still rushing out of my face. Falling to my stomach and crawling away from the window when I thought I saw a police cruiser pass by my front yard did not do much to support my believability either.

Eventually, I did get the kids settled down though and ran a hot bath to soak my aches and injuries. Once undressed and in the tub, I tried to piece together what on earth I had done to myself.

I remembered that it had started off with a case of writer’s block and boredom. The JEP Report had been quite neglected and I was at a loss to come up with anything to put in it. I was on the verge of unleashing my usual cure for The Block, namely a handful of Ex-Lax and a bottle of tequila, when I remembered something I had heard on the radio earlier in the day.

I have a rather long commute to get from work to my house every day, 67 miles one way. During my drive in the evening I often listen, and regularly call in to, the Deminsky and Doyle Show on WKRK 97.1 Free FM in Detroit. On this particular day, they were discussing an experiment they had seen performed by Bill Nye The Science Guy where he dropped a Mentos breath freshener into a large bottle of Diet Coca-Cola. Doing this produced a chemical reaction that resulted in a large geyser of soda erupting from the neck of the bottle. The two DJs reproduced the experiment on the air with apparently impressive results.

Thanks to my youngest son’s approaching birthday party and my local gas station’s failure to keep an adequate stock of Eclipse Winterfrost breath mints in stock, I just happened to have both a 2-liter bottle of Coke and a roll of Mentos on hand. I wondered if I could somehow figure out a way to turn the bottle upside down before unleashing the breath mints, would I be able to turn Bill Nye’s experiment into some sort of carbonated rocket, a device that would surely come in extremely handy if the right use could be found for it, such as making my backyard a “no-fly zone” to the swarms of Canadian Geese that periodically touch down there to over-fertilize my lawn. It might also come in handy if those frogs ever attack again.

My plan, cooked up in barely five minutes, was to tape a couple of the mints to the cap of the bottle, screw it on and take it to my launch pad, a large granite rock at the back edge of my property. Once there, I would loosen the cap until it was barely on, turn the bottle upside down and see how close I could come to sending the contraption into orbit.

Taping the mints to the bottle cap turned out to be far trickier than I thought. The radio show only used one, but as I was aiming for maximum power as well as moving waterfowl prone to attacks of Montezuma’s Revenge, I used three. I discovered early on that the middle one kept falling out so instead of identifying this as the cause of a potential misfire and expending some additional effort into figuring out a way to secure it in place, I opted instead to just keep trying to “stack” it onto the tape with the other two. Eventually, it worked and my device was armed.

For a moment after I had finished putting the thing together, I just sat there and marveled at my invention. If everything had worked as planned, I had transformed a soft drink and a breath mint into a formidable missile, an unholy weapon that could spark a neighborhood arms race and strike terror into the hearts of incontinent poultry all the world over. I trembled at the thought of what would happen once the thing went off, and trembled harder at the thought of what would happen if the thing went off in my kitchen. In a rare moment of lucidity, I decided that it would probably be in my best interests if I took my Soda Scud out to the garage before I ended up cleaning far more of the house than I first intended to that night.

Once safely outside, I did something that is usually not in my nature. I took a moment to put some thought into whether or not what I was about to do was really such a good idea. I tried to figure out what could go wrong once I turned the Soda Scud upside down and passed the point where I could reverse my course of action. In all honesty, I could not imagine all that much. I was setting it off in a clump of trees so even if it worked far beyond my wildest expectations, the lack of a clear line of fire would prevent it from traveling far enough to cause any real damage. If I was doing this in the middle of the day, it might have been able to take out a couple of pedestrians in the parking lot of the dentist office behind me but in the town that I live in, there are very few folks who are out getting their teeth cleaned in the middle of the night. There would likely be no one outside at that late hour and if there were, and they had any semblance of intelligent reasoning, they would surely have tried to stop me.

Even though I could not think of anything that could go seriously wrong, I could not think of anything that could really go right either. My Soda Scud was an inherently evil device full of bad intentions. There was simply no foreseeable constructive use for the contraption. No good could possibly come from setting it off. Basically it was the perfect plaything for someone to liven up what had otherwise been a fairly dull Saturday night. Almost giddy with excitement, I whispered, “McGyver’s a fag” to myself, grabbed the bottle and hurried out into the darkness to my backyard launch pad.

I do not remember much after that.

