How dangerous can a thermos of chicken noodle soup be? Cubicle Post writer Scott Pukos found out the hard way...
It has happened before.
Not to me, this was a first for me, but I’ve heard stories of it happening before. Horrible, awful stories.
Still, when you hear these tales secondhand, it’s fairly comical — a funny anecdote to guffaw at. That’s why I’m going to share my own traumatizing soup yarn — an occurrence that will know be known from here on out as, “the great soup incident of 2013” (a.k.a. the day I was almost murdered by chicken noodle soup).
Chicken noodle nuisance
Chicken noodle soup. A simple and popular member of the soup family, this was my lunch last week.
I’m writing a separate post on this, but I have to lay down some background for you before I explain “the incident”: My coworker Julie, and her husband Will, own a fantastic restaurant in Naples, Jules’ Kitchen, Southwest Diner. One of the highlights there is the soup. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Will offers soup to takeout via the Soup Loop. Since I’m a fan of food, I often order from the Loop. So, it was not out of the ordinary for me to order a thermos full of flavorful chicken noodle soup.
I ate half my soup for lunch, and saved half for a snack later — something I do often. However, later that day, we got some breaking news that I had to work on. As I finished up the breaking story, I noticed I was running late for a meeting I was covering that night. I gathered my reporting tools and hustled out the door. While I normally come back to the office after a meeting, I was not planning to this time. In a weird occurrence at the city of Canandaigua Planning Commission meeting — which takes place in the city courtroom — proceedings were interrupted by police walking in with a handcuffed gentleman. It was then that I randomly thought about my half full thermos of soup. It wasn’t ideal to have old food at my desk overnight, but I figured there would be no harm in washing it out in the morning. I was wrong.
Prelude to disaster
I turned the lid as hard as I could — I mean, I really put some elbow grease into this sucker. It didn’t budge. I tried to unscrew the thermos lid a second time. Again, it didn’t move. And it hurt my hand. As people started to gather in the breakroom, I decided to continue this struggle at a later date and returned the thermos — and it’s chicken, broth, vegetable contents — back to my desk. To clarify, the silver lid of the thermos screwed off without a problem, my struggle was with the second inner lid — the last defense before reaching that delicious soup.
I ignored it for most of the remainder of the work day. At 5 p.m. I decided to give it another shot. I struggled a little at my desk, before admitting to my cubicle neighbors that I simply could not get the lid off the thermos. Science, and other unexplained factors, had warped and bonded the thing to the thermos. My muscle (which is VERY strong, I should note) was no match for this stubborn canister of soup. A coworker suggested running it under hot water. I had no idea how this would affect the thermos, but I was desperate, so I headed back upstairs to the breakroom.
After a good soaking of hot water, I grabbed a towel and twisted with determined force. Nope. I tired again, face turning red, veins bulging, soup lid laughing in my face. No luck.
Another coworker walked in and witnessed my struggle. Instead of asking for help I (foolishly) said, “pretend like you didn’t see me struggling to get this lid off.” With that, I made the fatal decision to try again later, when the office was cleared out. Then I wouldn’t have to hold back. The lack of prying eyes would somehow unleash the inner strength I needed to behead this (darn) thermos, I figured.
I placed the soup on the right side of my desk and continued to crank out some articles.
I don’t remember what I was listening to, but I had my headphones on when it happened.
When you’re writing, you tend to get into these zones. You can tune out everything, use the background music as a muse, and let the words flow out. It’s not easy to get into a zone like this, in fact it’s kind of rare. Yet, there I was, 30 minutes after my last failed attempt to remove the lid, and I was pounding on my keyboard with a purposeful fury.
Unfortunately, a different fury was brewing a foot away from me.
The sound of the explosion was muffled by my music. A ringing persisted in my right ear, and a wetness started to saturate my pants. I took out my ear buds and was confused for about a second, before I figured out what happened.
In an act that would make Mount Vesuvius blush, my innocent looking thermos of chicken noodle soup decided to rage against the Scott machine.
Bits of soggy chicken, mushy carrots, discarded potato and old broth were violently spit up from the thermos. It covered my desk, my pants, my chair, the floor, my hair, my pores!
In summary, I was soup bombed.
The burst of discolored liquid soiled the air with a scent that was identical to vomit. It got worse as time progressed. Also, it looked like puke — a vomit volcano of old soup, that by the way, nearly took my life.
During the explosion, the lid shot up straight and crashed into the ceiling tile, which is about 8-feet from my desk. It left a hole in the ceiling. Again, (this is why caps lock was invented) IT LEFT A HOLE IN THE CEILING. This was a foot from my face, in an area that I often lean over. This could have easily went off, with me in the path of destruction. The hole would have been in my face (and it would probably travel through and destroy the ceiling anyway). I don’t know for sure that it would have ended me, but it would have definitely sucked. My teeth (one of my better attributes) would have been done for. I’m not ready to be a denture guy. A broken nose? I don’t need that. And don’t get me started on the potential eye injury. I mean, i could pull off the eyepatch look no doubt, but I do enjoy not being thrust into a pirate journalist look.
As I desperately tried to clean up the smelly aftermath from my clothing and belongings, I was rattled by the thought that this could have been my legacy. The guy who died from an exploding can of day-old soup. Maybe it wouldn’t have quite made the Darwin Awards, but it would have definitely been a segment on the show, 1,000 Ways to Die (a real and very ridiculous show, by the way). Maybe it would have been a source of snark for washed up comedians, or it would develop into a wacky urban legend.
None of this would have been good.
I covered my area in disinfectant, went home to change, and complained a lot (every time I thought I had it cleaned, I would notice my rancid liquid nemesis in a new crevice — in my keyboard, my backpack, in my coffee mug!)
Coworkers huddled around, first make sure we weren’t under attack, and then to help me clean up, chide me, or both.
Garbage bags filled up, the throw-up smell took over the room, but hey, the lid was finally off. And oddly enough, despite the situation, I was actualy feeling a little hungry.
How did this happen? I’m not sure, it has something to do with that dastardly fiend, science.
While I don’t understand the physics of how a thermos of soup could just explode, I wasn’t shocked by it. Julie had explained to me before about another incident with a thermos exploding in her child’s locker after it was left in there over a long weekend.
“How does that even happen?” I remember saying, before laughing. It seemed funny to me. I even joked about it — about 20 minutes before my own soup detonation — with a coworker. “Is this my fate,” I said not knowing, that yes, it was indeed my destiny. Horrible, smelly, soup fate.
The aftermath was as bad as the explosion too. I had off the following day, and came back to find my desk swimming in layers of disinfectant foam. The smell was unbearable apparently. My coworkers doubted that anyone could have worked from my cube that day.
It was still bad when I got back the next day. For the rest of the week, I sat in a den of cleaning chemicals and deceased soup ingredients. Occasionally I’d get an unpleasant whiff of the mess. I would try to waft it over to one of my neighbors, but it was an otiose attempt.
Flies circled the liquid carcass like buzzards. These weren’t normal annoying flies either. No, they were giant mutant creatures with a hunger — a hunger for old soup (and possibly flesh as well).
In the end, I’m happy this can become a weird and funny anecdote to blog about, rather than the story of my demise (it’s about 50/50 whether or not my coworkers would have avenged me). A big kudos to those who cleaned up the mess, especially to Chris, the “cleaning guy” (though, I’d still argue that Julie’s mess of peanut shells around her desk are more of a nuisance to clean).
All in all, I think everyone here rolled with the situation in a calm and dignified manner. But maybe that’s not so surprising. After all, this is the same office that had a deer rampage through it. And, they say these things happen in threes...