Tag Archives: charcoal


This is a story my mom told me not all that long ago. I do believe it is the Funniest Story I Ever Heard That Is True. Nowadays when I do something stupid, I just think of this story, smile and realize I haven’t topped my parents. yet.

The late summer of 1969 was a tough time for Mississippi gulf coast residents. Why? One word: Camille. It was, as some consider, the strongest storm to hit U.S. land, ever. My parents lived on the coast then. In a trailer. With wheels and not augured into the ground as they do present day.

My parents weren’t really feeling up for a hurricane party so they did what a lot of people didn’t do, they fled. They went to my grandmother’s and weathered the storm there.

After the storm had gone on north to dump inches, nay, feet of rain on the yankees, my parents ventured back to the coast to see what, if anything, they had left. As they arrived at their trailer park, they feared the worst; homes had been thrown about like a child who tires of playing with his toys and, of course, doesn’t pick them up afterwards.

Amazingly, my parents trailer was where they left it! Because of the way it was oriented (the other trailers were oriented differently) it somehow had survived the worst storm in U.S. history unscathed.

Overjoyed at their good fortune, they went inside to check things out. The worst thing they found was some water had come in under the back door. Somebody was looking out for them, if you know what I mean. The second worst thing they found was that due to the power having been out for a few days, the meat and whatnots in the refrigerator had spoiled. The smell was gag-inducing and would make you slap-your-momma-across-the-face-with-a-mackerel at best. I won’t mention the worst.

They set about trying to remove the smell because, as mentioned, the place was next to unbearable, what with the gagging and mackerel-slapping. They tried baking soda, buckets of little pine-tree-shaped-air-fresheners and everything else they could think of but nothing would remove the stank.

When my mom talked to her boss, a dentist, at the office, he mentioned that they should try activated charcoal. Apparently it was good for absorbing odors. My parents hadn’t heard of using activated charcoal in this manner before, but they were willing to try anything.

So they went to the store, purchased some charcoal and went back to their home of noxious fumes. Taking a deep breath, my dad opened the fridge door and put the charcoal in. Hoping for the best, he activated it (wait for it – – -) with a match.

So they went about their business getting settled in after being away for several days. Not really knowing how long the “activated” charcoal needed to sit and work its deodorizing magic, my dad waited about 30 or 45 minutes, then went to check on the progress of smoldering defunkification. He found that, to his surprise, the inside of the ice box had, well, melted. Realizing that maybe activated charcoal wasn’t actually burning charcoal briquettes, he quickly removed it from the refrigerator.

Needless to say, the next day the dentist was rolling on the floor laughing his gold inlays off (rotflhgio) when my mom told him her tale of activated charcoal woe.

I think there’s a reason my parents waited until I was older before they told me this story: so that when I was growing up, I couldn’t throw it back at them when I did stupid stuff. “Well you melted your refrigerator!” The lesson to take away from this anecdote is to learn your parents’ embarrassing stories as early as you can so you have ammunition for a riposte when they come down on you.

Also, try not to melt expensive household appliances.