My last clear recollection of the event was walking along the side of my garage towards the back yard. The next thing I knew, I was on my back having lost a significant amount of bodily fluids and a family pet. I am not entirely sure what exactly had happened. I do not know whether I dropped the bottle and launched it right into me or if the damn thing just outright exploded. Either way, it knocked the living tar out of me and, at 36 years old, a typical man my age should be able to find better things to do with his down time than invent improvised munitions out of carbonated soft drinks.

In the end, I eventually cleaned myself up and by the morning had deduced that I did not have any serious injuries that required a trip to the hospital. I found the dog underneath the dining room table with his tail between his legs. He had not been outside with me but had probably watched the whole thing unfold from the back door wall, close enough to the action to have suffered a slight lapse in bladder control and developed a nervous facial tick.

The following morning, as I was spraying down my garage, my neighbor asked me if I had heard the commotion the night before. I told him I had heard something in my sleep but found a decent mess in my backyard that had to be attended to when I woke up. I attributed it to bored teenagers and launched into a minor tirade about the sorry state of today’s youth. Obviously, I could not figure out a way to blame it on the dog.

I am a person that believes there are no mistakes in life, just learning experiences and my foray into Mentos missilery taught me quite a bit. I learned that Springer Spaniel / Border Collie crossbreeds would likely make lousy hunting dogs due to their predisposition to gun-shyness. I learned that my neighbors are light sleepers, which will undoubtedly come in handy if I try to sneak into one of their swimming pools later this summer. I also have a new and unique insight into what an Iraqi truck mechanic must have felt like when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi brought his F-150 in to get his tires rotated. Additionally, I learned that as long as I have some Diet Coke and Mentos on hand, I can always find a source of entertainment for myself when I am home alone and the computer is on the fritz. Finally, I learned that there is no shortage of people willing to risk a broken nose, a mangled hand or testicular disfigurement for a cheap thrill, as evidenced by witnessing three engineers I work with trying to create Diet Coke geysers behind a party store next door to where I work less than three hours after I told them this very story.

They’re not alone either. Diet Coke / Mentos geysers have become a trend in the last couple of months. This week, Moneyline did a piece on the phenomenon and just yesterday, it was a featured story on the Yahoo! home page. It has been on the evening news broadcasts all over the country and, according to the Yahoo! piece mentioned above, has resulting in over $10,000,000 of free advertising for Diet Coke and Mentos. Upon learning this, I did a little research and found that the internet is full of hundreds of videos documenting this activity. It is quickly becoming a trend, and based upon the amount of fun that I had with it, I would not be surprised if it bloomed into a full blown movement. It has endless possibilities, not least of which is its use as a counter-protest tool.

Say you are hanging around on the front porch of your ranch in Crawford, Texas when some vegan chick named Cindy Sheehan and a bunch of other pseudo-hippies sets up camp on your front lawn completely uninvited. At first you try to ignore them but when they start interrupting your sleep by singing “Kumbaya” at three in the morning, you know it is time for them to go. You could easily call in some National Guard troops to disperse them with rubber bullets or call in the Crawford Fire Department to turn the hoses on the deviants, but you know that the press would call you a heavy-handed tyrant and canonize the trespassers as oppressed victims of a fascist regime. If you break out the RPBs (Rocket Propelled Beverages) however, you solve the problem with no fallout whatsoever. Imagine the look of paralyzing terror swoop across Cindy Sheehan’s face as she looks up and sees fifty plastic Diet Coke containers come sweeping across fence, bearing down on her little personal Woodstock in attack formation. Imagine the chaos that ensues as the missiles hit their targets, ricocheting off of unwashed tie-dyed shirts and unshaved legs, creating total pandemonium and confusion as the protesters trip over themselves in a futile attempt to extract themselves from the fray. Imagine the collective look of righteous indignation of the group as they find themselves drenched in processed corn syrup as the press corps covering the incident rolls around on the ground in the fetal position, trying to inhale through violent bursts of side splitting laughter while staving off incontinence. Then imagine the headline of the Washington Post the following morning: “Cindy Sheehan Gets Punk’d by Prez!”. You’re suddenly made out to be the fun-loving and resourceful leader of the free world while the protesters are made out to be the sniveling boobs who sought out infamy but wound up becoming the punch line to the opening routine of every late night talk show host across the entire nation.

