Question 321 of 365: What is the sand in our mouths?

Blue rock candy on a stick at Seneca Shadows i...
Image by dionhinchcliffe via Flickr

One of my earliest memories of the ocean was with my grandparents. I was on a trip to an Elder-hostel with my brother and we stopped by the beach to swim and play in the sand. Up until this point, I don’t remember having a particular aversion to sand or the beach.

The salt water was completely unexpected. I knew that the ocean was salt water. I wasn’t completely uninformed. But, I expected it to be along the lines of the only ratio I knew up until that point: the kosher salt and water that my grandfather mixed up for his passover ceremony. It was nothing like that. One gulp and I was done. I headed back to the beach.

On our way to the beach, my grandparents had gotten us long sticks of rock candy. I was a fan of anything with that much sugar and so I started working on it almost immediately. It was a big enough piece, though, that I had to put it aside when I went in the water. I left it on the towel and wrapped it up for safe keeping. It did not keep safe. Somehow, sand made its way into the towel and onto my candy. I was devastated upon my return. I tried to eat around the sand but it kept on getting in my mouth. I wasn’t going to give up on my candy so quickly, so I worked with alternating sucking on the candy and spitting out the sand. It was a terrible idea. Before long, I felt sick from having chewed on sand and feeling it grind in my teeth.

By the time that we left, my aversion to swimming in the ocean, eating rock candy, or playing in the sand was so acute that I kept on wiping myself and the car seat down for any possible grains of sand that had made their way through my rigorous scrubbing session just outside of the car. I wanted nothing to do with sand for the rest of the trip, and when I saw the pool at our final destination, I practically hugged the water.

I recognize that sand is beautiful. I recognize the incredible sensation of walking along wet sand and dipping your toes in it and squishing them around. I also recognize that it is an irritent, that clams have to make enormous coverings for a single grain if it comes in contact with their soft flesh. The irritent is so absolute for me that I have a hard time watching my children sit down in the bathing suits and get sand into them. It is ruined for me.

It was the fact that it was my first experience that made it so potent. If I would have received some instruction about rock candy and sand or gotten a lesson in ocean swimming prior to taking a dip, I think I could have had a better time. But as it was, my first day of beach living was a disaster of childhood proportions. And it has made me much more cautious about first time experiences since.

Every time that I try a new product or idea out, I feel like I might be putting sand in my mouth. I carefully dip my toes in the water and then I ease in. I am aware that at any moment, I could be grinding it against my teeth, feeling the caustic squeak of unprocessed glass. And most of the time, my first experience is pretty grand. I have realizations for how to use the idea and I make it work for me. Quite often, it becomes something that I like and use frequently.

But, there are a few times that I get that use something or think through a possibility that turns me off to it for the rest of its existence. I may still be faced with it on occasion or even daily, but I never lose that taste. Here are some of the things that are sand in my mouth:

  • Going through a touch tone menu system on a phone
  • Microsoft Word (now that I have used Google Docs and Pages)
  • Keeping receipts for reimbursement
  • Refrigerators that freeze their contents or keep them too warm no matter what setting you have it on
  • Yard work
  • Paper in binders with carefully labeled tabs
  • Ulterior motives
  • Divisive politics
  • Broken toilet paper roll holders that should be fixed quite easily, but aren’t.
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