Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Deja Carbonated Vu

Back in 1977, one fine Friday night before a SAMI (Saturday Morning Inspection), having finished polishing the floor, making the quarter-bouncing beds that we dared not sleep in, but rather on, hiding the dirty laundry beneath a cardboard cutout wrapped in the army-green laundry bag and placed perfectly level and square like a false bottom in the hamper, polishing the sink, rolling all the socks so that they smiled cheerfully, and perfectly spacing each hanger in the closet like so many mutually repellent ions in some state of equidistant neutrality . . . after all that, I departed the room I shared with two other freshmen and marched, squaring my corners as I went, down to the squadron ready room and treated myself to can of soda.  Coke I expect; this being before the days of Diet Everything, and my 18-year-old metabolism having no use for Tab.  Precious beverage in hand, swinging at my side as I marched back to the room, held upright by a thumb and three fingers extended down the side of the can, the top resting near my palm, I rotated it as I walked so that as I made that final right-angle turn into the room, my index finger was already positioned at the tab, ready to pop it and release that audible sigh of refreshment well-earned.

And pop the tab I did, just barely, before the whole can slipped from my fingertips, still upright, and accelerated steadily toward the floor, still upright, landing with a solid thud, still upright, and resting there for a second, just long enough for me to marvel at my good fortune that it had landed so, still upright, seal barely cracked . . . motionless . . . for just a second . . . while the vibrations and shock from that solid landing, that sudden stop, completed the transfer of energy, potential while the can was in my hand, kinetic during the trip to floor, and now, explosive as all that carbon dioxide, formerly in solution, under pressure, and held so by the walls of the can as vessel, became gaseous and made its way in a rude press of molecule upon molecule that would anticipate the crush of holiday shoppers through Walmart's doors in Black Friday openings years into the future.

It would be at least two more years before I would understand the conspiracy of Bernoulli and Venturi (even now, I can't swear to the exact laws in play) in that tiny crack at the top of that soda can.  As that one blissful and deceiving second came to an end, so did all the meticulous preparation that had gone into making our room a shining example of spotless perfection.  Soda shot straight up to the ceiling in a razor-fine line emanating from that seal the cracking of which had been the last act of my last finger to leave the can.  Well not straight up exactly.  It was off center enough to turn the can from an upright fountain to a spinning grenade of sugary brown disaster.  Not a wall, not a bed, not a mirror, not a closet, not a desk, not a roommate, not a far corner of that room beneath or above any bed, desk, or bookshelf escaped that spinning arc of The Real Thing before it ceased its whirring and lay only gently rocking a last second or two in a bubbling puddle at the center of the room.

All things considered, it's a wonder I survived that night and the ire of my roommates.

Which brings us to the present.

I was putting away the Jameson in the liquor cabinet in the study tonight, and I bumped a can of Coke Zero from the top of the stack.  The distance it fell to the floor wasn't even as far as that can traveled 35 years ago.

And yet, the rest, as they say, was history . . . repeating itself.