Tuesday, May 26, 2009

WBMD : Water Bottle Of Mass Destruction

Every cyclist can be a chemist. And a dangerously accidental one at that. Even if you flunked high school chemistry.

Did you ever have that time when you threw a water bottle into the kitchen sink, without emptying that tad bit of fancy powdered drink you made eons ago? So long ago that in this time period, you probably went through numerous jobs, laptops, credit cards, religions, dogs, cars, inner tubes, multiple wives? And remember one day, an hour before a Sunday morning ride, you discover the long lost bidon while trying to find one damn bottle to pour some liquid into? Yes. There it was. Near the corner of that sink on the counter, over there... lying in wait to be found like the deteriorating treasures of the Titanic on Atlantic seabed.

And do you remember, when all of a sudden, you became so excited about this discovery that you proceeded to unscrew the lid and check into its contents? (After all, there was something in the bottle when you shook it..."oob-gluck oob-gluck"..).

Little did you know that within this huge time period of sheer neglect, your bottle was probably a Petri Dish for so obscure a set of chemical reactions of such erudition, that studying them would have likely made the great Dalton epileptic.


Here's what may have happened during the Age of Neglect, when the bottle lay there in the corner, unbeknownst, unloved, unwanted.

Pay attention.

In the carefully controlled dark, hot, anaerobic environment inside the plastic case, molecules of the coloring extract decomposes and fuses with expired maltodextrin and tints of all those amino acids, citrates, shitrates and whatever stuff they mix with the powder to make it of any value. Soon, we're lost...aah, some unknown catalyst finds its way into the bidon by way of osmosis. There is a controlled chemical explosion like when spark plug meets fuel-air mixture. <<BOOOM>>

Drops of green ooze begin to form. The green ooze sits there and is now all pissed off because some new variant of fungi is feeding right off them. Way to be born into the new world and find yourself right on the dinner plate of parasites! But this territorial imbalance won't go on for long. Follow on.


A cutaway of WBMD

Like white blood cells ward off invader cells in the human body, these molecules of ooze fend for themselves against the parasites. Armed with gas power, there is a great battle between the two. Fungi tentacles clash with gas bullets from their liquid rivals. Meanwhile, gas bullets hone in on Fungi tentacles like precision guided missiles. Suffice to say, there is total and unhindered chaos. This is a war torn microbial world with such verisimilitude that it could do a much better job of simulating a post apocalyptic world for Terminator : Salvation (too bad the director wasn't a cyclist). Here, there are thousands dying in the battlefield. Others are victorious. The air is thick with the fires of battle, and then....a new kind of vapor is formed. It forms like a rainbow. Its as a covenant of ceasefire. Like heavy black clouds skim the vast countryside before the rains, it sits right above the ooze and its new fungal Prisoners of War.

But what is this vapor? What are its constituents? Do not ask me. Make any empirical chemical formula of your choice. You might like to start with this : SGO (Stink Galore Oxide).


Ofcourse, when you discovered your bottle, and decided to check its contents, you saw absolutely nothing of the above mentioned events. You open the lid, parting it like a proud prince draws a palace curtain, and look inside inquisitively with your huge eyeball.

The smile you had on your face slowly draws to a blank. Then it turns to one of indescribable disgust. Mix it some acute distress, pain, and horror and you get an emotion even Shakespeare cannot fathom.

What signals to you that something must be awfully wrong is the sudden escape of this pungent vapor. Like a steroid driven hot air balloon in a distillation chamber (wow that made no sense), it rises to the top of the bidon and finds its way into the chambers of your nostrils.

At first, you think you're dreaming. But its not to be. What you've just smelt is so real, so rotten, so fetid and so feculant, that you can even taste it in in the roof of your mouth.

Now take note : the exit of the vapor from the bottle is rapid. It diffuses quickly into the kitchen air, faster than an Axe deodorant can into the hearts of female species in a fake TV commercial. Frightened, you throw the bottle, exit the house, lock the door, get on your bike and propel the hell away to rendezvous with your club riders. Ofcourse, when you see them, you pretend like nothing happened and wipe your hands clean behind your 13 panel shorts like a scared kid who haphazardly stole candy from a store.

A little into the ride, your cell phone rings. You're ofcourse riding your bike, blowing the stink out of your nose some 200 times before this happens. You quickly fish in your jersey pocket for the unit and answer the call.

Why, its the voice of the local fire marshall. In a concerned tone, he inquires if you're the owner of this so and so looking house on so and so street.

"Hi, yes I'm he....c-can I help you?"

"No...can we help you?", shoots the Marshall. "I called to say your house is on fire, sir. None of our boys can get in. There's this nasty...ugh...look, would you be able to get here soon, please? No time to explain. And goddammit, bring a face mask along!"

* * *


Chris said...

Oh my, this happened too many times with me to remember. I think when you're a bachelor , you can afford to let this happen.

Chris said...

The bottle, not the fire! :)

Phil said...

This reminds me of the Mythbusters episode where they try different possibilities to get rid of skunk odor after getting sprayed. A mix of Hydrogen Peroxide, baking soda and liquid dish soap was their winning combination.

Zach said...


Been there, done that (except for the fire part). It sucks, and I've had a water bottle go through many dishwasher cycles before I felt safe to drink out of it. It would have been easier to just toss it and get another one at the bike shop.

Anonymous said...

Recently, I have been noticing black patches on the underside of my lid. I'm getting a bit scared as to what's going into my body. I think I'll dispose it and get new bottles.

Sprocketboy said...

Pretty dreadful, but probably nothing compared to the cuttlefish chapter in "Uncle Tungsten," by Oliver Sacks. Never has a dreadful stink been so memorably described.

Anonymous said...

I dont think bad gatorade left in a bottle smells as shitty as some of the powdered mixes.

Ben said...

the fire was pretty climatic! coool!

Jane said...

What imagination!