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Mr. Wrong

Regular or Unleaded?

By Joe MacLeod | Posted 4/10/2002

One time I read something somewhere by somebody who wrote all about the Roman Empire and how it mighta been destroyed because a lot of Romans had lead plumbing and cooked hooch in leaden kettles and drank wine out of lead urns and used this shit called sapa, a sweet aromatic syrup containing about one gram of lead per liter. Wow, one gram of lead per liter. Hey, I'm no chem major, but I heard about all the lawsuits and stuff with the paint, so even I can figure out that Lead is Bad.

I'm familiar with the unit of measurement known as the gram; it's about the weight of your average office paper clip. Not one of those jumbo clips, just a regular paper clip. But still, if that's how much lead these Romans were getting in a liter of Wine Helper, no wonder they ended up electing guys like Caligula and Commodus, eh? These Romans were knocking back anywhere from 35 mg to 250 mg of lead a day, so they got major Brain Damage from all the sweet, sweet wine they were swilling.

Now look, anybody knows that .3 mg a day of lead is about all you can handle (OK, I looked it up on a Web site), and it collects in your body, but boy, that vino must have tasted real good. Real good. Sweet, sweet wine. Mmm. Musta tasted so much better coming outta those lead pitchers, hah? I can't help it; I'm fascinated by the idea of quaffing some sweet, sweet Roman vino from a leaden vessel. It woulda been freaky to party with Commodus. I saw that Gladiator picture, and he didn't really go out like that, you know. He got strangled in his bathtub by an athlete named Narcissus, and you gotta figure it was a Pearl Harbor job.

But look, I'm not sticking up for him, he was a nut case who changed all the months and days in the calendar so they were named after him, and he would kill gladiators and dumb animals in the ring just so he could pretend to be like Hercules, but all his matches were fixed. I just want some leaded wine. Maybe if I live to be a real old geezer, I'll knock back a coupla vessels of lead-fortified wine, just to see what all the fuss is about. I figure if I get up to like 95 or something, I won't have too far to go, so one last rock-solid insult to what's left of my central nervous system wouldn't be too much of a big deal.

But hey, the Roman Empire--those were the good old days, huh? People didn't know shit. They ran around in animal skins and believed in superheroes like Hercules and got into wars every five minutes and died from the plague and gangrene and ingrown toenails and stuff. I love it when people talk about how they would like to live in "simpler times," if only they could get into a time machine and go back to the Days of Old and stuff. "Oh, it would be ever so romantic to travel back to the Days of Yesteryear and live upon the land in a simpler way." Man, what a crock of shit. The best time to live is right now, baby.

Sure, sure, Hercules ended up getting his own teevee show, and there's still about a million ways to die, and, yeah, you can bitch all you want about the brain-damaged elected officials running around loose and the lack of affordable health care, but would you rather have appendicitis now or in, like, 1814? Right. You ever need any dental work done? Right, exactly. Howzabout eyeglasses, huh? Enjoy that last painful, peritonitis-enrobed lungful of clean, pure, preindustrial air scraping over your rotting, aching incisors as you die, myopic and with stank breath, at the ripe old age of 23, ye olde sucker.

I mean, sure, maybe the air was less polluted in 1492, but so what? You weren't gonna be around to inhale very much of it anyway, dumb-ass. You were probably gonna be stuck picking wheat or something on some farm, or walking around looking for an animal to kill for most of your day anyway, so you'd be too busy to go for a hike or a nature walk, right? I mean, you're living in an unindustrialized agrarian society somewhere wearing a burlap bag, so every goddamn day is another lovely hike or nature walk or else you don't eat, see? What a fucking party. March or die.

And forget about teevee, or stealing music off the Internet, or reading, even if it's just comic books, because none of that shit is invented yet. Add in no toilet paper, deodorant, or toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association. And the best thing you can find to drink after a long day out in the fields bundling twigs is gonna be some of the House Red, which is really nice and sweet since it got cooked up in a lead pot. You either got that or some bacteria-laden water, right? Can't even get a nice soft drink, like maybe a Coca-Cola on ice. Man, a nice cold Coca-Cola would be lovely after a long day chaffing barley or whatever. I'm glad I live in the Now, with power steering, cotton-polyester blend, and carbonated sugary-sweet soft drinks. I really enjoy a Coca-Cola, especially in a can. I swear, something about that aluminum can makes it taste so much better.

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