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Charlie Hatton
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I’m Blind; Pass the Celery, Please

Last night, the missus and I went out for dinner with a few friends. I play softball on Sundays, and it’s a long-standing after-game tradition that the team should get together to drink enough beer and eat enough delicious dead animal parts to counter any health benefits we might gain from exercising on the field. Then, we eat and drink some more, just to be safe.

On this particular gorge-fest, I was in the mood for wings. HOT wings. I like spicy food, and when I order it, I’m not dicking around. This particular joint has a disclaimer on their hottest style of wings:

Atomic Hot — don’t say we didn’t warn you!!

“I ordered a batch of wings from the waitress, and asked her to tell the chef I said his hot sauce tasted like watery ketchup, and that I probably had disparaging things to say about his mother’s hot sauce, too.”

Promising. I ordered a batch of wings from the waitress, and asked her to tell the chef I said his hot sauce tasted like watery ketchup, and that I probably had disparaging things to say about his mother’s hot sauce, too. I figured if the wings came back so-so spicy, then he probably spat on them, or worse. If they were five-alarm hot, then he just loaded the pepper sauce onto them.

They were screaming hot. Just the way I like them. Mission accomplished.

(How do I like them, exactly? Let’s just say I like my wings like I like my women — when they get close, I want my lips burning, my brow sweating, and a side of bleu cheese for dipping. And if there’s celery involved, who am I to argue?)

And maybe the chef still spat on my wings — so what? With that kind of heat, anything living in his saliva was dead before it hit the plate. This was the good stuff. You could sprinkle anthrax and bubonic plague into this sauce, and you’d be fine. I’m talking ‘hot like a napalm enema’ hot here. And that’s hot.

Now, as a frequent consumer of wicked spicy consumables, I knew what I was in for. These babies were going to hurt. The first pain would be in the mouth and throat area. Lots of burning around there. I was prepared for that.

The second pain of eating spicy foods is a bit delayed. And often prolonged. I believe it was around three in the morning when I first ‘heard the call’, and shuffled into the bathroom. This pain was, of course, in a different place. Not the mouth. More southern.

If my body were France, this pain would be somewhere down in my Mediterranean area. If I were America, it would be in my Mississippi delta. And if I were the size of all of North America — not out of the question, if I keep eating the wings — the pain would be roughly on the underside of my Yucatan peninsula. You get the idea.

Still, I’ve been down this highway before. It’s not always a pleasant ride, but I know the drill. No surprises there.

I did, however, make one rookie mistake. Before I went to bed, I took out my contact lenses, and put them in their case to soak overnight. I had washed my hands, to be sure. But apparently, I hadn’t scrubbed my hands, to ensure that any lingering hint of glorious pepper oil was banished from my fingers. And so, those contacts weren’t ‘soaking’, really. They were simmering in a stew of capsaicin and saline, lying in wait to cockblock my corneas and set me crying like a little girl without a Barbie. And I never saw it coming.

This morning, I showered as usual, brushed my teeth, and slid the first lens out of the case. I popped it into my eye — and immediately felt the wrath of a hundred thousand Scovilles singing my sclera. Between the squinting, the tears, and a fuzzy orange haze, it took me a while to get the contact back out. By then, I was bloodshot, blubbering, and blind in one eye.

I’m sure a real man would have put both lenses in, and waited for the oils to clear. Me, I rinsed those bastards in cold water for a good ten minutes before I even dreamed of trying again. Maybe I’m just a pansy that way. I’ll simply have to learn to live with it.

So, I got a third kind of ‘burn’ from my hot wings that I wasn’t at all ready for, and not remotely happy about. From now on, I’ll soak my hands in an ice bath for a few hours after eating spicy foods, and before I dare touch my contact lenses. Or I’ll take them out, and then eat them. I’m sure they’d be tasty, and it beats the hell out of jamming pepper sauce into my eyeballs. There are only so many orifices that hot food should hurt. And I’m sticking with the two I’ve dealt with before. This is no time to be a hot sauce hero.

Permalink  |  9 Comments

9 Responses to “I’m Blind; Pass the Celery, Please”

  1. arthist99 says:

    I’ve often wondered, what is the GOOD part about eating food so spicy it shreds your insides? It hurts, as you say, and you can’t really taste anything during or afterwards. It’s just HOT. So what’s the draw?

  2. jason says:

    Arthist99: Someone once told me hot food increases your metabolism. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I suppose that’s a good thing to some.

    I remember, as a little kid, one day playing with the hot pepper flakes at a pizza place and then touching my eye. Aieeeeeeee. Stung for hours.

  3. Karen says:

    I used to have a Mexican-American boyfriend. He liked to make his own salsa.

    One morning, I got up, grabbed a bowl out of the dish drainer and poured in the milk and cereal. Then I started to eat. Then I realized that my mouth was burning. Apparently, there was still a layer of chili oil left over in the bowl, despite having been washed. Definitely not what I expected from my breakfast!

  4. Ben says:

    I once took an Indian cooking course at the BCAE. I was in charge of dicing the serrano chili peppers. I finished a batch of 5 or 6 and then went to take a leak. I got back into the kitchen and after about 30 seconds I suddenly realized my error. The pain began in my nether regions, and as I began to sweat profusely, the pain moved downward. Since that day I’ve always worn latex gloves while cutting peppers. Oh, and I got nowhere near the bathroom.

  5. Chris says:

    I’ve felt Ben’s pain! Well wait, um, that didn’t come out quite right! I was 13 when I was warned by my Grandfather that the peppers on the dinner table were too hot for a kid like myself. Being a manly 13 years old I scoffed and proceeded to light my world on fire. I ran to the bathroom to stick my tongue under the faucet and after a considerable amount of time decided that, being in the bathroom and all, I would utilize another of the porcelin fixtures. My manhood was shot to hell, in more ways than one, when I screamed in agony and cried until my Grandmother came to see what the problem was. Um, that was a little embarassing!

  6. Jerry says:


    Years ago I was eating crawfish in Houston with some native New Orleans friends. They can eat the crawfish very fast. A piece of the juicy innards went flying right into my eye. I had to go flush out my eye in the bathroom before I could see again. Damn that hurt.

  7. Kristine says:

    I did the same thing a few weeks ago after chopping up a habanera pepper for some chili. I couldn’t wear my contacts for 3 days! :-(

  8. Roofie Raccoon says:

    “Let’s just say I like my wings like I like my women — when they get close, I want my lips burning, my brow sweating, and a side of bleu cheese for dipping. And if there’s celery involved, who am I to argue?”

    What the hell? You are so weird it’s scary. And a little intriguing. It’s scariguing.

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