Before my family moved to 4th and South, we used to visit the area frequently to go shopping and have dinner. We would often have dinner at the Copa Cabana, a staple of South Street that is still there. In fact, we celebrated my mom’s 61st birthday there just a few weeks ago. It’s a bar with an extensive food menu. My dad always said that he thought it was a great place to bring kids because they could be loud in there and no one would care because it’s loud anyway. I never really took advantage of the allowance to scream like an idiot in the place, but it’s nice to know that I could have without incurring the wrath of my parents. I probably still wouldn’t be as loud as the drunken Girls Night Out happening in the table next to us.
My dad had very predictable beer choices back then. When we went to the Philadelphia Pizza Company, he would order a Moosehead. When we had pizza at home, he would go down the street and grab a six-pack of Yiengling or a 40 of Budweiser (high class!). When we went to the Copa, he always got a Dos Equis. If he were the Most Interesting Man in the World, his slogan would be something like, “I don’t always drink Dos Equis, but when I do, I am probably eating cheap tacos”.
As a child, these trips to the Copa resulted in Equis being the first Spanish word I learned, far before “Hello” and “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10”. It was also where I learned to dislike the taste of beer immensely (a malady that would only be cured years later when I went to Belgium and discovered that there are beers, many many beers, that taste better than Dos Equis or Budweiser). I was inquisitive as a kid and so when my dad was drinking his beer, I would ask about it. He would then give me the bottle and let me have a sip. I would take him up on this and remember that it was terrible. My mom never gave me any of her margarita.
So, I consider this fabulous parenting. If you were to watch public service announcements now about parents and underage drinking, you would think that my parents were the worst ones in the world for letting me taste beer. But there’s a few things here. First, my parents drank around me. It wasn’t something they did when I wasn’t around or banned altogether from the household. I was used to seeing alcohol around (I actually frequently went with my dad for liquor runs and helped him carry stuff), seeing adults imbibe responsibly (I have never seen my mom drunk and have rarely seen my dad that way), and because my dad didn’t drink a beer and then say “drinking is bad! DON’T DO IT”, I was raised with the general impression that if I wanted to drink at home, I could, right there with my parents. There was no vice in it. They gave me a similar view on drugs. They never hid the fact that they’re Baby Boomers and that they both did various drugs frequently throughout the years. What they would say to me about drugs is this, “They’re not worth getting arrested over.” This is all they had to say. They didn’t tell me I couldn’t. After smoking a joint for the first time (I was 15), I came home and told them about it and how I was completely unimpressed with the whole thing. My dad described his experience with LSD as “the lights get really bright. I always hoped I’d see a crab painted like a checkerboard, but I never did.” He tried coke once and said that the experience was “meh”. And everyone generally agreed that we should all stay away from heroine. Again, I was raised with the idea that drugs were not forbidden, that they can be fun, but not worth getting into trouble.
So, the other day I see a link to this article saying that kids are now ingesting hand sanitizer in an attempt to get wasted. I read the article and could barely muffle my laughs. All I could think of was an Ellen Degeneres bit I heard a while back about how humans will do anything to get high. We will lick the anus of a muskrat if it holds the remote chance of giving us a buzz. Apparently, this is a big problem because teenagers are making themselves sick and having to go to the hospital. I don’t think anyone is dying though so I’m going to laugh at them. Teenagers are hilarious.
One time when Peter and I were in highschool, he and another friend of ours got the idea of snorting Smarties. I honestly can’t remember what he thought would happen when he did this, or why this idea seemed like something he should do. So one day, they brought in a tube of Smarties and he smashed one on our shared table in Home Room with his Calculus book. Then he snorted some of it and at the moment that the Smartie particles (Smarticles?) entered his nose, he went into a convulsion of hilarious proportions. Am I a heartless bitch? Maybe, but also he wasn’t convulsing because his brain was melting or anything. He was convulsing because Smarties sting like a motherfucker in your nose. We all learned an important lesson that day about snorting things. We’re not going to do it.
So if we’re going to coke, we’re going to freebase it.
