Breaking Things … Bad

One of my superpowers is breaking things. (I have others; they just have not yet been revealed to me.) I am not a physically strong individual. I just use what strength I possess ineptly.

Now, I know that anyone can break anything with enough gumption and/or strength. Give a man a big enough lever, and he can move the world, said Archimedes. Teach a man to swim and he can fish for a bicycle, said no one.

At best, my superpower is an inadvertent superpower; at worst, it is doom for the planet.

I am not certain that I can not shatter paper.

This superpower was discovered the hard way: when I was claiming that I do not have it. I no longer remember what point I was trying to illustrate when I said with my outdoors voice to a group, “Nothing’s unbreakable. Right? Who hasn’t broken a so-called ‘unbreakable’ comb?” Perhaps I was talking with a group of fancy people who don’t buy their combs at convenience stores or truck stops, but I had in fact lived through the experience of buying and later snapping in half a comb that had “unbreakable” written right on it. In. CAPITAL. Letters.

Like some of you reading this right now, no one in the group knew what I was talking about. Each person’s experience with combing his and/or her hair with an unbreakable comb was only as described on the tools themselves. Bendy, yes. Twisty, uh-huh. Shatter-y? No, just me.

I once broke a Livestrong bracelet. (Livestrong is a cancer research fundraising foundation that sells bright yellow rubber band bracelets that one can wear. Thick and strong, most people just roll them up their hand. They are supposed to have very little give.) What was I trying to do with it? Put it on my wrist like anyone else. The thing snapped and flew across the room.

Back in November, I was cooking. It happens. I was cooking something in a Pyrex pan in the oven, which is something I should not do. I have metal pans, common sense, and I am in a relationship with a girlfriend who is an excellent cook. I had a Pyrex pan in the oven, and when the dish was done, I removed it from the oven. (Most cookbooks describe this part, which is the most exciting piece of the entire cooking process after all, very blandly. “Remove dish from oven.” It’s the only thrilling part of the cooking experience, at least for the cook. Whatever the opposite of overkill is, that right there is an example. Underkill.)

I moved the food onto my plate and carried the Pyrex back into the kitchen. And then, because I do not think things through, I placed the thick glass hot-from-the-bowels-of-Hell cookware in the sink …

(Did you know that not all Pyrex is the same? [Why, thank you, online world of information.] Corning divested itself of its consumer goods division more than fifteen years ago and licensed the name “Pyrex” to other companies, some of which use a different formula from Corning’s classic recipe, and they sometimes produce glassware that is not as heat-resistant as Corning’s original. Of course, “heat-resistant” was always something of the entire point to anything called Pyrex, so this is just wonderful. If you see a Pyrex product with the red logo in all caps, like this: PYREX, that product is one that was made by Corning with the original formula and is stronger. It is also older, rarer, and no longer being manufactured. Buy it. The other logos are the newer products and are usually seen with lowercase letters; they are not exactly knock-offs, as Corning did indeed grant these companies licenses, but they are not made following the same formula. “The more you know …” ™)

… I placed the heat-resistant glassware in the sink and hit the faucet. In a split-second, I remembered that objects right out of a hot oven react violently to cold water and I twisted the faucet back off. One drop of water (this is no exaggeration) left the faucet. When it hit the Pyrex, my sink was suddenly filled with shards of glass. Some of the shards were as big as a finger, let’s say the angry universe’s middle finger, but most of the dozens of shards were smaller. Oh, and eye-scalding steam.

So I break things. Things that were invented with the raison d’être of being less likely to break.

With great power comes great responsibility, so what am I thinking with making my morning coffee in a press? (This column is a re-write of one that first appeared in December. It was called, “Mea cuppa.”People wrote in with good advice, which I have included below.)

The French press “is essentially open-pot coffee with a sexy method for separating the grounds from the brew. The pot is a narrow glass cylinder. A fine-meshed screen plunger fits tightly inside the cylinder; you put a fine-ground coffee in the cylinder, pour boiling water over it, and insert the plunger in the top of the cylinder without pushing it down. After about four minutes the coffee will be thoroughly steeped and you push the plunger through the coffee, clarifying it and forcing the grounds to the bottom of the pot. You serve the coffee directly from the cylinder. Be certain not to use too fine a grind unless you have an athlete or a weightlifter at the table; the plunger will be almost impossible to push down through the coffee.” This is from Kenneth Davids’ classic book, “Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing, and Enjoying,” and my quote is from the 1981 edition. His more recent edition changes the ground to “coarse-to-medium,” the water from boiling to “just short of boiling,” and loses the weightlifter joke. Oh, and “sexy” is changed to “sophisticated.” Too bad.

He goes on, “The plunger pot was apparently developed in Italy during the 1930s, but found its true home in France after World War II, when it surged to prominence as a favored home-brewing method.” That is why, when I first saw one in a friend’s kitchen, I asked if the thing was a “French” press. I knew that much, I guess. I also asked where one turned it on. She didn’t stop laughing long enough to tell me. She knew enough not to tell me, because I break things.

* * * *
I do not remember at what age coffee infiltrated its way into my life. Not childhood, not high school. Like some other things, it changed my life from that first moment; unlike those other things, it did not alter the course of my life.

