Adventures in Dining, Part 1: The Case of the Scurrilous Scrotum.

The relationship between chili peppers and my scrotum has always been a difficult one.

It got off to a rocky start back during grad school, when I was making vegetarian tacos in the nude.  Having crumbled a bunch of hot dry chili peppers into a bowl, I absently reached down with the same hand to scratch an itch. The magnitude of that action did not sink home immediately; it was a good ten seconds before I even registered the dull heat radiating from my ball sack, another five before I realized that said heat was increasing, and verging on actual pain.

I have no clear recollection of what happened next.  When I came to I was standing in the bathtub, cradling my scorched balls in a saucepan full of cold water clenched between my thighs.

I learned an obvious lesson that day. I learned another one, decades later, when the safety on the pepper spray in my jeans pocket worked its way loose and discharged a stream of mace into my crotch.  There was no pain.  There were a few moments of ball-clenching terror as I waited for pain that I knew was imminent, but the only real impact was a rusty stain that spread far enough to ruin my “Wanted:  Dead Or Alive” Schroedinger’s Cat t-shirt.  The take-home message from that experience, so I thought, was that pepper spray had an expiry date, and this particular tube— a gift from a Republican brother who’d hoped it would serve as a gateway to semiautomatic weapons— had gone harmlessly flat.  I would not be able to gratuitously spray local cops in the face after all.

I didn’t throw it out, though.  For some reason it found its way into the pocket of my thermal vest, where it lurked for years, forgotten and untouched.  Until last night.

Last night I was out for dinner at a local Cajun place called Southern Accents.  I was visiting a friend I see very rarely, a lady from the Yukon who makes her living unearthing ten-thousand-year-old hunting artefacts from the ice up there.  There are bears in the Yukon, apparently.  Grizzlies are the ones famous for charging, but black bears can eat you too; they just kinda circle in gradually, closer and closer, like sharks.  When you douse ’em with pepper spray, Val assured me, you have to literally paint their faces red with the stuff before it has any real effect.

Pepper spray, huh?  And suddenly my hand’s in my pocket, feeling this little cylinder of harmless and impotent ex-pepper spray.  I remember being doubtful that pepper spray could turn a black bear red.  I remember thinking the pigment wasn’t that intense.

I remember firing it onto a napkin to see for sure.

It cleared out the whole top floor of the restaurant.  The other patrons stuck it out longer than the staff, who fled pretty much instantly (I would not trust the staff of Southern Accents to run lifeboats during a nautical emergency).  By the time Val and I got downstairs (we were being nonchalant, in the hopes that nobody would notice), everyone was coughing uncontrollably around the bottom of the stairwell, their eyes streaming.  I remarked on the irony of a supposedly Cajun restaurant laid low by a bit of pepper.  Our server did not laugh.  We tipped her anyway.

There’s really only one take-home message to this story;  this is the kind of post that will start showing up if I listen to those of you who want me to branch out from my usual sciencey musings and start showing you my soft furry underbelly.  This is what personal anecdotes look like.  This is why you do not want me talking to you on Twitter, or Facebook.  This is why there are no moods, ads, or cutesy fucking icons on this ‘crawl.

Let us never speak of this again.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday October 28 2009at 06:10 pm , filed under misc, public interface . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

40 Responses to “Adventures in Dining, Part 1: The Case of the Scurrilous Scrotum.”

  1. And this is why I read your blog. Where even the “boring” posts are capable of inducing tears of either laughter or some sort of imagined empathy. At least you didn’t mention the splashback effect of last night’s vindaloo.

    I do these things so you don’t have to.

  2. Your powers of not getting arrested never cease to amaze me.

  3. Also, pro-tip for all you young experimenters out there: capsaicin isn’t neutralized by water. As with napalm, water just spreads the fire around. Milk, however, will help. So the next time you get a case of spicy jock itch, remember these words: “Got milk?”

    Inevitable whipped cream joke in three…two…

  4. This approach to discouraging us is going to backfire pretty hard, as I suspect I’m not the only one who thinks we need more posts like this one. XD

  5. No, this is _why_ we want you to show off that soft furry underbelly. And I agree with Madeline that your powers of not getting arrested are amazing.

