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  • Writer's pictureCatherine White

Southern Tier Comedy Shop

A glass act? You decide.

Written by Jim Pfiffer

Illustrated by Filomena Jack

Editor’s note: This is the first in a periodic series of columns about all the dumb things Jim Pfiffer has done in his life. That idiocy provides a rich source of material for these humor columns. We can’t publish all his moronic exploits because the Internet doesn’t have the bandwidth.

Yes, I’ve eaten glass, real glass.

It’s a stunt I learned the summer before my senior year at Southside High School in Elmira. That was the summer of the Flood of 1972.

When most people (sane people, that is) hear about my glass consumption they react in shocked headshaking disbelief as they slowly back away from me, gather their kids together (if they have them), and flee the scene. That’s because they don’t know the secret to glass eating.

The secret: You must be dumb and willing to do almost anything for attention.

I had both of those requisites covered when I was younger.

In school, I had a reputation for being fearless crazy and taking dares. Eating glass solidified that rep. and kept the bullies away.

“Don’t mess with that Pfiffer dude,” the bullies were told. “He’s totally crazy. You don’t know what he’ll do. If you see him, run away.”

I may have been crazy, but when it came to glass eating, I had a refined palette. I didn’t eat just any glass. I preferred thin and clear wine or pilsner beer glasses, well rinsed, at body temperature and locally made, if possible. Steuben Glass was my favorite, but rare and expensive. It was sparkling clear, had a nice crisp crunch, no bad aftertaste and never caused indigestion.

There is another trick to glass eating: take small bites and keep the glass shards between your teeth as you slowly grind it into fine sand, which is safe to be washed down with a fine cabernet or frothy IPA, usually purchased by a dumbfounded onlooker.

Sand doesn’t damage the digestive tract and comes out the same way it went in. Full of grit.

The danger was in cutting my lips, tongue or mouth while biting off a piece of the glass. It can be safely done if you’re careful and not afraid of an occasional minor cut and a little blood, which provided great special Hollywood effects to the stunt.

One time, my big nose got in the way, and I cut it on the jagged edge of a wine glass I was enjoying.

I learned how to eat glass from a friend named Kevin, who was as crazy as me but didn’t know how to monetize his foolishness. I did, through barroom bets and schoolroom dares.

Bar patron: “Let me get this straight. You’re betting me $10 that you will take a bite out of my beer glass, chew it up and swallow it?”

Me: ”Yup.”

Bar patron: “You gotta bet.”

Me (downing his beer and chomping away at his glass): “Will that be a $10 bill or two $5s?”

Bar patron (throwing his hands up in the air): “You’re that crazy Pfiffer dude, aren’t you? Run away! Run away!”

Illustration by Filomena Jack

I made $34.58 eating part of a stemmed wine glass during fifth-period lunch at school. The principal made me spend the rest of the afternoon in the school’s nurse's office, to make sure I didn’t die. The nurse retired shortly after that. The school psychologist started seeing me regularly a few weeks later. Soon after, he quit his job and joined the priesthood.

Those sessions got me out of class. Another benefit of glass ingestion.

Like toddlers who suck their thumbs or depend on pacifiers, I outgrew my glass-eating phase shortly after high school and a stern visit to my dentist, who inquired “Who the hell sandblasted your teeth?”

“You’re going to laugh when I tell you what happened,” I replied.

He failed to see the humor in my explanation, shook his head in disbelief and suggested that I find another dentist.

My glass-chewing reputation cost me a job offer. After college, I was interviewed for a public relations position with a local nonprofit organization. The man interviewing me remarked that he had heard my name before but couldn’t remember how, when or why.

The interview went well, and the interviewer told me he had one other person to interview, but that thus far I was his top candidate.

As the interview ended and we made small talk, I noticed a family photo on his desk that included his daughter, who attended high school with me. When I mentioned that, I watched his posture go stiff and his facial expression turned sour as he nodded his head and said “Now I know why I know your name. You’re the guy who ate glass in the school cafeteria!”

I saw my job prospect fly out the window as he closed his notepad, stood to usher me out and dismissively remarked “Don’t call us. We’ll call you.”

I didn’t get the call.

Do I regret eating glass?

Sort of. It was a dumb thing to do, and I won’t do it again. But it earned me money, teenage attention and a brief chapter in local teenage lore.

I suspect that, after reading things, some of you will call me “stupid” and “juvenile.”

I could respond by calling you some disrespectful names. But it’s like they say:

“People who live in glass houses ... "

About this feature

Get more Jim Pfiffer humor on his Facebook page, his blog, FullOfWit, and his podcast The Viewsroom on Zoom with Pfif & AWAC. 

To contact and learn more about Filomena Jack and to see her artwork go to


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