Thursday, August 1, 2013

An Ode to My the Adhesives in My Life

This week the carpet in the hallway near my work area is being replaced, and the new flooring consists of large patterned squares that needed to be glued to the floor.

My co-workers in other areas of the building have asked me, jokingly (I hope), "Have you gotten high off the smell?"

I've never been a huffer, though there have been certain aromas that are both toxic and alluring, including:
  • Sharpies
  • Dry-erase markers
  • Gasoline
  • The leather jacket my high school girlfriend wore during our first date, to see the Bill Murray movie Scrooged
  • The orange-infused cleaner I would employ to sanitize the restrooms during my high school janitorial job
I could have (and, due to the boredom I was experiencing today, should have) gotten high off the carpet glue, but there was one problem: the smell was loathsome.

But as the fumes started to destroy my brain cells, my memory was also prodded to recall various glues that I've used throughout my life.

That sounds like an exciting blog topic, right? Read on!

Glad you stuck around! (See what I did there?) 

Throughout the handful of years my kids have been attending school, we've had to buy a selection of supplies, and to my knowledge the only adhesive we've purchased has been the classic Elmer's glue.

I'm not complaining, since the start-of-the-year supply list always includes like four different kinds of notebooks and three different kinds of folders, all of which are long gone by the time I show up at Staples, which during the first week of September is teeming with more people than a free-for-all ghee bazaar in New Delhi.

Here are a few examples of what I, as a student, used to stick things to other things:

"Washable." Sure it is.
1. Paste. I was looking for an image of the exact paste I used in elementary school, but I couldn't find it (it might have been an Elmer's product, but the more recent bottle design, at right, is your standard cylinder) — or my memory is hazy. I recall my paste in a container shaped like a barrel that you'd see collecting rainwater in a Old West program like F Troop.

(Paste digression #1: F Troop star Larry Storch is, as I type this, still alive at the ripe age of 90!)

Paste was apparently created for children who couldn't be trusted with actual glue, because the stuff almost never worked. You applied it with a stubby plastic stick, about twice as wide as a chopstick, that was part of the container cap. You'd scoop up a clump and spread it around, which was difficult because it had the consistency of dried toothpaste, creating an unintended 3D effect because with every paste-based art project you could see a lump hiding behind the front piece of paper like a blind pimple.

(Paste digression #2: A guy I was friends with in third grade told me a story about one of his friends, that they were playing hide-and-seek in someone's house and when this guy Todd into the bathroom, another guy was hurled a handful of baby powder into Todd face. While coughing out the powder, Todd sputtered, "It tastes like paste!" For reasons only an analyst and/or a neurologist can explain, I never forgot that story, particularly the exclamation It tastes like paste, and always wanted to use it as the name of a comedy group or a racehorse or band or something.)

I never ate paste. I don't think I missed anything.

In the amount of time it required to take
the photo of this open-capped glue stick,
all its adhesive powers disintegrated.
2. Glue sticks. I know my kids use glue sticks, but I don't think I've ever bought any. Maybe Mrs. The Anthony Show is buying them, or they're boosting them from their classrooms.

I always find glue sticks in random places throughout my house — next to my computer in the home office, under a couch, on my daughter's nightstand — and in every case THE CAP IS OFF AND THE GLUE HAS DRIED OUT.

I know that glue sticks weren't designed to be single-use devices, but that's how is goes in Casa De TheAnthonyShow.

Glue sticks, when used and stored properly, were marginally better than paste. They made things stick to other things, but often I'd put too much pressure on the surface on which I was rubbing the stick, tearing that construction paper / looseleaf / felt / fake death certificate I was working with.

3. Mucilage. I don't understand why we ever needed this stuff, but the elementary school classrooms had plenty of these:

Image stolen borrowed from here.
The second bottle from the left is the one that resembled the kind we had. I can't remember the brand name, nor could I find it online. The bottle had a red nipple that required a thin horizontal slit from (one assumes) a razor, but all we had were scissors, so we'd stab the thing, creating a large gash (in the nipple and/or a finger) that would ooze far too much mucilage (or blood) than required.

What exactly is mucilage? Help me out, Wikipedia:
Mucilage is a thick, gluey substance produced by nearly all plants and some microorganisms. 
Really? That's fascinating! Please, continue:
It is a polar glycoprotein and an exopolysaccharide.
All right, you lost me there. Anyway, this stuff probably has a specific kind of use, but nothing that a third grader would ever need. This was also the around the same time every student had a compass, as if we were going to be drawing perfect circles and not staging improvised knife fights every day.

If I ever craft a Part II to this glue discussion, I'll talk about my experience with the classic Elmer's Glue-All. It will be a sequel worthy of other I-can't-believe-they-made-that follow-ups such as National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure and the second Smurfs movie.

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