  6. That is the single most amusing thing I’ve read in several days.

    You aren’t helping your case.

    Also, when rashly experimenting with noxious chemicals, in public or at home, it’s proper etiquette to yell “SCIENCE!” before hand. It’s like golf, only more aromatic and I care.

  7. This, was absolutely delightful and, as Jim said, completely counterproductive to your cause. The only reason I can think of for demanding you do not write more posts like this one is if it will delay your next book.

  8. re poster 3 (or so) above who mentioned milk: AFAIK any kind of fat will help.

  9. Chilli ain’t got nothing on getting deep heat/tiger balm on the boys.
    The pain is only matched by the sense of utter panic that accompanies the realisation of exactly where has just been contaminated with exactly what.
    true terror.

  10. Yeah.. so when can we add you on Facebook?

  11. @Michael: Any fat will help, but the casein in milk is particularly helpful. This is why skim milk is still helpful.

    As far as the explanation of the three incidents above, the only logical explanation is that someone temporarily replaced your pepper spray with a placebo around the time of your second incident, only to put the original back in hopes of something like the third. It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

  12. I am amused, but by what I cannot say. Perhaps it never happened and I am merely the victim of subliminal humor. Regardless, if there is a FB or Twitter feed to be had, I would like to see it.

  13. @nick ah that also explains why Lassi helps (at the indian restaurant). I suppose fat-content of yoghurt isn’t that high ..

  14. *HAR HAR HAR HAR HAR*

    Oh, the joy of testing the pepper spray! I mean, how hot could this stuff actually be? I’ll test it …..

    I got a whiff of this stuff once, indirectly, and I’d be afraid to spritz it on a dog, much less indoors. *salutes you* There is no substitute for actual field testing of an apparatus, and you have tested it for us. We can now cross “discharge pepper spray indoors” off the testing list.

    You left the most important part out: Did the Yukonian archeologist laugh?

  15. Bringing the number of my favored authors who have maced a restaurant to two!

    (http://thebivouac.wordpress.com/2008/07/16/the-kentucky-derby-is-decadent-and-depraved/).

  16. All of these comments about pepper spray and testicles, yet no one mentioned the fear I now have of being invited to your place for dinner. Food products, cookware and your testicles are far too intimate for my tastes.

  17. Going off on a completely unrelated tangent (brought on by the very last word inthe next-to-last paragraph), What is the meaning of the apostrophe in the word ‘lawbreaker in the Rifters novels? It’s probably explained somewhere in _Maelstrom_ but by the time I got to books 2, 3.1 &3.2 I couldn’t remember.

  18. Pure wincing till shortly after paragraph 7, when I laughed suddenly and hard enough to spit a fine spray of chocolate milk onto my laptop.

    You are to be cuffed.

  19. With enough video cameras, the restaurant incident becomes performance art.

  20. We grew “Sweet Green Bell Peppers” one year that grew up to be neither green nor sweet: they were long, skinny, red, and oh my fucking oath were they hot. I dried them, popped them in the blender, opened the lid and … about half an hour later, I could breathe normally again. We call it “Sprinkles of Death” and use it in chili.

    My other experience with pepper spray was when an idiot jogger ran through our yard at the lake and woke the dog. Jogger, shrieking and dancing in panic — even though Willow was staying put 10 feet away — pulled out a can of pepper spray. And missed the dog completely. Even so, the fine red mist was enough to make my eyes water from 20 feet away, and the smell stuck to the dog for a week.

  21. You know, you’re going to have to wait awhile before delivering “Adventures in Dining, Part II.” Let the memory fade so we won’t be disappointed by the next installment…

  22. “It got off to a rocky start back during grad school, when I was making vegetarian tacos in the nude.”

    You lost me right there; is this a Canadian thing?

    I’ve got my own similar story: bug spray, penis, sexual penetration, chaos.