The fact that Scud Sodas have suddenly become the latest internet craze kind of fills me with pride. I was attempting to blow myself up a full month before the rest of the country caught on making me feel like a sort of accidental trend setter, though I can not claim any credit whatsoever for inventing the fad (Do I look like Al Gore?). I believe that dubious honor goes to Bill Nye The Science Guy. So here’s a toast to Bill for turning me onto flying fizz via Deminski and Doyle:

Bill Nye is the best of smart lads,
And the starter of dangerous fads,
He showed this poor guy,
A Coke bottle could fly,
Break his nose and lay waste to his ‘nads.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Apparently, I'm On Hiatus

It has been about a month and a half since my last post. As I logged on this morning and found several e-mails reminding me of this, I thought I would drop everyone a quick line and let them know that I have not abandoned The JEP Report, I have just been operating on an extreme time deficit the past couple of months. I usually write my articles on my lunch hour at work, but truth be told, I haven't eaten lunch at work for months. On the home front, most of my free time lately has been spent building this monstrocity:

For most people, this would probably only have been a weekend project, but it took me a couple of months. Higher primates, such as humans, are typically distinguished from their lesser relatives by their problem-solving abilities and their ability to use tools. If a couple of chimpanzees had watched me try to put this thing together, they probably would have shaken their heads in disgust and lamented the tragedy of why evolution had wasted a good pair of opposable thumbs on me. I would surely have gotten a lot more use out of a prehensile tail. Anyway, I finally finished it two weeks ago and ever since, my kids have enjoyed countless hours playing in the five cardboard boxes the playset was delivered in. In addition to putting together the playscape, I have spent a significant amount of time trying to grow grass in my yard. By grass, I mean Poa Pratensis, not that Cannabis Sativa stuff that you can make brownies out of.

Another item in my life at the moment that is taking up a huge block of writing time for me is my kids. Trying to write with three midget demolition experts roaming around the house is next to impossible unless you have been able to pull the proper governmental permits required to keep a tranquilzer gun and a cattleprod in your home. My one-year-old in particular, is very prone to interrupting a good literary flow, usually by pounding on the keyboard while I am typing or turning the computer's powerstrip off before I have saved my work. Today, he learned how to climb up into his big brother's booster chair:

Unfortunately for him, he hasn't learned to climb down yet and unless he does so within the next hour or so, I may actually be able to finish this post.

The other two do not help the situation much. They are well versed in the art of interior terrorism, so much so in fact that I was beginning to suspect that their daycare was run by Islamic fundamentalists rather than the Lutheran ones who sent us the flier. These suspicions were confirmed after seeing pictures of a recent field trip that they had embarked upon:

Mine are the two in front. I can only assume that the little girl in back is one of Osama bin Laden's evil minions. She has that kind of look in her eye that only a true fanatic could have.

Anyway, I hope to get back into the swing of things sooner rather than later. This month is still going to be brutal for me, but I hope that things will start slowing down in July. I have two weeks vacation coming up, one which will be spent in Ludington Michigan with this crowd:

That's usually good for a couple of dozen anacdotes about alcoholic excess. Ask Sacto Ritch. He was at my bachelor party.

After Ludington, I have another week home with the kids, and then a week in the main office where I can write during lunch again. I've got three articles on the burner, the one explaining my accident in April, one describing a good deed gone horribly awry and a current events piece on immigration, the death of Zarqawi, and my prediction on the devastating beating that I am expecting the Republican Party to take at the polls this November unless the Bush administration comes up with Osama bin Laden's severed testicles on a platter the day before the election.

I would also like to take a second to send a HUGE congratulations to Sacto Ritch, the earliest reader of The JEP Report and close personal friend, on the birth of his brand new baby daughter a couple of weeks ago. I'd love to post her picture right below here if he gives me his blessing (I guess I'm asking your permission here, buddy). Fortunately, she has her mother's looks so her elementary school life will not be as difficult as we all feared.

Finally, for those of you who still kept checking in here during this literary drought, I apologize for not having anything better for you but hope to be posting regularly again sometime in the near future. I appreciate (and am actually rather concerned by) your loyalty and hope to be eventually back into a regular posting routine in the near future. And for the European and South American readers out there, I hope you team does much better for you in the World Cup than the Detroit Lions have done for me.

Ciao guys,


The JEP Report Store Reader Sites
  • Inflammable Hamster
  • Right Michigan
  • Great Writing