The Cast: A cow (yes, a cow), A bunny (yes, a bunny), Erich (willing), Myself (eager).
The thick, pink, viscous liquid stared back at us. It had been four days now. How much more could we take? How much longer could we endure? Shouldn’t this be all over by now?
These were only some of the questions we had to ask ourselves. Like many of the problems anybody faces (especially teens), ours was one of self-manifestation. We had done this. We had created it. We would have to finish it. We were stupid.
Like many teens, stupidy could rear its friendly, ugly head at any given moment. One day, it did it again for Erich and me. (that last line even sounds stupid when you read it out loud)
Okay, I strongly believe—at this point—that I need to add a disclaimer, or warning, a caution… something. This story is full of idiocracy—and science. And, if you don’t feel like having to read about a bunch of ‘stupid’—and science, please feel free to move on. There are lots of wonderful reads out there on the net. But, if you think that you would feel better about yourself by reading about a heapin’ load of ‘stupid’, well then, by all means, keep reading. But, you have officially been warned!
On any given day I could find myself in the company of any number of my buddies. Sometimes just wandering about our little town’s streets, clusters of us would encounter each other and the group dynamic would change in size and members. Some would stay, and some would have to leave. But, more often than not, I would find myself in the company of Erich. And then, we would do something stupid. (but, not always on purpose)
It’s not like we tried to be stupid, it would just happen. Like, we would begin to talk about stuff, an idea would form, details would be discussed, we would begin to act on those ideas, and then one of us would ask or say something like, “Should we really be doing this?” To which the other would reply with, “Shut up and grab on already! I’m losing my grip!” Or, “Too late no-o-o-o-ow!” Or, “OW!!! I wasn’t ready!” Or even, “Shut up and get the fire extinguisher already! I’m losing my grip!” Yeah, we did some stupid stuff. And while this story isn’t bad, it really is stupid—with some science.
For reasons that escape me now, Erich and I were working on something in the basement of my mother’s dance studio and we became thirsty. Yeah, sure, water works to keep a life going. It does keep one hydrated. It is the life-blood of the planet. But, it just doesn’t taste good. It’s just water. Bleh. So… whatever. So, yeah, we wanted to get something else. We wanted something with flavor. We also wanted something that would last for a while. We also wanted some food to go with the flavorful fluid. We also wanted something we could afford. Off to the grocery store!
The local grocery store was only two blocks from our current location. Both places were on Main Street—albeit opposite sides. This would be a quick trip there and back again (there and back again… that would make a great title for a story. I need to save that idea for later).
As we pursued the isles of consumable foods and fluids—some nutritional, and some not—we discovered that we did not have enough money to buy a whole lot. If we bought food, we would not have enough to get drinks. If we bought the drinks, we would not have enough to purchase food. It was a catch-22. What to do? What to do…? Eventually, we found our answer—through asking questions (science!).
Fruity Pebbles is perhaps one of my most favorite cereals. I know that as far as health goes, it’s not the most profitable for you, but it tastes delicious! Plus, as a teen, old age is years away. So, who cares? Right? I bring this up because we had entered into the cereal aisle—something we had not anticipated. As we did, we passed the Fruity Pebbles, and comments were brought up about how we each liked them. That’s when we had the brains storm: Cereal. Cold cereal.
Cereal is good. You can have milk, that’s good. Fruity Pebbles are good (there’s fruit—it’s in the name), and they’re part of a balanced breakfast. So, what’ve we got to lose? Nothing. Then we upped the ante: “You know what would make this even better? Strawberry milk.” “Yeah.” So, we bought a large box of Fruity Pebbles, a gallon of milk, and some Strawberry Quick syrup. Oh, this was going to be so awesomely good!
We got back to the studio and collected some bowls and spoons—my mother had a kitchen area with a few dishes. We were ready. Ready, but not thinking.
For many people science and physics are not favorite topics—I’ve always enjoyed them (even if I didn’t always pay attention or understand them). That being said Let me ask you this: Have you ever paid attention to your milk (or any liquid) when you added something else to it? Like chocolate syrup, or cocoa powder? No? Me either. You pour your milk, add the extra stuff and the amount of milk in your glass doesn’t change. Science! Yeah, the amount of milk doesn’t change, but the volume and mass inside the container does. But, it does so in such a subtle way that you may not see it happening—or even notice it. But it does!
