I wish I didn’t open my space blanket, which I bought at the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.
It all started a month ago, the day after the football game between the Ravens and their hated rivals the Steelers. It was a big game. A playoff game. The kind of game where you order two pizzas, crabcakes, and even splurge on the breaded fried mushroom caps. With ranch sauce. The kind of game where you put the sound through the nice speakers. The girlfriend had out-of-town friends visiting. She even
demanded asked that they wear something purple. That was the kind of game it was.
But the Ravens lost, and it was a big loss. A playoff loss. The kind of loss where it hurts. Where you turn off the speaker sound before the game is even over. Where you look at the mess on the kitchen table and realize someone has to put all that food away in the refrigerator. Where it’s Saturday night, and you realize you have to work again already on Monday. That was the kind of loss it was.
The next day, the girlfriend was taking her friends to tour Washington DC. It’s only an hour away, and I’ve seen the museums and buildings and monuments a hundred times, but I decided it would be better than moping around the house. I thought about walking along The Mall and the dirt paths with the harsh DC wind cutting through me, past those proud stone buildings against the gray January skies. I needed it. And we would get lunch somewhere, like the falafel stand. Things would get better. They really would.
We visited Air and Space, the best museum, because there’s model spaceships to walk through, which never gets old. Also, they sell Astronaut Ice Cream and the harder-to-find Astronaut Ice Cream Sandwich. And in one exhibit, they have a glowing cube of Aerogel, some kind of no density space stuff. I don’t really know what it is because I don’t read the placards. But I do know that it’s awesome looking and I want it. I hoped I could buy some at the gift shop.
Well, the gift shop didn’t sell cubes of glowing silica, and by the way, the ice cream sandwich actually sucks. Stick with the bar of freeze-dried Neapolitan. Trust me. But something else in the gift shop caught my attention: a space blanket.
You see, for an Air and Space museum, things you can buy that are actually space age are surprisingly few. Instead, there are a lot of generic stuffed bears in astronaut helmets. But a Space (Brand) Blanket, whatever it was, seemed legit. Sure, I was suspicious of the word “brand,” but I wanted to imagine Neil Armstrong himself wrapped up in a Space (Brand) Blanket as he took a bite out of an Astronaut Ice Cream bar. Besides, I liked the box and that serious-looking font.
I came home and researched the Space Blanket. I learned it was made of a thin mylar material that could reflect 97% of one’s body heat. Being waterproof and windproof, I realized this thing could save my life if I ever became trapped in deep snow in the mountainous Nevada back country. I’d also have to fend off wolves and cut off my arm. I’m not sure why I’d cut my arm off. It just seems like the thing to do. Then they’d make a movie about me.
I decided right then and there not to open the Space Blanket until it could be utilized properly, for survival. Yes, I’d keep it in my car trunk, but for now I decided to put it in the corner pile.
The corner pile is the corner of the counter where random stuff piles up. Coasters, pens, coupons, magazines, and the empty novelty salt-and-pepper shakers with heart-shaped spouts we got at a wedding last year, have all gone to die in the corner pile. Corner piles can take over your life. They can make you feel like bad people. Like sloppy little pig people.
And yet we have perfectly good intentions, like that coupon for 20% off an entree at TGI Fridays. We’d save money! We’d be frugal! We’d be smart! It expired a month ago. Or those dear salt-and-pepper shakers that once held wedding-themed M&Ms. They could also—get this—hold salt and pepper. Folks, I know. We’d be brilliant! We’d be recycling! We’d be kind of depressing!
This is where the Space Blanket sat for the last month. I realized I probably wouldn’t use it for survival, but I still wanted to save it for something special. I wanted to open it heroically and ceremoniously if nothing else. Maybe the power would go out during a snowstorm. Maybe I’d need the extra insulation to trek ten miles in the snow. Maybe it should snow first, instead of this half-assed shit we keep getting. Maybe I’d save a puppy. I don’t know how this involves the Space Blanket yet.
But instead, today, I opened it while I was toasting an English muffin for breakfast. I stood in the kitchen, waiting for the toaster to pop up, and glanced over at the Space Blanket. My curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to see what it was. I ripped open the plastic and unrolled the gigantic mylar sheet, eager to wrap myself in it and feel SPACE-INSULATED.
The sheet was crinkly like a mylar balloon and big enough to wrap my entire body in. I pulled it around myself like a cape and stood at our sliding glass doors overlooking the backyard.
On the deck, in the cooler, sat the box of 100 Otter Pops that I bought over the summer. We ran out of room in the freezer for actual food, and the girlfriend insisted the gigantic case of freeze pops had to go. I realize that they could be taken out and stored somewhere else to be refrozen later, but I wasn’t sure if they’d be like beer. I didn’t want to “skunk” them by moving them from cold and warm, cold and warm. So I decided to store them outside in a cooler for now. For consistency.
I watched outside for a few moments and waited for heat from the Space Blanket, but it didn’t exactly envelope me in warmth. I wished I could still be in bed, under the cozy down blanket, knowing the morning coffee was brewing downstairs. That’s the best part of the morning, right before you decide to get up, stealing just a few more minutes. Instead, the coffee was already drank, the empty pot already rinsed out.
The toaster finally popped up.
Now I had a huge, unraveled sheet of copper-colored mylar. I wished I’d left in the box, where at least it looked cool. Now I just had an empty box, which I didn’t want to throw out and didn’t want to save.
I put it in the corner pile.