Anyway, back to the idiots drinking hand sanitizer. So, if you read the article, the author states that the main ingredient in sanitizer is ethyl alcohol (ethanol, or the fun and horrible ingredient in “booze”) and that kids are getting sick because “ethyl alcohol is toxic”. I know it’s an NPR article and all, but something about this just cracked me up further. I think it was the “Reefer Madness” sound of the whole thing. Sure, ethanol is toxic, but in a way that even a lot anti-chemical people can get behind. It’s a fun kind of toxic, like having surreal conversations with Swamp Thing. (I have no idea what I mean by that, but the image is awesome.) To say “ethyl alcohol” instead of ethanol, to not put the caveat that this is the same shit in booze…I don’t know, it just sounds like they’re saying, “the kids are drinking HORRIBLE TOXINS THAT NO ONE ELSE CONSUMES AT HAPPY HOUR. Did you know that ethyl alcohol is TOXIC? OOoooOOOOoooOOOoOoOH.” Yes, I’m reading a lot into it, but I’m on a kick about this stuff right now.
So, here’s the thing about this. I don’t think it’s the ethyl alcohol that’s making them sick. I think it’s all the other alcohols in them that are also in it. Many of them have isopropanol in them (rubbing alcohol) and various other assorted alcohols. Readers of this blog probably know this, but did you know that you can drink methanol and isopropyl alcohol and still get a buzz on? Did you know that you should stick to ethanol because metabolizing the other two is way worse news than the toxicity of ethanol? Fun Facts: Ethanol turns into vinegar in your liver. Methanol turns into formaldehyde (you’ll be blind and well preserved if you drink enough). Rubbing alcohol turns into acetone (nail polish remover). Which of these three sounds the least illness inducing?
In addition, I don’t really know what the gel part of the hand sanitizer is, but I’m sure it doesn’t help. See? I can be anti-consumption of chemicals! I don’t think you should consume things found next to the can of Comet underneath your sink (unless you keep muffins there…but that would be strange, and likely covered in cleanser), or things that have revolutionized the Port-a-Potty industry. I have standards! My favorite part of the whole article was when they said that the best way to combat the problem is to keep hand sanitizer out of the reach of your teens. Like, only you, the responsible parent, can dispense it for them when they want to kill a bunch of bacteria. Otherwise, keep it in locked cabinets or something. Really? That’s what you should do?
Forgetting for a moment that I think you just shouldn’t have hand sanitizer around because soap and water is fine and that I think everyone is paranoid about germs. CONTROVERSIAL! You really think that the problem is that the kids have access to hand sanitizer? Or is it that they have a completely unhealthy relationship with alcohol and drugs? Don’t you know that one of the biggest things that makes the idea of getting drunk/high for teens is that it’s forbidden? Apparently, eating hand sanitizer makes them look cool to their friends. There isn’t a lot of currency higher than that in the teen world. I’m sure some parental board will crucify me for this and say that it’s different when I have kids or something, but honestly, what’s wrong with having a drink with your kids? It takes the mystery away and you can teach them how to do it responsibly. They won’t then go to college or whatever and end up in the hospital in the first week with alcohol poisoning. Also, they won’t feel the need to find bizarre and creative ways to consume alcohol.
I did a quick Google search for “drinking isopropanol” and most of what came up was teenagers asking the internet if they could drink it and not die. It makes sense…it’s cheap and unregulated…also, it’ll make you ill a lot faster and worse than a jar of Georgia Moon. Wouldn’t it be better if you had some positive influence on how your children, who clearly want to drink, experience alcohol? I would say the same for some drugs, but like I said, it’s really not worth getting arrested over. If only Ron Paul was president…I will never say that again. But you can say the same for many of the other forbidden things that kids are dumb about due to lack of guidance. Be honest with kids about things like drugs, alcohol, and sex. Is it so bad that you be completely upfront about your flaws, your struggles, your life history? I never saw parents as perfect or infallible. They told me everything, and ultimately I respect them more for that and feel like I was able to be relatively mature about things like this at a young age.
OK, so I still was pretty fucked up about sex, but they did a lot of other stuff right!