The scene looked like something out of a disaster movie. Confused people were coughing in the toxic haze. According to eyewitness accounts, animals, probably motivated by their extraordinary ability to perceive approaching danger, were seen fleeing the area even before extremely sensitive man-made devices detected the eruption.
At ground zero, the bitter fumes left a strange yellow residue on exposed surfaces. For weeks, air currents recycled the acrid odor of the disaster and dispersed it over a wider area, including the second-floor bedrooms. But at least the fallout was contained within our house and never posed a direct threat to the general population of the neighborhood.
So, basically, yeah, it turns out that instant dry macaroni can be weaponized and converted into a dirty bomb that releases unknown volatile compounds into the atmosphere, where they will probably pose a hazard for decades. In case you were wondering.
Of course, to get this kind of impact, you have to heat the dry noodles in the microwave for 3 minutes and forget to add the water. Which is exactly what most honorable 9-year-old daughter unwittingly did in our own kitchen. A month later, the smell of incinerated pasta (a formerly organic substance charred beyond recognition and transformed into unidentified toxic compounds still being studied in secret government labs) has finally stopped emanating from the microwave every time we run it.
But the long-term outcome inside the microwave isn’t as promising. After a vigorous hazmat cleanup operation (that would be me), the formerly white surfaces still have a faint yellow tinge. I don’t know what kind of compound that waxy film was, but NASA should probably investigate it as a possible heat shield for future reentry vehicles. Bonus: it’s from a sustainable source.
The worst thing about the whole episode wasn’t any of that stuff. It was frantically trying to get the smoke detectors to stop screaming at us while a rising cloud of macaroni fumes continued to billow through the house as it continued to leak from reactor chamber No. 1. This went on for a surprisingly long time. So long my arms actually got tired. As the first responder on site, I felt as if were performing some kind of superstitious ritual that involved waving a sacred cloth (dirty towel from the laundry room, whatever) at the great angry ceiling god to appease its wrath. The good news is that my ears have finally stopped ringing.
Mostly. I think. Hopefully, that persistent high-pitched noise is coming from my laptop.
We can thankful that it was only macaroni and not something truly dangerous, like a frozen bean burrito inadvertently heated for 10 minutes instead of the recommended 1 minute as a result of a tragic touchpad error.
But there is a positive takeaway from the pasta-based dirty-bomb incident. The information about its destructive power may come in handy when the planet-wide alien invasion comes and you need to improvise crude weapons from random supplies after the collapse of civilization. Granted, for the microwave part of the process to work, you’ll need access to a generator after the preemptive EMP attack disables the grid. Still, at least now you’ll know which stuff to hoard first.
And you’re probably going to need a bigger bowl of noodles if you want to terrorize aliens instead of the family pets.
In fact, it sort of reminds me of the two-step evacuation plan I saw at Paco’s Tacos on Anna Maria Island in Florida, except with macaroni instead of beer and an alien invasion instead of a hurricane:
- 1. Grab mac.
- 2. Run like hell.
But it’s pretty much the same principle, obviously.