Asthma Taffy

January 3, 2009 at 3:25 pm Leave a comment

It started with a Bell telephone my family rented for a dollar a month. The sucker weighed about twenty pounds and shook when it rang-a jarring ring that commanded anyone within range to pick it up NOW or ELSE.

My mom was out, leaving my sister to her least favorite chore-babysitting me. The only plus on her end was being able to tell me what to do. I rarely listened, unless I had something she wanted, which she got by using reserve psychology so brilliantly succinct it still works. “I don’t want it, anyway,” was powerful back then, and it still suckers me in now. Why would I want something that my big sister doesn’t?

A few minutes after I had given her my Brown Cow and was well into not realizing my stupidity, the phone rang. It was mom checking up on us. Why just then, I don’t know, but for some reason I looked at the phone and wondered what made it work. I asked my sister, who answered, “I don’t know, It just does.” Then she walked off to relish the candy she psyched me out of, all carmel-y and chocolate covered and no longer mine.

It was just me and the phone, my sudden object of intense curiosity. I picked it up and shook it, and noticed the ringer set inside the metal plate. OK, that’s how it rang! It wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted IN. I ran and got a screwdriver from the kitchen catch-all drawer and got to work. First I screwed off the metal plate. Then the ringers (real bells back then,) then all the other metal stuff inside. I undid the wires and was fascinated by the different colors. Then I started on the handset. Wow! A microphone where you put your mouth and a heavy disc thing where you put your ear. By the time I was done, it looked like someone had eaten a phone and thrown up.

I felt only semi-fulfilled. I took the phone apart, but I still didn’t have much of an idea of how it worked-how it took a voice from somewhere else and put it in our phone.

I never found out, since my sister came into kitchen soon after with those three words that always led to a spanking. “I’m telling mom!” She always sounded so gleeful. But no belt across my ass was forthcoming, because I put the phone back together so well that mom didn’t believe my sis when she insisted I tore the phone apart.

Since then, I’ve always been curious about how things were made. Which led to my passion for factory tours (and later third world factory tours where OHSA regulations are non-existent and anyone can get close enough to touch products and blades) and for taking things apart.

This curiosity persisted through the decades, and I still get the same thrill when I open something up as I did back then. My latest project is an empty Advair Discus. Empty is important because if I had to pay out of pocket for these things, I’d be out 200 bucks.

Since the moment I started huffing them a few years ago, I was enthralled with how well they were built-the Mack trucks of inhalers.

The Advair “Diskus”-which sounds like an ancient Olympic event that someone suffering from asthma couldn’t win-works by lining up the mouthpiece with some little bubble of powder. Something in the inhaler bursts the bubble, and I inhale deeply as the magic dust invades my lungs. In theory, this is supposed to improve their efficiency. Each time I picked it up it was so round and heavy and thick and full of pulleys and mechanisms and plastic that it was just too irresistible. I had to find out what was inside this goose that laid the golden dust.

The Intact Inhaler
The intact inhaler

So I gathered up screwdrivers and wrenches and pliers and hammers and nails and screws and pins and whatever else I could get my hands on to unbuild this mystery of non-American (English) ingenuity. I tried to pry the top open with a screwdriver. Failing that, I tried the pliers, always a favorite. The top moved a bit, but that’s it. I stuck some nails in whatever openings I could but still no luck. I was really getting fed up and a little wheezy at this point, so I went for the cheaters tool-the hammer. I took it outside and smashed it on the concrete. It cracked, but didn’t open. I was really frustrated. In all my history of opening stuff up, I have never failed to get the guts out. I decided to do the adult thing and get a sledgehammer from the garage, but for some reason I couldn’t find it. I think my husband hid it from me for just this reason. I still didn’t give up, but I did capitulate somewhat. The last refuge of a scoundrel is the internet, and that just where I went to find a pic of the Advair innards.

The Amazing Guts of an Advair Inhaler

It really doesn’t look like much, so I quickly got over my disappointment. Until I saw that someone not only got inside but made a flying saucer out of the thing complete with noise and blinking lights. They even made a video of Advair shooting though the atmosphere. You’ll have to find that one yourself, because I’m jealous and don’t want to share.

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Roberta Gale

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