Imagine: Three brothers are sitting around a table. "Mikey," the freckled youngest, has a glass bowl in front of him loaded high with Life cereal. One of his brothers warns ominously: "Mikey doesn't like anything." Mikey waits. He then takes a bite, and another, and another after that. It's advertising magic. His brother rhapsodizes: "He likes it! Hey, Mikey!"
Little Mikey may have sold Life cereal by the cubic ton in the 1970s, but he never taught me to eat my breakfast. In fact, Mikey never taught me that Life's mix of 100 percent whole-grain oats and nine essential vitamins and minerals were the building blocks for a healthy diet, let alone that Life cereal was delicious. No, Little Mikey never taught me any of that. He had a more useful lesson to impart: Never mix, never worry.
Like for most of my friends, Mikey's tragic death at the hands of Pop Rocks and Pepsi marked a turning point in my childhood. It was the first time I realized that kids weren't exempt from mortality. And since the story of Mikey's demise was always short on specifics how much Pepsi? How many Pop Rocks? I was left to wonder each time I tore open a bag of Pop Rocks: "Have I red-lined?"
As the years went by, we heard that Mikey was alive and well. He hadn't exploded like the proverbial Alka-Seltzer-ingesting seagull. Nope; he'd merely stopped acting. Attempting to calm the nervous Pop Rock-eating population, the candy's manufacturer, General Mills, took out full-page ads in newspapers and sent an estimated 50,000 letters to school principals assuring them that Pop Rocks were safe to eat.
Please. If Pop Rocks were safe to eat, then why didn't they produce that one piece of evidence that would have put the rumors to rest? Why didn't they produce Mikey?
Within a few years, I'd forgotten about Mikey and his death by Pop Rock. That is, until I saw the geyser-like effects of Mint Mentos when mixed with Diet Coke. This was no Pop Rocks tickling of the tongue. This stuff was seriously combustible, sometimes blowing brown liquid into a forceful fourteen-foot stream.
Remembering Mikey, I figured it was only a matter of time before reports started drifting in about our nation's fourth graders killing themselves, suicide bomber-style, by mixing Dutch candy and Diet Coke. At best, I wanted to debunk an emergent urban myth; at worst, I wanted to serve as a cautionary tale for any children foolish enough to try to fashion themselves a human geyser.
Stripping down to a pair of shorts I've seen the videos I assemble the experiment at the edge of my bathtub. Mentos? Check. Diet Coke? Check. After unwrapping the candy, I gingerly place six Mentos on my tongue. Then I take a camel draw of Diet Coke, and wait.
Nothing. I begin to wonder if I've done something wrong. Then... Whoosh! I feel a liquid mushroom cloud erupt in my mouth. The soda's on the move. I press my lips tightly together as the chemical genie forces its way past my epiglottis.
As the pressure builds, I find myself thinking of Mikey. Is this how he spent his last moments?
Next thing I know, my lips part of their own accord and I'm spewing Diet Coke like a Dutch fountain, Mentos rattling around my teeth like a minty sandblaster.
But would Mikey like it? Probably not.
Mikey doesn't like anything.
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