I never claimed I was a smart man…

“You shake my nerves and you rattle my brains…”

Over a recent weekend, my wife and I opened our home to an elderly relative of hers. The lovely lady, carrying the superior genes from my wife’s side of our union, enjoyed a few days of respite in our home.

Eager to prove I wasn’t totally useless, I made a pot full of theMonkey’s famous Red Sauce. I may not do many things well, but I can cook a good red sauce. The trick is to dice a half-pound of prosciutto so thin that it disintegrates into the bubbling, steamy tomato flesh, and then… well, I’d go on, but this isn’t a story about pasta sauce. I just thought that it was information that you might need to know later in the story.

One evening, expecting a large influx of relatives coming to visit, I looked at the rather large remainder of the sauce, resting quite comfortably in the fridge, the flavors getting better acquainted with every passing hour. Then inspiration struck. You know, I thought, the only thing that separates red sauce from salsa is cilantro, spicy peppers, and some sugar. Everyone likes salsa. Yes. I shall make salsa. I shall tread to the local grocer, and acquire the necessary items. I shall tell the grocer, “Excuse me sir, but I need some cilantro. And some spicy peppers.” What a captial idea! Which is exactly what I did.

At this point, dear readers, the habaneros enter into our story.

Or, as I shall refer to them from now on: Satan’s Insanity Peppers.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, all the possible anecdotes that could arise from someone working with hot peppers. But understand: no matter what you’re thinking about, no matter how terrible your imagination, no matter how many horror movies you’ve seen, nothing can prepare you for some of the details you’re about to encounter.

Trust me, it’s worse than you can possibly imagine.

“Too much love drives a man insane…”

I made two batches, a “mild” batch, containing a single pepper, for the children and the elderly. A second batch included five peppers, and was off limits for anyone with a history of medical and/or gastrointestinal problems. In order to evenly disperse the demon flesh into the sauce, I had to dice it extremely fine, and gently add it to the sauce using a titanium rod and a welder’s mask. (Safety first, you know.)

First off, the salsa was a hit. The mild was quite tasty, and the hot, while spicy, wasn’t too uncomfortable. Compliments abounded. The chef was quite pleased. This was the highlight of the evening.

The evening’s descent from the Everest-like summit of jocularity into the fiery Death Valley-like misery began when my sister-in-law asked for an adult beverage. I grabbed a delightfully hoppy Ale from the fridge, popped the cap off, and passed it to her. Seconds later, I could see that she was crying. “Are you okay?” I asked.

“Fine… but there’s something nearby that’s burning my eyes and throat,” she said, sniffing hard to keep her sinuses from emptying on the floor.

Naturally, I suspected the salsa. “Did you have some of the salsa? Did you eat from the bowl marked with the skull-and-crossbones?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “I haven’t eaten anything.”

Moments later we had tracked down the source of the foul vapor. It turns out that I still had the juice and oil from the habaneros all over my fingertips. I had dutifully washed my hands, but apparently this was stubborn stuff. Even though it had been hours since I processed the peppers, simply handling the bottle for a few seconds was enough to transfer enough oil from my fingertips to her lips and nasal cavity.

For most of you, this would have been a warning flag. But I never claimed I was a smart man.

“You broke my will…”

I apologized profusely, and headed for the sink for another good hand scrubbing. Ah, that should do it. I must have not done a very good job last time, I thought. Now, that beer looked good. I think I’ll get one for myself.

The evening progressed. Family members visited. People commisserated. Food was eaten, drinks were drunk. After a beer or two, I had the same urge that any normal person has, and excused myself. After all, we only rent beer, eh? Off I went.

“…but what a thrill!!”

Here is where I must be delicate, yet somehow specific. I, uh, didn’t do anything “out of the ordinary” as I relieved myself. Nothing unusual. You men will understand what I mean. You stand, you aim, you whistle a bit. Perhaps you stare at the ceiling, testing the quality of your aim by the sound it makes when it hits the water (loud=good & down the middle; silent=hitting the side; puddling=there’s a mess to clean up). Or, maybe you prefer to aim the stream from the porcelain to the middle and back again, going in circles, creating and destroying bubble clusters. (That’s always lots of fun.) When finished, of course, there’s the requisite Body Bounce, then the Leg Twitch move, which is quickly followed by the extremely-important Shake Maneuver. Afterwards, there’s the Pack & Stow, and finally, the cautious, deliberate Zippering.

