Fun With Chemistry

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I think this blog has been a little too serious lately. I was going to share the last in our series about long marriages, but it can wait. As you know, if you have been keeping up, we are in the editing process with our memoir. Sadly, a few of my favorite stories have been lost in this process, and will not make it to the final draft. That’s bad for the book, but good for the blog. I will share one of my favorites with you now. My junior year at Bradley University was easier than the first two years but not without challenges.  

One Thursday afternoon I took a quick nap with my friend Dianne after lunch. We were just nap buddies.  We both had the time between classes and I wouldn’t have to go all the way back to my apartment. I very rarely actually fell asleep during the day but just rested. Unfortunately, this day was the exception. I was late. When I rushed into the lab, my partner George was there and set to start. He had not given up on me, but had started some homework on one of the lab benches. I apologized and explained my dilemma. He was fascinated and asked me to share some of my worldly wisdom on women. While a good example of the blind leading the blind, unfortunately, this became the predominate topic of conversation that afternoon. We probably should have paid a little more attention to properly interpreting our instructions.

            We had an idea about the identity of the unknown compound. In order to prove it, we needed to make a derivative. As we began, one of the professors brought a group of freshmen students into our lab, to take a test. Sitting at the benches, they could be spread apart properly to eliminate temptation.

We were still quietly discussing our topic of the day when we reached the part of the procedure which, was marked in quotes, “A vigorous reaction will occur.” If we had been focusing, we probably could have anticipated what happened next. As we added one compound to the other, the mixture started boiling rapidly. We stopped the addition, and turned off the flame. This only seemed to make it mad. A fume of white smoke was now filling the hood. That particular hood never seemed to work very well. Soon the beaker was sputtering and then began jumping up and down. The smoke was now pouring into the lab. We were still trying to control the reaction when one of the professors came in and rescued the freshmen, who had started to cough and wheeze from the smoke. The dense white smoke had now covered the entire ceiling of the lab. When I say cover, I mean, you could not see the ceiling.

             Another professor came in and yelled, “Who is pumping hydrochloric acid into my instruments?” He stopped only long enough to give us a dirty look and disappeared again. We finally threw a couple of handfuls of ice on the mess and left the room coughing and gagging. To this day, it still bothers me a little, that, while the precious Freshmen were quickly saved, us poor Jr. Chemists were left by two professors to die. By the time we re-entered the lab, George had explained, in great detail, the reaction which had occurred and all the noxious gasses generated. George was even higher on the geek scale than I. Think Sheldon Cooper with more personality. The lab experiment that should have taken about three hours, wound up taking about six. It was at that point that I realized, even the topic of girls, can cause problems.

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