Flumen For Thought

January 12, 2007

The other day I saw a kid in my neighborhood dangling something long and shiny, and I immediately thought, "What the hell is that? Is that mucous?" Then I realized it was a long piece of scotch tape. It’s nice to know that there are some things that never change, like the fact that mucous is always funny. Once in Latin class during a test a guy next to me whispered, "Hey Chris, what’s the word for ‘river’?" I told him it was "flumen", and he started yelling. "Flumen? FLUMEN? That can’t be right. That sounds like mucous or something." Then he made loud gagging noises and asked to be excused because he had some flumen in his throat. At this point we were both laughing so hard it didn’t matter that we’d flunked the test, or that the Latin word for mucous is "mucus", which just proves the Romans had no sense of humor, not even when it came to flumen.

But I digress. What interested me is that, even with the invention of computers and interactive DVDs and the new handheld Victrola and all kinds of other electronic crap scotch tape is still a kid’s best friend. Teach a man to fish and he’ll sit in a boat and drink beer for a day, but give a kid a roll of scotch tape and a cardboard box and you’ll keep him occupied for hours, although I’m not sure why it’s called "scotch tape". Maybe it’s made from haggis or something. I still hear parents complain that they spend thousands of dollars on fancy electronic toys and their kids end up playing with the boxes.

Think about it, though. Most of us were kids once, except Al Lewis who was born sixty-three, and we all know that even though we were easy marks for advertisers the expensive toys that we begged our parents to buy us were only fun for about twenty minutes. The more complicated the toy the more limited its function, but you can do anything with a cardboard box. And the scotch tape is important because, no matter what that box becomes, it’s got to have things attached to it. Scotch tape is infinitely superior to glue because it’s instant gratification. When you’re in the middle of a countdown for a mission to Neptune and you suddenly realize you need to add an auxiliary ion drive you can’t stop for a couple of hours and wait for glue to dry because you’ll miss your launch window. Even NASA uses scotch tape, which explains a lot about their Mars exploration program.

But I digress. Glue is also no good because it only comes in one of two forms: the white paste that always hardens in the bottle because someone, probably the guy who sat next to me in Latin class, always goes off and leaves it open, or the amber gel that has that weird orange rubber top with a little mouth that you have to press down then hold at an angle for a day and a half while the glue slowly oozes out. Then the glue forms a film over the top and hardens so the next time you use it the little mouth crackles like it’s laughing at you. And maybe it is laughing at you. Then when you leave the room it talks. It says, "Hey, you should have put the wall of your submarine on the floor after you glued that depth gauge to it because it just fell off and now your mom’s going to yell because there’s glue on the carpet." And maybe the scotch tape is over there in the corner saying, "Aye laddie, the best laid plans of submarine makers aft gang agley."

But I digress. If that weren’t bad enough I always end up wondering how they manufacture that glue. I won’t tell you where I think it comes from. Let’s just say it looks a lot like flumen to me.

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