Mysteries of the universe — like oysters

There’s a president being impeached. A pandemic getting started in China. Earthquakes shaking up the Caribbean.

When momentous events like this happen at the same time, I start thinking about the mysteries of the universe. My mind goes to the unanswered questions man has pondered since his earliest days.

Things like oysters.

I’ve always wondered what the first guy who ate an oyster was thinking. Did he step on a clam, pry it open, look inside and think to himself, “Boy, this looks really good. I think I’ll just suck it down raw.” I can’t imagine.

I think it was more likely that he was close to death by starvation, staggered into the water and ate it out of desperation. He probably slurped it down because even in his condition he couldn’t imagine chewing it. Then he thought, “Hey, with a little butter this might not be bad.” Well, anything with a little butter is good. He then set up a stand on the beach and the rest is history.

Here’s another one: tobacco. Do you really think some Native American was sitting around one day with nothing to do and said, “Look at that plant. I think I’ll dry it, cut it up, light it on fire and inhale the smoke.” Not likely. Maybe a bunch of Indians threw some leaves on a fire and got addicted when they got a whiff of that unmistakable tobacco smell.

I’d like to think that tobacco’s use really dates back to someone who could see the future. “Someday,” he thought, “a bunch of people from Europe will show up, take away our land and destroy our culture. How can we get our revenge?” He looked around until his eyes fell on a tobacco plant. “Ah,” he thought, “maybe if we can convince them that it’s really cool to ingest large quantities of toxic smoke into their systems, we can mess up their entire society. It’s hard to imagine anyone actually falling for this, but it’s worth a try.” Yep, it worked.

Here’s one that always has puzzled me. I always heard that bat guano was an ingredient in women’s cosmetics. Who thought of smearing that stuff on your face? But no, it is not true! The substance actually is guanine, which basically comes from fish scales — way better than bat poop, you have to admit. So who figured out that fish scales were the right thing to put on your face? And how did they convince the world it was a good idea?

Probably, it was the same people who early in the 20th century convinced women that a pale complexion was a sign of wealth, since wealthy women didn’t have to go out into the sun to work. That led women to putting makeup on that made them look pale — unfortunately, one of the ingredients was arsenic. Use enough of it and you really looked pale!

Today, of course, it is more fashionable to have a good tan, which can be obtained by extended exposure to the sun, slathering skin dye on your body, or climbing into a coffin and being bombarded with ultraviolet rays. I’m not sure any of those things seems like a good idea.

I know, I know, right now you’re thinking to yourself that I am thinking too much. I probably need to get outside and do something, but it is January in Ohio and the only people outside are people who have to be out there. The only thing left to do is think, and if I have a choice between thinking about oysters and the impeachment process, it’s a pretty easy choice.

And by the why, did you ever wonder about the different between pandemics and epidemics and other emics …

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David Lindeman

Contributing Columnist

David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at