Reddit’s Today I Fucked Up (TIFU) page is usually a treat. Sometimes, the stories are disastrous. Sometimes, they’re funny. Sometimes, they teach you an important lesson. And sometimes, they do all three at the same time.
That said, let’s introduce you to a redditor named Honesty_Addictwho titled his post, “TIFU by permanently burning myself trying to connect with my recently deceased dad.”
It’s not a short read, but it’s certainly worth perusing all through the end, because it’s got a salty kicker. It’s about trying to convince his girlfriend that it’s not strange to keep an ice cream tub of 5-year-old sugar in your kitchen cabinet. It’s about trying to reconnect with the father he lost recently—about trying to show why he and his dad, who were so different from each other, share at least one common trait. And it’s about showing somebody you love why they were wrong and you were right.
This was actually a week ago, but the story starts before that.
For the last five years, I’ve had an ice cream tub full of sugar in my kitchen. I emptied it into the tub rather than have the bag spill sugar whenever I used it. I don’t use sugar a lot, so I’ve never had to refill it, I just dip into it when I need it.
My girlfriend thinks this is weird, and she thought it was weirder still when I packed the box to move with me when we decided to move in together.
“Don’t bring your weird five year old sugar tub, for fuck’s sake.”
“It’s perfectly fine,” said I. “Sugar doesn’t go off.”
“It does,” she said, wrongly.
“It doesn’t and I’m not going to throw out totally useable sugar.”
So the sugar tub resides in our baking cupboard now, as a tiny point of pride. I want to see how long it takes for the sugar to run out. Maybe it will outlive me, at which point it will be inherited by my beautiful, supportive, wrong girlfriend.
Fast forward to this past January. My dad dies suddenly and unexpectedly. He falls off the roof while fixing a skylight, a day before someone was coming to start work on repairing the entire roof – including the skylight. But that was my dad to his core. He didn’t know how to stop. He single-handedly ran his business – selling boating equipment and fixing outboard engines – for 47 years, a minimum of six days a week, until the day he died.
I am not that person. I love stopping. I’m self-employed too, but I put the bare minimum in to survive and spend the rest of the time doing whatever I like. My dad couldn’t have lived like that. We were very different people, and that made his passing all the more difficult because now we’d never get any closer – the slightly awkward, stilted conversations I’d had with him in life were now all we had. That was as close as we’d gotten.
Fast forward again to last week, early June. We’re trying to sell his shop, but it’s a tip. Sadly, a couple of weeks before he died he invested around £50k in restocking the shop, and so the back shop is full to the ceiling with empty cardboard boxes. And the secondary room, his workshop, is full of tools, spare parts, half-empty paint cans and half-finished engines that haven’t been touched in at least a decade, very likely double or triple that.
I get to work. Breaking down the cardboard boxes doesn’t take as long as I thought, and after lunch I start on the workshop. My dad specialised in Seagull engines, which are now collectible, so I’m sorting everything into Rubbish piles and This Might Be Worth Something piles.
Then, at the back of a jammed drawer, under some oily rags and a grimy toothbrush, I find an ice cream tub. I open it up, and it’s half-full of sugar.
The best before date is from 1998. So he’s had this box of sugar since I was 12 years old. Maybe longer. For his coffee I’m assuming.
I call my mum through from the front of the shop.
“Look,” I say. “Dad had a box of sugar.”
“Why would he have a box of sugar?”
“Because its perfectly bloody normal, that’s why.” I take a photo to send to my girlfriend, hoping my smugness will come across without needing to caption it.
“Won’t it be out of date?”
She doesn’t look convinced. I lick my finger and dip it into the sugar.
“Look,” I say, “It’s fine.”
I put it in my mouth, and know immediately that it’s not sugar. It’s bitter, and it’s bubbling, and fuck everything my tongue is burning. I run out of the workshop and take a swig of coke, swill it around my mouth and spit it into the street. I do that another half dozen times, but I’ve already burned my tongue very badly. One of my dad’s friends comes from the end of the pier.
“Everything okay?” he asks.
“Yeah. Ugh. I just ate what I thought was sugar from an ice cream tub in the back. It wasn’t sugar.”
He laughs. “Why would your dad have had-”
“I DON’T KNOW.”
He walks in and comes back with the tub. It’s caustic soda, he says. For cleaning engines.
I now have chemical burns on my tongue. It’s been a week, and they haven’t healed. I can’t eat or drink anything in the least bit hot or acidic. I told my girlfriend, and she didn’t even laugh. Apparently having an ice cream tub full of sugar isn’t normal.
Tl;dr: My girlfriend makes fun of me for having a big tub of old sugar. I find a big tub of old sugar in my late father’s workshop, and in a haze of validation taste it. It’s a chemical cleaning agent.
Edit: Thank you for all the kind words about my writing. I’m cleaning the flat today, so checking back here is a real boost.
Dad used to give me shit occasionally for being uncomfortable plugging my work. So. If you like my writing style, and if you want to hear more, I have this piece about the Courtney Love / Kurt Cobain conspiracy theory which I’m really proud of.
You’ll like it.
Well, that’s one heck of a story.
And the comments are also filled with tales of toxic substances stored in food and drink containers and how people accidentally ingested them. It’s a good reminder that you should effectively label your containers if they’ve been repurposed for holding another substance and to always keep them out of the reach of children (and, I supposes, people who are just careless about what they put in their bodies).
Or as one redditor wrote, you could just use this common-sense axiom: Wrote Dustorn: “I think another applicable LPT here is to not eat white powder that you found in a box in the back of a drawer full of engine supplies.”