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Punishment enough.

One of the most infuriating – and effective – punishments that my parents would do when I was small was ... nothing.

When I did something really stupid, and they could tell that I had fully understood the depth and caliber of said stupidity, they would just express their displeasure and move on ... leaving me to stew in my own juices as I contemplated life and all its meaning.

For instance, one day I decided it would be fun to experiment with different shapes for airplane wings (I know, nerd). So I went down to the basement and rummaged around, coming back up to my bedroom with an old shoebox, a stiff sheet of clear plastic, some foam core, and a small electronics fan not more than 2 inches across.

First, I fashioned a wing shape out of the foam core, and mounted it so that it stuck up from the bottom of the shoebox. Next, I took the lid and cut a window into it, covering the opening with the clear plastic. Then I cut holes on opposite ends of the shoebox, and taped the little fan to one of the holes. With the fan on, air came from the opposite hole, across the wing, and out the other end:

Hand-drawn icon of a shoebox with a fan drawing air across a wing

So, with all of that in place, now all I needed was a way to get some smoke into the box so that I could see how well my handiwork performed. I rummaged around my desk drawer, and found just the thing ... two smoke bombs.

Lacking the patience or common sense to take my experiment outdoors, I connected the battery to the little fan, lit up the smoke bomb, and held it close to the air inlet hole. And it worked! Smoke streamed out of the bomb, through the hole, navigated around my wing, and exhausted out the other side! Eventually the smoke settled – literally – and the experiment was complete.

I was so excited that I went and got my dad, and had him come to my room to observe. I showed him the box, hurriedly explained the project, and then lit up the second bomb. Just as before, smoke streamed out of the bomb and through the box ... until suddenly the smoke bomb became extremely hot (the previous one hadn't done that). I dropped it on the table and it bounced to the carpet, still belching smoke and flame and sparks. I picked it up and chucked it out the window into the back yard, but it was too late. There was now a smoking hole in my carpet.

And do you know what my father said to me? Nothing. Just a single look that said "That was stupid. You know that was stupid. Don't do it again."

Punishment enough.


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