Thursday, August 24, 2006

I Am A Wuss

Stephanie’s family doesn’t like Frosted Strawberry Pop Tarts. Frosted Strawberry Pop Tarts are my favorite kind. So when we visited Stephanie’s family last weekend and discovered two boxes of Frosted Strawberry Pop Tarts (they come in the CostCo pack with the Cinnamon ones), the solution was obvious.

I have been bringing the Pop Tarts to work to eat for breakfast. I heat them in the toaster oven in the office kitchen. Yesterday, I used a paper towel to get the hot Pop Tarts out of the oven.

Today, I find there are no more paper towels. There is, however, a box of Kleenex. I hesitate to fall back on Kleenex for napkin/paper towel duty. I reach into the toaster oven and touch a Pop Tart. It is hot. I look around, unsure what to do.

Flashback to Saturday, at Stephanie’s parents’ house:

ME: I made a mistake.

STEPHANIE: What happened?

ME: I put the Pop Tarts in sideways and now I can’t reach them.

[I nod at the toaster, where the sideways Pop Tarts remain below the top of the rather large toaster, despite the toaster having popped them up.]

STEPHANIE: Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.

[Stephanie reaches into the toaster and picks up the piping hot Pop Tarts with her bare hands, placing them on my plate.]

ME: How come you can do that and I can’t?

STEPHANIE: Because you’re a wuss.

End flashback. I realize that I am probably being overly cautious here. Surely I can handle taking a Pop Tart out of a toaster oven. Just ignore the pain. Build up the pain threshold. It’s only for a moment.

I lick my fingertips to prepare. It helps to have moisture on your fingers when you’re about to touch something hot.

I reach into the toaster, prepare to grip the Pop Tart, and my knuckles immediately brush against the scalding hot ceiling of the oven. I yank back my hand.

I give up and get the Pop Tarts out with the Kleenex, which doesn’t seem to be such a terrible idea after all, leaving me wondering why I didn’t just use it in the first place.

I realize my hand still hurts, and maybe I have actually burned myself. I get an ice cube out of the refrigerator and rub it on my knuckles, dripping water on the floor. At one point, the ice slips from my hands and slides across the floor as I attempt to retrieve it. I imagine a slapstick scenario in which my clumsiness with the ice results in other employees slipping, causing a chain reaction of injuries.

I decide I’ve had enough of the ice. As a woman enters the kitchen, I feel compelled to mention how I just burned myself on the toaster. She helps me dig out some burn cream from an old first aid kit in a kitchen cabinet. It comes in a one-time use packet that includes way more ointment than I need, but I don’t want to waste it, so instead I end up getting my hands getting all gross and oily, and then I have to use more Kleenex to get the stuff off my hands while not wiping it off the burned part. The first aid kit includes a knuckle bandage, which sounds perfect but turns out to be huge, and doesn’t stick to my still-slippery finger. After further Kleenex use, I manage to get an ordinary small Band-Aid to stick.

Finally, I go to my desk with the Pop Tart, having squandered my morning email-checking time, and begin to eat.

The Pop Tart is no longer hot.


blafard said...

The word is "wenis"

Tommaso Sciortino said...

The Co-op cook in my feels compelled to point out that for burns the best remedy is luke-warm water, not ice. Ice will cause more damage since - hey - you're body doesn't exactly handle freezing well. Either way the burn cream was a good call even if it might have been wussy overreaction.

matt said...

My hands seem to be a lot more sensitive to hot and cold than Meli's are, so maybe it's a boy/girl thing. Though I've always attributed it to my near-transparant fair skin. What's you excuse, you HAPA bastard?

Zack said...

Can the scientists among us verify that it helps to wet your fingers when you pick up something hot? As a former barista, I think of liquid as Burn Danger +1.

Speaking of which, when you burn your hands a lot, they just sort of stop caring, and you learn what sort of hot thing is going to cause pain that lasts for 30 seconds, and what's going to cause pain that lasts for days. You're not a wuss for not reaching for the sideways tarts; two pop tarts is clearly not worth a toaster burn or even the risk of one. Stephanie had a win/win situation, on the other hand. If she succeeded, she would be awesome and you would tell her so. If she failed, it would be your fault.

Tommaso Sciortino said...

OK, let me take a stab at the sciencey question. The problem with the burn is not the actual touching of something that's hot, but the transfer of energy into your skin. Water has a high specific heat, meaning it takes a lot of energy to hest it up. So theoretically if you wet your finger before touching something hot you are will recieve (pain without wet fingers) - (energy it takes to heat up water to dangerous level). Since you're probably not touching the hot thing for very long, this can make a big difference.

I also know that steam caused by heating water cause form a layer with even better heat-stoping abilities (in this case becuase it acts as an insulator). That's the Leidenfrost effect. I know this effect works on liquid nitrogen but I don't know if it actually comes into play with a pop-tart. My guess is, that if you're touching something hard enough to pick it up, you cannot also benefit from a layer of insulting steam. But I'm just guessing on this.

matt said...

As Chief Science Officer at my new job I concur with Tommaso's first paragraph. But I've never heard of the Leidenfrost effect. My guess is that a lot of the heat would busy itself with heating the saliva on your fingers before it ever got to your skin (this also explains the trick where someone licks his/her thumb and forefinger and then puts out a candle by pinching the flame). But I'm sure ten minutes of Internet research would solve this quandary once and for all.

lyan! said...

I'm content to rest at the theory that simply states that Kenny is a wuss.

Beyond that, how much cooking do you do? Or grilling? I think that's helped my tolerance significantly.

I ate a piece of chicken offa the grill the other weekend and it burned a blister on my lip. But I still ate it down.
Then I had a french fry that somehow got on the side of my tongue and it burned like, well, like a molten fry can.
Beyond heat, I tend to cut my fingers while dicing ever now and again, and I think the more I do it, the quicker my reflexes become because I can feel myself slicing deep quicker.

But maybe I should just stop slicing stuff after an afternoon of drinking.