“I’m telling you, microwave ovens make poison!”
Tony was our trainer and when it came to working us out hard, there was no one better. But when he got onto one of his hobby horses, it was another story.
“One of my friends, he boiled water in the microwave and put it on one plant and took plain old tap water and put it on another one and the one that had water from the microwave put on it withered and died.
Bob looked at me and rolled his eyes. I shrugged back. This was old ground for us.
Jeff, the new guy, shook his head. “Hey, it wasn’t a fair test. Did he try boiling water the regular way? Boiling changes water. It doesn’t matter how you do it.”
Tony glared at him narrowly. “Doesn’t matter. Lazybones! Up and give me three sets of ten burpees, no rest.” As he watched us and did the “Marine DI” thing in our faces, I heard him mutter, “Wouldn’t make a difference. Nossir.”
Somewhere between set two and set three, the little kid in me that loved doing impromptu science experiments in my backyard decided to find out.
* * *
I set my parameters and picked up three seemingly alike basil plants from the produce department at Giant Eagle the next time I went in. To do it properly, I should probably have grown my own, but I didn’t want to take the time.
The next day, I started. The water went in identical glass mixing bowls – it was the only thing I could think of that could go in a regular oven and a microwave. Who knew what having plastic or metal could do? I set them to boil and chill until they were the same temperature as the tap water. (Hey, I was something of a “science geek” once upon a time – what can I say?) All three plants were watered the same amount within moments of each other. And the experiment was off!
* * *
I have to say that for a couple of weeks, it looked like the most boring experiment since Archimedes sat down in the bath. All three plants grew a little, but there wasn’t any amazing deficit on the part of Micro (guess which plant that was), and Macro (the “regular” boiled water plant) and Control (tap water) weren’t substantially larger.
The next week in our training session, Bob and Jeff let me have it when I told them what I’d done.
“You’ve got to be kidding.” I thought Bob was going to drop his dumbbells. Jeff shook his head. I shrugged – not because that was the only way I knew to communicate, but because we were doing dumbbell shrugs and I had 10 more to do – 9 now.
“You’ll see,” Tony said, when Bob couldn’t resist kidding him about it. “You’ll see I was right and then you’ll stop microwaving.” When Bob snorted, Tony snapped, “And now, do 10 more shrugs.”
* * *
It wasn’t until the second month that there was any difference between the plants. Ironically, the smallest of the plants was Control, which made no sense to me. To my amused and only semi-interested eyes, it seemed that Control was shying away from the plants on either side of it. I could almost see it trembling.
Day by day that week, it seemed to me that Control was losing leaves, although I couldn’t see where. Finally, a week later, I decided to have the others over after our workout so I could show Tony how his friend’s theory had fallen through. I was putting the finishing touches on some healthy snacks when the doorbill rang.
I opened the door to find Tony, Jeff and Bob. They headed towards bottles of water, fresh veggies and dip.
“So what did you want to show us?” Jeff asked, around a mouthful of cauliflower.
“In here. The one in the middle got tapwater, the one on the left got microwaved water and the one on the right, just plain boiled water,” I announced, and waved them into the kitchen. They preceded me – and stopped suddenly. I pushed my way through the three suddenly still men.
There was movement from the windowsill. Micro unfurled a tendril from nowhere, pulled a leaf off of Control, and ran it through the remnants of the dip in the mixing bowl I’d used to prepare it. Two leaves on its stem curled apart, revealing needle-sharp teeth and a tiny, dark-green gullet. Gulp. The leaf was gone. Poor Control. Macro followed suit from the other side and I swear I heard the smallest of squeaks from the scraggly little plant in the middle.
Bob idly crunched on a baby carrot. “Well, you were right, Jeff. Boiling water certainly does change things.” He brushed a crumb off his coat and turned to leave. “And Tony, I swear I’ll never water a plant with boiled water, ever.”
As he passed through the kitchen door, he turned to look at me. “Just a question. How do you plan to get rid of them?”
The rest of us exchanged glances. It looked as though I was going to be boiling water for a long time to come.