Breaking plastic dinosaurs

Summer vacation. The thing I miss most about childhood. In second place would be a general lack of lower back problems.

A friend was over at my house to… play Kirby’s Dream Course or whatever it is we did in the late 90s. My mom was at work, which just meant instead of being wild, loud, profane, and crazy in my room, we could be wild, loud, profane, and crazy throughout the entire house. And extend this to the yard if we wished.

The two of us found a bunch of really cheap plastic dinosaurs in the deep chasms of some long-forgotten toybox. Like the kind of toy you get at Chuck-e-Cheese or Dave and Busters for like 5 ticket points, while the good shit would cost you hundreds of tickets and several hours perfecting your skee-ball technique.

Decided we’d have fun destroying them in various ways. Stomping them with chairs, throwing them up high in the air, slamming them on the pavement, and so on. We were about 10 years old; if it were today, I’d burn them in metal bowls like you’re cooking up some crack, drown them in acid, run them over with a car, see how much they can be compressed with a vicegrip… but we were amateurs, so we worked with the tools and ideas available to us as children.

We decided to put one in the microwave. Obviously we weren’t going to let anything happen to it, and we weren’t really serious. But we did in fact turn it to the maximum heat settings, on a timer of 99 minutes and 99 seconds. We were just joking, and were planning to take it out after a minute or two.

— — — — — — — — — —

About an hour later…

We’re climbing trees or whatever for a bit, and eventually decide to go back inside. When we went in the back door to the house, we were greeted with the consequences of our choices.

We had completely forgotten about it.

The yellow stegosaurus had transformed into a small, ever-so-slightly-bubbling circular pool in the center of the glass microwave turntable.

After the initial panic, I shut off the microwave. Yeah, I guess that would be Step One, wouldn’t it.

I tried to grab it, and realized it was hot to the touch. Well no shit.

Then, straight out of a scene from an 80s pre-teen coming-of-age movie, my mother’s car pulled in the driveway. ‘Initial panic’ time is over. We are at full-on National Crisis Mode. DEFCON 1. Or maybe DEFCON 4. I forget which is the worst one.

Looking back, of course there’s really no reason to fret. Worst case, we need to buy a new microwave. They’re like $50. Not the end of the world. More likely, we’d just need a new glass plate to go in the middle — one that didn’t have any dangerous plastic residue in it. But as a kid, these things really do feel like the end of the world. How am I gonna explain this to my mother??

My brain went into autopilot. I grabbed the glass turntable out from the microwave, snatched a fork, ran the whole thing under cold water, and tried to scrape the fruits of our youthful antics into the garbage can. All while trying to come up with some sort of plausible explanation for all this. Even today, I don’t think I could spin this one into a plausible denial. It was a misunderstanding? Not what it looks like? Science project? We wanted to be the first primates in millions of years to taste dinosaur meat?

She never caught us, as I was just fast enough to get the plastic goop off and put everything back. Just as mom was walking in the door, we retreated to my room and waited a few minutes to let the panic die off.

— — — — — — — — — —

We eventually got a new microwave, more just to upgrade out of the 80s than anything else. But the old one didn’t disappear.

I ended up working for my mother in my late teenage years. In the employee break room at the store, we had a microwave.

Our old microwave. I got a huge kick every time I looked at it — I could STILL see a tiny pattern of yellow glint painted into the glass turntable, even 10 years later.