Christmas Conversations: horrifying scotch and industrial accidents edition.

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. We spent Christmas Eve at one of Phil’s brother’s houses and then after opening gifts at home on Christmas morning, we drove to Grand Rapids to visit my family.

My brother bought my father a bottle of Woodford Reserve bourbon and though I don’t usually like the hard stuff, I took a little thimbleful. Wow, it was delicious with sort of a coconutty flavor and even a few sips made me feel a bit giddy. And then my husband opened his gift from my brother – it was a bottle of Laphroaig scotch. Great, I thought, that bourbon was nice so I’ll have a little sip of this scotch, too!

Dear lord.


Have you ever tasted Laphroaig, which is considered to be a very nice scotch – after all, Prince Charles spent his sixtieth birthday at their distillery?


My brother poured glasses of it for us, and we all raised them to our lips and sipped. Shock registered on everyone’s faces, and I gasped, “It…it tastes like bandaids!”

“It’s more like Chloroseptic,” my brother remarked. “But…I kind of like it.”

“This can’t be right. It’s horrible. It must be like spoiled or something,” I insisted. “I’m looking it up on google to see what it’s supposed to taste like.” According to the company website, this is how it should taste:

  • COLOUR : Full sparkling gold
  • NOSE: Huge smoke, seaweedy, “medicinal”, with a hint of sweetness
  • BODY: Full bodied
  • PALATE: Suprising sweetness with hints of salt and layers of peatiness
  • FINISH: Lingering

Yeah, let me tell you about that lingering medicinal nose…Here are several examples that I found of Laphroaig’s own ads:

laphroaig-opinions-2014_4    laphroaig-opinions-2014_11


Tastes like burning hospital? The definition of medicinal? At $50-$60 per bottle?

I poured the rest of my glass into the sink while the menfolk manfully drained their glasses, declaring in a manly way that they sort of liked that medicinal band-aid booze. I ate a piece of Christmas fudge and shook my head in bafflement at the tastes of men.

Later, stretched out on the hotel sofa, I tweeted:

The responses, all from men, were entertaining:

17h17 hours ago  It’s an acquired taste. Very peaty.

17h17 hours ago  Disagree on both counts. Send it to me. That’s my drink.

Matthew 7:6

For those who don’t know, Matthew 7:6 says Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. In other words, I laughed to myself, I’m a hopeless plebe for not savoring that burning hospital beverage.

17h17 hours ago  What it tastes like, my friends, is mother’s milk.

I’m a fan. It’s more of a rubbery taste. Oddly, Roibos tea has some of the same flavors.

I tell people it tastes like old man feet.

But what makes a man like to drink something that tastes like old man feet? And what made my brother exclaim that he liked that Chloroseptic-flavored libation? And what made all the other men decide that they, too, liked it? Another tweeter explained:

Men like to drink painfully bad drinks. It’s some quirk in our brains.

Well, that does seem like the explanation that best fits the evidence.

Anyway, have I ever mentioned that I come from a blue collar sort of family? Well, I do. My father worked in factories my entire childhood and made a good living doing it, but when the recession of the early 1980s really took hold, many manufacturing jobs went south and my father lost his job and couldn’t find another. Those were lean, cold, dark years of government cheese (my parents never accepted government handouts, but my mother volunteered to distribute government surplus staples to poor senior citizens and was encouraged to take home any remaining leftover items, which thankfully she did because sometimes it was all we had to eat) and intermittent electricity. My father found work on one of the nearby dairy farms getting cows into the milking buildings and back into the barns or fields early in the morning in the bitter cold, but he was also accepted into a program that helped men get job training. He chose to go into tool and dye making and eventually earned his journeyman’s card and finally even completed a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

But he still works in a factory, just now he has a good job there. He designs and builds and maintains the machines that the factory workers operate and when those machines break, he makes the pieces to fix them. At least, I think this is what he does, but when he talks about his job, I don’t really understand exactly because it’s all very technical.

My brother, though he is the smartest person I know, never went to college and also works in a factory doing similar work as my father but in a less technical fashion – he sets up and keeps running the production line machines used at a factory that makes granola, breakfast cereal, and other snacks. It’s semi-skilled work.

It’s also incredibly dangerous. As is my father’s job. As is my brother-in-law’s job on an oil rig in the middle of the gulf.

