Kernel of truth vexes pop user
My hand trembled and I felt the usual pang of guilt as I pulled the cellophane-wrapped pack from the box. I know. It's a nasty habit. It's killing me. My friends can't believe I have so little regard for my lungs and general health. I'm going to kick it one day. I swear.
I think about putting the pack back. Or throwing it in the garbage can. But I notice my clammy fingers are already removing the cellophane wrapper. God, how did I get this monkey on my back?
I could blame it on my parents. They both indulged. And I remember the smell wafting through the air from the time I was just a baby. Today, my parents probably would be arrested for subjecting my pure little pink lungs to such abuse. But back then, nobody knew it was dangerous. I mean, the TV commercials made it look cool and fun. Nobody told us it was potentially deadly.
And then in college, everyone did it. It was cool. If you were going to meet chicks, you had to partake. I remember the smell of it in my girlfriend's hair. Kind of disgusting. But sexy, too. She was wild. She did a couple of packs a night.
I finger the pack and my resolve completely collapses. Time to fire up. I put the pack into the microwave and turn it on. Soon the familiar smell is floating through the room.
"Damn you, Orville Redenbacher!" I scream at the microwave. "Why have you made my life a living hell?"
Or a dying hell. Because now we know that sad truth, that the gaseous emissions of butter-flavored microwave popcorn are dangerous. You think cigarette smoking is bad? Apparently microwave popcorn fumes are worse. At least with cigarette smoke, you know you are inhaling something evil. But with popcorn you assume that smell of buttery goodness can't be bad for you.
But ask Wayne Watson of Colorado. He was a three-bag-a-day man for 10 years. A hard-core popcorn junkie. He not only ate the popcorn, he also inhaled the fumes from the bag. Yes, he's what glue-sniffers call a "huffer." And he didn't think his habit was doing him any harm until he developed lung disease. Apparently there's something in the buttery flavoring that's really bad for you, and, surprisingly, it's not butter. You can inhale actual butter fumes all day and your lungs would be fine. But apparently no butter is actually used in butter-flavored popcorn.
I'm just a casual user. Maybe one bag a week. But I've been using for a long time. Like I said, my mom and dad subjected us kids to secondhand popcorn fumes when we were kids. Of course, back then, there were no microwaves. They had to freebase it in pots on the stove. But by the time I got to college, I was hooked. The dorms ran white with popcorn. If you wanted to mix in with the fast crowd, you did popcorn. Lots of popcorn.
And now, I'm the man with the golden hands, trembling buttery-gold hands feverishly digging into the bag. I suck the glorious fumes into my lungs. I vow this is my last hit. I just hope Betty Ford doesn't have microwave ovens.
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
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