After years of mixing in Ovaltine, Quicks (both chocolate and strawberry), cocoas, Tang, and other such yummy things, one would think that I had noticed. But, NO-O-O-o-o-o. No, I never did. See, when you add something that dissolves in liquid, to a liquid, it’s gone, right? That’s what ‘dissolves in liquid’ means, right? NO-O-O-o-o-o. Matter cannot be created or destroyed. The two things may become one, but neither one is gone. The mass (and sometimes volume) remains constant, even if only slightly increased. Yeah, we didn’t think that part through very well.
It was clear—by looking at the two bottles—that not all the syrup could be added to the entier gallon at once. No problem. We would just start with a small bowl each, to make room.
Step One: Pour Fruity Pebbles into bowl. Done.
Step Two: Pour the milk. Done.
Step Three: Consume. Done.
Now there was room in the gallon jug. Time to add the Quick.
As we poured, something odd was occurring: The Quick was not dissolving. The gallon was filling back up again (remember what I had mentioned earlier about mass and volume?). Okay, we would need more milk gone. Bowls number two. First, however, shake the jug to mix the milk. Done. Now…
Step One: Pour Fruity Pebbles into the bowl. Done.
Step Two: Pour the milk. Done.
Step Three: Realize that there wasn’t enough Quick to make it really strawberry-ee.
Step Four: No worry, just pour some syrup directly into the bowl of cereal we each had.
Step Five: Quickly understand our mistake.
Back to that whole science thing… Yeah, temperature changes how well/quickly certain things interact with each other. Did you know straight strawberry syrup does not dissolve quickly in milk when poured onto cereal? I do (now). The syrup sort of just ‘sat’ on top of the cereal bits and when eaten, provided an intense sugar-flavor-filled experience neither one of us should forget. ‘Cause if we do… Oh, it was so bad.
We tried all sorts of different methods of mixing milk and syrup and cereal, none of them were good. And, as we read the label of the Quick, we realized we did not ratio it correctly. Here’s how it breaks down: One standard bottle of Quick has about 22 ounces of syrup in it. One gallon of milk holds, well, one gallon. The mixture ratio is this: One cup of milk to one tablespoon of Quick. Done. Now, whatever you do for your personal consumption pleasure is up to you, but, that is the official recommended ratio.
This means that since one gallon of milk holds sixteen cups of milk, and one bottle of syrup holds 44 tablespoons, we could have made almost four gallons of strawberry milk (3.75 to be exact) with that one bottle of syrup. But we didn’t know that, we just poured, mixed, ate, drank and Quick-ly became sugary-ill. (see what I did there?) It was bad. After only three bowls each, we were done. No more cereal, no more milk, no more… We were done. Still hungry, but done. And, unfortunately (maybe) we still had plenty of syrup, milk, cereal, and hunger.
After wrapping up whatever project we had been working on, Erich and I collect the foodstuffs and headed back to my house. Once there, we made some sandwiches—to stabilize the sugars. Then, we mixed up the rest of the Quick. By this time we had consumed a good portion of the milk and were able to mix in the rest of the strawberry syrup. What we had was a rich pink milk. It looked delicious. It tasted, um, strong? No. Potent? No. Powerful? No. Strawberry-sugary? Yes! It tasted strawberry-sugary (times ten!). It had a kick. So much so, that we couldn’t drink it anymore, that day—for fear of kidney failure. We had, due to ratios, removals, mixes, and such, used 3.5 gallons worth of strawberry syrup mix for .75 gallons of milk (again, after all the mixing and such). That’s over 4.5 times the recommended amount! That’s nuts!
Over the next few days, Erich and I would trepidly taste the tincture to see how it aged. Each passing day allowed for us to have one small glass. And each day… it got better! No, really, it did! By day four, science had finally done its full function: The milk and strawberry syrup had reached a perfectly balanced state. Enough for one glass each.