It is now that I will pause to point out that the anecdote regarding the habanero oil on the neck of my sister-in-law’s beer bottle was naught but foreshadowing in this story.

I washed up (natch), then returned to my social responsibilities. Sitting down on a couch, I engaged an in-law in a deep conversation, the topic of which I have no recollection. What I do remember was staring into her eyes as she was speaking, and feeling a slight, warm sensation. A tingle, as it were. Not a comfortable feeling, but a not entirely unpleasant one either. Hmmm…, I thought. What’s this all about?

“Goodness, gracious…”

The warmth turned into a spark, the spark into a small flame, the flame into a bonfire, the bonfire into a conflagration. Within 60 seconds, there was a forest fire in my shorts. The pain quickly ramped up to what I can only define as “childbirth level.” If you were birthing Satan’s fiery child, that is.

All the while, I sat as rigid as a statue, my eyes open wide. The woman speaking to me sounded like the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons. “Mmm-hmm,” was all that I could occasionally get out. A bead of sweat appeared on my forehead, and trickled down into my eye, stinging it. I didn’t wipe it away. Images flashed through my head. Here, bubbling lava. Next, I flashed back to a scene from my childhood: the triple-A baseball club, the peanuts vendor shouting “get yer hot nuts here!!” The hot desert rescue scene from Lawrence of Arabia popped into my head, which was followed by what I assumed was imagery from World War II era newsreels about Dresden.

“Wouldyouexcuseme?” I stammered out and made a beeline to the bathroom, where I spent a half hour scrubbing my privates with the ferocity of a surgical intern, all to no avail. I had handled myself with fingertips covered in habanero oil. Game over.

I tried everything. I washed. I bathed in cold water, then hot. I tried lotions. I made very good friends with a bag of frozen peas. But in the end, there was nothing to do but tough it out. And dance. And scream into a pillow. And go for a run. After a few hours, I noticed the pain starting to subside, and I felt disappointed that I was going to live after all. I finally fell into a fitful sleep.

I woke up the next morning older, wiser, and with a slightly funny walk. I also have a new mission in life: to convince as many of my gender as possible to not make the same mistake as I. Hence, this post.

You can finish the song, can’t you?

7 Responses to “I never claimed I was a smart man…”

  • Lemon or lime juice. Gets rid of the oil easier. Just so ya know. I used to live in New Mexico. ;-)

    Laughing at this story… I will post my pasta sauce recipe link if you post yours… I like the prociutto diced into it. I will have to try that. And the salsa sounds like the best thing for my next MANS NIGHT… heh. Yes, we are that evil to each other. hehe.

    And nothing beats the next day when everything has to inevitably exit the digestive tract. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but the peppers will always get you in the end…

  • I feel for you, but I had to laugh! Your wife must be counting her lucky stars you didn’t get frisky!…

  • My Father-in-law did the same thing once. He even tried dousing the fire in milk (said to cut the heat from capsaicin). Nothing helped in the end.

    Next time, use rubber gloved when handling death peppers.

  • Bro…
    Dear God, have I not taught you anything???
    I concur with CharlesJet.
    The worst is when you accidentally touch one of the children!
    I now just use gloves or make “D” do it. I tell him-
    If you are going that hot (skull and crossbones) you deserve the end result!

  • Holy cow was that fun to read. I’m already thinking of all the ways I can use this information at work.

    Aren’t blogs grand?

  • Tsk, tsk, tsk. Thou surely hadst mocked mine power. Silly mortal boy, didst thou not think ye would escape thine punishment?


  • Benace the Menace

    Thanks for a truly entertaining and enlightening block. I venture that a clay mask (sic) would have helped this unfortunate situation (never hurts to keep a box of cosmetic clay around).

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