Our family used to have a cottage outside of a little town called Calabogie in Ontario. When I say cottage I mean shack. Not an estate, not a home away from home, not a house that happened to be situated on a lake. I mean a very small cabin that was probably built by the 4th little pig. The one who built his house out of cobwebs and farts.
The drive to the cottage was around 5 hours but that didn’t bother me one bit. It was a simpler time when kids bounced around in the back of station wagons like tennis balls and the most popular booster seat on the market was a case of beer.
The cottage was dusty, dirty, and dangerous. There was no electricity, no water and no bathroom but there was one out of date Playboy calendar. Or as I believe they were called then – nudie calendars.
Back then a cottage was a place where parents could smoke, drink and send their kids into the probably murderer infested forest to hunt for anything to keep them occupied. Rocks, shells, and twigs were some of the things parents demanded we look for; allowing them valuable time for more smoking and drinking.
If you’ve been paying attention you’ll have noticed that there was no drinking water at the cottage, and lots of beer.
What was there for a 4 year old Karen to drink? There was beer, dirty river water or the yellowing paper nipple of a faded Playmate. Those were my options after a hot day of eating Bugles and looking for sticks in the 1970’s.
I knew I wasn’t allowed to drink beer or the dirty water and I was pretty sure that nipple had long dried up.
Damnit I was thirsty, thought my 4 year old self. But since the adults around the cottage this particular day had also been quite thirsty, no one seemed to care or notice that the salty, crunchy, delicious corn chippy tasting Bugles had left me parched. In fact they probably didn’t even notice that I existed.
The grown ups had more important things on their mind. Like arguing over who drank the booster seat.
In a miraculous turn of events I found myself a bottle of delicious Coca Cola and I drank it down. I drank all of it down.
Turns out it wasn’t filled with Coke but instead with dirty old motor oil.
It also turns out I couldn’t tell the difference between the taste of a bottle of Coke and dirty motor oil at that age. My palate has progressed significantly since then and I can almost always tell the difference between motor oil and Coke (unless it’s in a marinade which always trips me up).
When everyone finally realized what I’d done, my grandfather, who was a dentist, jumped into action and grabbed himself another beer. The he sat on the porch, told everyone to zip it and relax. I’d be fine. Nothing to worry about.
I still don’t know if it was because he was way smarter than everyone else, or just way drunker. Either way I lived through the ordeal with the only side effect being I crave Bugles every time I get an oil change.
The point of this is that eating one wrong thing isn’t going to kill you. Unless it’s Russian poison, in which case it definitely will.
Actually I think the real point is that our generation is tough. We are beer case booster seat, motor oil drinking tough.
Kids today cry when they can’t find a phone charger.
This latest generation might be technologically advanced and infinitely more mature than we were at the same age.
But they never would have survived a 1970’s summer.
Have a good summer weekend and stay safe. But not too safe, because that never makes a good story.