  23. Restauarant schmestaurant.. spraying it in someone’s face results in inevitable hilarity every time.

    Just testing. That’s a nice way of putting it 😀

  24. for the record I would like to mention there must be some happy medium between

    “The relationship between chili peppers and my scrotum has always been a difficult one.”

    and

    “My previously unreleased story/book/poem/epic was published in/by xxx and will be available for purchase at date xxx, buy it so my cats can continue to eat, or wait until I get around to hosting it here”

    I too have a story of woe that includes a paramour, making out on a couch and an unsafed bottle of pepper spray on a key chain, let us never speak of it again.

  25. Geez, there are some people you just can’t take anywhere!

  26. Anyone else disappointed by the lack of scrotum involvement in the restaurant incident?

  27. For the record

    “The relationship between chili peppers and my scrotum has always been a difficult one.”

    would be a great opener.

    More furry underbelly! (pepper optional)

  28. seruko : “for the record I would like to mention there must be some happy medium between…”

    Oh, he knows full well that there is.

  29. I love “Southern Accents” and I love your writing, but I hope to never eat in the same restaurant as you. Ever. 😉

  30. *scritches the soft furry underbelly*

    The Carrot: I’ve got my own similar story: bug spray, penis, sexual penetration, chaos.

    That’ll clear up any centipede problems we have up there, though.

    creepyfan: Anyone else disappointed by the lack of scrotum involvement in the restaurant incident?

    Strangely, not at all. But my brain is still stalled at the idea of nude vegetarian dinner parties, and why I never thought of them myself.

  31. That reminds me how I managed to rough up the inner surface of my lip by accidentally falling, to the point of bleeding.

    And, off course, I was visited by the awesome idea to use this unpleasant incident to simulate coughing up blood in crowded public transport (for the lulz!), an idea I immediately embraced.

    It was during the anthrax/bioterror scare.

    Hilarity ensued.

  32. creepyfan said:

    Anyone else disappointed by the lack of scrotum involvement in the restaurant incident?

    The scrotum was involved (and was even present, albeit deep under cover). It became culpable for the whole mess back when it tricked me into thinking that the spray was harmless, that time I wet myself and felt no pain. No, the only cause I have for disappointment lies in the opportunity I missed to place a truly great title atop this posting.

    It was so obvious, too. How could I have missed “Great Balls of Fire!”?

  33. “Great Balls of Fire!”

    :)

    Brag, brag, brag.

  34. I volunteered to be tased and pepper sprayed when working as a security guard in college. The taser hurt. For the pepper spray I had them shoot it next to my head instead of in my face and i almost clawed my eyes out in the agony that followed.

    Serious shit. I think I’d rather be shot than go through it again.

  35. but did you have to evacuate the restaurant before or after you got to eat the delicious mashed potatoes?

  36. Mr Watts, I, personally, am anxiously waiting for part two :)

  37. “… a lady from the Yukon who makes her living unearthing ten-thousand-year-old hunting artefacts from the ice up there.”

    Could you tell us more?

  38. So we’d just been issued O.C. spray and I had just successfully deployed it against a man in an apartment wielding a baseball bat. I also learned that, in a closed environment, there is such a thing as backblast and environmental contamination. Although the spry worked like magic (he dropped the bat, fell to his knees, and started coughing and wheezing) I was forced to retreat down the hallway and yell at him to “crawl toward the sound of my voice”.
    Later, I went to the PD to urinate and, only after I had finished and zipped up, did I realize that I had not properly decontaminated my hands. When my friend Randy came into the locker room, my pants were around my ankles and I had as much of my groin as I could get over the sink, furiously splashing water on it.
    Randy said “uuuuhhhh, you need some privacy?”
    I said “If you were any sort of friend at all, you’d help me out here.”
    Randy slowly backed out of the room.

  39. Compare this to Boing Boing’s recent update in which Cory Doctorow asked for advice on buying a new ipod.
    YOWZERS

    Thanks for writing.

  40. Compare this to Boing Boing’s recent update in which Cory Doctorow asked for advice on buying a new ipod.

    *perks up*

    Really? I’ll have to go over and recommend the new Apple iScrote. For the sake of parity.