As a wee laddy of about eight years, I had a lofty goal: to create bug poison. I knew this would require some sort of liquid to pour onto bugs. I also knew that this liquid would have to be created in some sort of tricky manner--I was going by Sturgeon's Law here--I knew it would take some effort.

(Right now would be a good time to tell the reader that as a child I read the label of every single household substance I could find, out of curiosity. This probably made me a bit more paranoid than I would've been.)

After deeply pondering the subject of what to use as my main source of bug poison (this lasted about ten seconds), I decided a battery would be the best logical choice. (I didn't know what logical meant at the time, but I knew it had something to do with being right and smart.) Yes, logical, and the logical size would of course be a D.

(Few people know this, but my findings showed that D sized batteries are really just four AA batteries in a larger cylindrical battery case.)†

A hammer and a nail would be all I needed. I was into cost-efficiency. Why go out and buy high tech, unnecessary devices when I could get by perfectly with these two wonders of human technology? My work area was to be the back porch.

With utmost care did I drive the nail into the battery. Four smaller cylinders rolled out of the shell. Odd. Better drive the nail into one of them. Time to find the pay dirt.

(The reader must now be aware that the following event occurred with a marvel of calmness and simple, well thought-out decisions)

After seeing dark grey goop squirt out of the cylinder and, about a tenth of a second later, feeling it make contact with my right eye, I thought things over for a minute (half a second), and decided there was only one right thing to do. Walk slowly over to the sink and rinse my eye out. Flush the eye out, I think they called it on the labels I'd read. Madness would shortly ensue.


<mom> why, what are you doing?
<chris> oh, nothing mom, just rinsing my eye out..
<mom> hm.. why are you doing that?
<chris> i just got some battery acid in it.. *shrug*
<mom> you _what_!?##%^$!#
<chris> don't worry about it
* mom calls up urgent care, and rushes her son there


My entrepreneurial adventure'd come to a close. My right eye would have a patch on it for a day, after being flooded with green dye by the doctor for viewing with a special camera, in order to make sure there wasn't major damage. Gain: I was able to miss school for a day.

(The reader should know that I still have 20/20 vision)

Editor's note: After a few minutes with a hacksaw, I have determined that this is not true. A D cell battery is simply a scaled up version of a AA. It is not four AA's in one package.

During my military service, I had several encounters with car battery acid. This is a weak sulphuric acid. When using El-Cheapo Batteries, you need to keep topping them up with distilled water. Our batteries took fairly heavy wear and tear, and we had to put them into all sorts of inconvenient locations, so battery acid would often splash about.

Now normally, when battery acid splashes somewhere, you just sprinkle something related to limestone. This is not so much for safety reasons as for the nice fizz it makes.

But every once in a while, some acid splashes onto somebody's uniform (made mainly of cotton, coloured olive green). You barely notice this, so the acid just dries out.

Now you have an olive green uniform (or a nice grey dress uniform, which is even funnier) with purple splotches all over it. Turns out that sulphuric acid reacts with the cotton and colour in this manner.

The fabric looks a bit odd now, so sooner or later somebody touches a purple spot. At that instant, the entire affected area crumbles away! A moment later, you have a beautifully holed uniform...

   Being much like car batteries, deep cycle marine batteries also contain sulphuric acid.  Although the particular battery with which i had an interaction was of the sealed type that does not require topping-up, I discovered that "sealed" is in this case a relative term.

    This battery was installed in a very small and rather old boat.  Old like classic, not like ratty.  The boat was a late-Sixties two-seater not much larger than a big PWC, with an interesting twin V hull and an overall shape reminiscent of a Corvette of the same era.  Originally, the boat had an orange 15 horsepower outboard motor that, by the time I was using it, was good for little more than burning a lot of oil and constantly breaking the shear pin that transferred power to the propeller.  This becomes a real problem when you run out of spare pins and have to paddle back--there's only room in the boat for a stubby canoe paddle and it's only a fun boat when it has a working motor.

    So we replaced the motor with a shiny new 30 horsepower Mercury. Not only was this new motor at least twice as powerful as the old one and not plagued by shear pin issues, it had an electric key start.  Though ubiquitous now, when the boat was made these were not so common.  Hence the problem: the boat now needed a big, heavy, acid-filled battery it was never designed to contain.  Bearing in mind that with the new motor the boat was quite capable of completely leaving the water should the operator choose to aim it at a wave, someone probably should have thought of a way to secure the battery.  But we were having too much fun jumping waves and generally tearing around.  After one particularly hard landing, I felt something fall against my foot.  "Something" was, of course, the battery.  The overturned battery was now leaking acid in the bottom of the boat and on my boot.  Wisely I chose to made a hasty return to the dock.

    First things first--I return the battery to its upright position.  But now the acid was mixing with the with the bilge water that tends to accumulate in the bottom of boats and covering a much larger area with foul-smelling and corrosive brew.  Luckily for me my boots are made of sturdy leather and protected my feet from harm.  Luckily for the boat, the hull was made of fiberglass, which turns out to be fairly resistant to battery acid.  However, I didn't want to test the limits of this resistance and so I ran to fetch rubber gloves and baking soda to neutralize the spill.  With the seats removed, I started to pour the baking soda on everything that looked like it has acid on it (which is just about everything on or in the bottom inch of the boat).  It was like elementary school science class, all bubbling and fizzing "volcano" in the boat and on my boots.  Exciting!  But it really was everywhere and I had to get on my hands and knees with the box of baking soda and a sponge to reach the affected areas of the hull.

    I managed to clean up the spill.  Neither boat nor boots seemed to have sustained lasting damage, and the battery still worked.  Mission accomplished, right?  But I had forgotten the fact that I was on my knees in the acid swill.  Pretty soon my legs began to itch, burn, and attract my attention.  Lo and behold, many holes have begun to form in my jeans!  The pain and holes both increased apace, and I had no choice but to whip off my pants and bring them with me as I leapt into the lake.  My embarrassment at neglecting to protect more than my hands and feet was compounded by the fact that I habitually go commando.  Needless to say, things could have turned out much worse.  I still have the pants, too.  This was my experience with battery acid.

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