Several readers suggested getting a stainless steel coffee press. That is on the shopping list; my girlfriend and I have discovered that one of the chain retailers with the initials BB&B often has pretty good models on sale.

(We live in a land of malls and chains; the only “mom & pop” stores are opened simply so the local chamber of commerce can photograph itself cutting a ribbon with a giant pair of scissors. In my hands, those scissors would break into two large knives. After the ribbon is cut and photos taken, the mom & pop stores are immediately shuttered by the mortgage lender, leaving the chains and mall stores safe from competition.)

* * * *
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The WordPress Daily Prompt for March 28 asks, “Tell us about your favorite meal, either to eat or to prepare. Does it just taste great, or does it have other associations?”

Our friend Judy asks today (July 14, 2015), “In the absence of a Daily Prompt, I am declaring my own prompt and inviting anyone who reads this to follow along and post on yesterday’s prompt page, as I am. The subject is Coffee!!” Yes! Exclamation points!


  1. livingonchi · March 28, 2015

    Hey, that Pyrex story wasn’t your fault. I never in my wildest dreams would imagine a hot Pyrex not taking the shock of cold water. Now I know better. I hope you get your stainless steel coffee press. I keep thinking I’d like one too, but then I realize it costs money, and my cheesy 2-cup maker does an adequate job of giving me my proper morning jolt 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. wscottling · March 28, 2015

    If it makes you feel any better, a friend of mine shattered a cast iron skillet. Now that’s breaking the unbreakable. ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · March 28, 2015

      That’s amazing!


    • Pleasant Street · July 14, 2015

      I heard those can be fixed


      • Anonymous · July 14, 2015

        Not when they have been shattered. ^_^


        • Pleasant Street · July 14, 2015

          Well I don’t know how many pieces it was in. But they can be welded. I have one that was cracked in half and welded and it is my favourite pan to make eggs in.


  3. lifelessons · March 28, 2015

    I don’t know how it is that after 8 moves in four different countries that I am still in possession of my mother’s original Pyrex and Corning Ware cookery. But even so, if you ever come to dinner, Mark–I’ll do the cooking!!! (And if you wish, I’ll leave it to you in my will.) Judy

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Mr. Atheist · March 28, 2015

    You got me raising my hand with the “unbreakable comb”. I broke a few those back in the 7th and 8th grade until I moved over to a brush. I cannot imagine walking around with a “Goody” brush sticking out of my back pocket. Those were the days. Great post, as usual.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. loisajay · March 28, 2015

    the last line just totally cracked me up. That and ‘Teach a man to swim and he can fish for a bicycle, said no one.’ I had to read that over to be sure it did not make any sense. Great post, Mark.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Relax · March 28, 2015

    Hilarious! I’ve been looking replace my Unbreakable Comb. Someone stole mine. As for Pyrex or rather, this time, Corningware well, DH insisted it should be safe to heat up things in, on the stove top. It wasn’t, actually. It’s a shocking moment — I sympathize, there. And I’ll bet you’ve broken Corelle dishware, yes? lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · March 28, 2015

      Corelle does not break so much as it snaps, right? Thanks for reminding me!

      Liked by 3 people

      • Relax · March 28, 2015


        Liked by 1 person

      • Gradmama2011 · April 3, 2015

        can’t say about the current generation of Corelle, but we once spent a hilarious dinner party at the fire station whereby there was something of a contest to see how many times a plate could bounce. LOL Amazing. Do they still have that guarantee where one can shovel shards of glass into a box and ship it back to the company for refund. Very funny post!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. berryduchess · March 29, 2015

    Great post! And i think i was “gifted” with the same superpower. I break things too and you may call me “spill queen” on the side because, “you name it, i can surely spill it!” i once tried to touch the main head of an electric fan and the next thing i knew, the whole thing came of from its stand. 😦 and yes, i am a woman.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. susieshy45 · March 29, 2015

    And I can drop things at the drop of a hat- drop a car’s hood onto someone else’s hand, drop hot rice all over myself and scald myself skinless, you name it , I can drop it. So I am a dropper.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. berryduchess · March 29, 2015

    *came off

    Liked by 1 person

  10. rogershipp · March 29, 2015

    I too am a wonder-kid at the superpower of breaking things. Many times the muscles in hands just relax and whatever I am politely holding – in polite company- spills and then crashes to the floor. If I am with people that I am comfortable with- I ask for plastic… if not, I just NEVER hold anything longer than to get it to my mouth and place it immediately back on the table. Some superpowers are not accepted in our world.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Gradmama2011 · April 3, 2015

    great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Mark Aldrich · April 3, 2015

    And my life keeps getting edgier and edgier: A glass dinner plate shattered in the microwave on me last night. One that had survived–nay, thrived!–many microwavings.


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  15. Pleasant Street · July 14, 2015

    I break a lot too. I’ve discovered some very nice thrift shops and Salvation Army stores where you can find great pans to replace the dead ones.

    I kept thinking when I got older I would grow out of this breaking thing


  16. lifelessons · July 14, 2015

    Darn! the “sexy” was my favorite part of that whole quote. Trust them to change it. Thanks for writing to my renegade prompt!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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