Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pssst! Ixnay on the Otatoes-pay

Back in my middle school and high school years, the oft suspected and repeated urban myth was that They, whether They were school or other organization related, were secretly slipping salt peter into our food the better to put some kind of reign on our raging hormones. For some time, the middle school staple of mashed potatoes and gravy was suspect and, although greatly admired, rejected. At about this time, we were subject to a barrage of lectures on breaking bad habits and developing positive ones that would see us into adulthood. We all assumed that bad habits was a euphemism for masturbation and in typical response to authority of those years promptly increased our daily output.

Today, being engaged in the intervieing process relative to selecting a new chairperson for our department, I am subject to an urban myth of my own, which came to me as I sat at the lunch table with a number of what the police would call interested parties, and watched as a waiter set a bowl i front of me. My first thought was finger bowl, but there were vegetables floating in the liquid and so my first impression was promptly revised.


Some kind of vegetable soup.

Some kind of vegetable soup and the connection with the faux salt peter of the past, leading directly to the suspicion that after all these years of university meals, snacks, and finger sandwiches, They are infusing the food with a chemical--ah, the wonders of modern science--that adds an overwhelming miasma of boredom to the attending occasion.

My consolation is that this event is secular; if we were in a Salvation Army or other such meal situation, there would be prayer and encomium to a source even higher than the University President or Provost.

I asked tough questions of the candidate and engaged two of the deans in conversation about topics that were interesting and off the subject at hand. I even finished the soup. But a part of me was back in the past, wondering if it were true about the salt peter in the mashed potatoes. I had a flash of memory, an event I'd quite forgotten. Robert A. Thompson, Principal, assembled all the boys and assured us that there were no extraordinary--that was how he put it--elements in the mashed potatoes served in the cafeteria. We could, he said, indulge to our heart's content.

But we were young suspicious boys then and everything with even the slightest connotation of sexual activity seemed a great and impenetrable mystery.

"You can tell he's lying," one of the boys said. "You can see it in the way he walks."

And he did walk kind of funny, so of course, we believed.

The years slipped by and I was back at today, thinking about the boredom that was surreptitiously injected into the soup and sandwich combo. We have come a great distance. None of us yawned.

But I thought of it.

1 comment:

x said...

Funny how the superstitions of youth stay with you. But not sure there is a chemical that would cause boredom. I think that comes naturally.