As the men I hold dearest in this world sipped their revolting scotch on Christmas evening, they got to talking about their jobs, and oh how I wish, wish, wish I’d recorded that conversation. I’m going to relate it to you from memory as best I can (and since I was quite sober, with my drink gone down the drain, I remember it fairly well).

But first, let’s take a sidebar moment to discuss male privilege. Here is how the gods of the internet define male privilege:

Male privilege is a term for social, economic, and political advantages or rights that are made available to men solely on the basis of their sex. A man’s access to these benefits may also depend on other characteristics such as race, sexual orientation and social class.

Last year, a YouTube video by Stephen Parkhurst entitled “White Guys: We Suck and We’re Sorry” went viral; it’s since been removed but was described thus (highlighting mine):

The four white dudes featured apologize for their lack of empathy while insisting that it’s not really their fault. “If you knew how easy it is to be a straight white man in America, you’d get why we might be a bit resistant to change. Cut us some slack,” they beg.

Meanwhile, MIT’s Male Privilege Checklist includes this item:

If I have children with a wife or girlfriend, and it turns out that one of us needs to make career sacrifices to raise the kids, chances are we’ll both assume the career sacrificed should be hers.

I find the use of the word “sacrifice” interesting here. It’s a sacrifice for the woman to stay home but it’s not a sacrifice for the man to go to work and earn money to support her and the baby?

So let’s talk about sacrifice. When I was six years old, my father worked in one of Grand Rapids’ many furniture factories (most of which no longer exist, but GR used to be known for its excellent quality furniture). One day I came home from school to find my father at the table with a bandaged hand. His middle finger had been severed at the distal joint; he counted himself lucky because he was able to pick the severed digit out of the machine, put it in a paper bag, and walk to hospital, where they sewed it back on. By some miracle, it didn’t turn gangrenous and so he doesn’t have a missing middle finger tip, but he has no motion or feeling in that joint or the tip of his finger.

Hey feminists, is having your finger whacked off in an industrial accident a privilege or a sacrifice?

But back to that Laphroaig-lubricated conversation:

My brother related how last year, a young man at his factory had been killed in a horrific accident. The factory has large (as in room-sized) poppers for making popcorn based snacks. These poppers keep the contents of the machine moving by using large blades that sweep around the inside; the young man climbed inside the machine while it was off to repair something and somehow the machine got turned back on.

My father then told a story about nearly losing his life a few years ago when he climbed inside a dye-making machine to check something and once again someone turned on the machine. According to my father, he had a weird sixth sense moment where he knew something was about to happen and he crouched back in the machine just as an enormous dye came shooting past at a high rate of speed; had it hit him, he would be dead.

And this conversation made me recall a story our pastor at NorthRidge Church, Brad Powell, told a few years ago during a sermon. Before he was a pastor, he was a college student with bills to pay, so he got an afternoon job in a Little Debbies factory. One evening at the end of his shift, he was hurrying to get out of work and he climbed inside one of the giant mixers to clean it but forgot to hit the electricity kill switch first. Somehow the machine got turned on; by God’s grace he was not killed as the giant mixing arms began moving.

According to the USA Bureau of Labor Statistics in its “Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Charts 1992-2007”, men account for 92% of all industrial accident deaths.

Is this that male privilege we were talking about?

Here in Michigan, it seems that 2014 was a particularly bad year for deadly male privilege incidents:

May 10 – Man dies after getting trapped in Zeeland factory conveyer belt

June 27 – Wyoming man killed in accident at plastics plant

November 2 – West Michigan man, 54, killed in accident at loading dock of Continental Dairy in Coopersville

So what about the young man killed in the popper? Alas, my brother’s factory is owned by a company that is owned by a multi-billion dollar global conglomerate, and you better believe they have policies in place to cover their own butts. According to my brother, every job and every machine in the plant has written policies in place; if you accidentally get your hand caught in the machine, there’s a policy that explains exactly why it was your own fault and thus the company doesn’t owe you a thing.

Most women in the world have men in their lives whom they love, whether he is their husband, father, brother or son. Let us each acknowledge that it is not a privilege for a man to work to support his family; it is an expression of his love and his commitment to his familial duty. We women should not let feminists distract us with their bitter jealousy over imagined male privilege. If we want to be activists, let us be activists for improved workplace safety. Let us be activists to force greedy global companies to do their duty to hard-working blue collar men who are injured on the job. Let us raise money for the survivors of workplace accidents or the families of men who were killed on the job. Otherwise, let us honor and respect men for the sacrifices they make and stop with this male privilege nonsense.