Last night at dinner the kids asked for some funny stories from college. They didn’t eat much after I spun this yarn for them:
August, 1986 Eugene, Oregon
When we were sophomores, a group of girls and I decided to do a summer sublet of a sketchy little house west of campus from some older boys who wanted to keep it for the following year. It was a classic university rental complete with cracking linoleum floors, chipped sinks, and carpet that had been moist for so long that we’d often find mushrooms growing in dark corners.
One night, when we had nothing to do and no money with which to do it, we decided to poke around the house, see if the boys had left anything interesting stashed away—you know, boxes of gold bouillon, or at the least, embarrassing personal items or a six pack. I think it was just four of us, Julie, Tina, Peggy, and me, because MK was always on dates. (Side note to children: going on dates is overrated; you miss all the Good Stuff that happens. So don’t. Date.) The garage on the rental was around the back of the house, which was strange, and meant that we never parked in it or used it in any way. It was about 1:30 in the morning and we were bored and poking around in the mystery garage when we came across a jar, one of those big glass ones for restaurant-sized pepperoncini and mayonnaise. It was covered in dust but inordinately heavy, so we thought maybe we’d discovered someone’s change jar. Bingo! No strangers to scraping up change, we knew a restaurant-sized mayonnaise jar full of it could keep us in Pop Tarts and wine coolers for weeks!
We carried it into the kitchen and rubbed it down with a wet cloth. I think Peggy screamed first. As you may know, when a handful of girls are together late at night and one screams, all hell breaks lose. We all started screaming, each one getting louder than the one before it. It wasn’t until I looked through the smear of wet dust into the jar that I realized why Peggy was screaming: there was a baby in the jar. A baby packed into the jar and surrounded by a clear greenish yellow fluid.
Once we all realized what it was, we started a fresh round of screaming, followed by the phrase/chant that most often follows screaming: ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod!
I’m not sure which one of us geniuses thought to take it to the hospital. It was about 2:00 in the morning by then and we probably thought that showing up at the police station with Bartles & Jaymes on our breath and a baby in a jar might not be the smartest move. What do you do when you can’t go to the police? Take the baby to the hospital, natch!
Peggy didn't want a big jar of unknown fluids seeping out on the velour seats of her '78 Buick Electra so we piled into Tina’s '66 Plymouth Valiant with its pleather seats. [May I digress here and mention that Tina could be guy-level gross in terms of, well, everything, but she was drop-dead gorgeous. You’ve probably seen her: she was chosen as the Black Velvet Girl and graced billboards and magazines worldwide 1988ish, PPB (post pickled baby).]
Tina drove the Valiant exactly as if she was taking an ailing living baby to the hospital, as if having a baby-in-a-jar emergency protected her from being pulled over for reckless driving. It was terrifying. As the person holding Pickled Baby, I expected some of the bile-colored juice to sploosh onto my lap with each corner she squealed around, but happily the thing was sealed tight as a drum.
We got to the hospital—the ER, no less!—and parked right outside the door, emergency style. We were greeted by a jaded clerk who had seen most everything; Sacred Heart was right at the edge of campus and hosted a wide variety of ex-hippie crazy homeless regulars like The Man Who Swallowed Barbie Heads.
I was holding a dish towel around the jar like a curtain on a freak show. When the woman asked who had the emergency I stepped forward, put the jar on the counter, and lowered the towel a bit. “We found this in our garage,” we all whispered. “It’s a rental,” I added. “The house, I mean.”
She put us in a private room to wait, thinking four girls with a pickled baby might be too much for ER patients awaiting triage to handle. I think we expected to have a Doctor show up, maybe do a little forensics à la Quincy, M.E., but instead we got what we were avoiding in the first place: the police.
They took our statement and the jar. Neither was ever seen again.
R.I.P. Pickled Baby. R.I.P.
3 weeks ago