Science Lab. Maybe it was “biology lab”, “chem lab” or “physical science lab” – but you remember it. For most people it was a time of angst. You would be given a project that you did not want to do that would last at least a whole period and your real goal was simple: get it done without embarrassment. Social embarrassment was to be avoided at all cost, especially since most of the time your lab partner was a randomly assigned roughian – or two – or more. Academic embarrassment was an even greater issue! You asked questions but learned early on that the teacher’s answers showed you that you had no idea what was happening and sometimes they didn’t either!
We all have stories that we remember with a tragic fondness that go back to our science labs in middle and high school. In particular there is usually one memory that triggers a chuckle and maybe even a shake of the head followed by “I can’t believe that happened.” For me, it was in chemistry lab. I won’t rat my partner out – he and I were good friends at the time. We were boiling purple cabbage – the coloring or pigment is an indicator of acids and bases like “liquid litmus paper”. The accident was simple. My partner muttered, half toward me, “I don’t think the beaker is hot.” After the last word, “hot”, his hand clutched the cabbage brew and held it long enough to move it from the hot plate into the air. OF COURSE IT WAS HOT!!!!
What followed was predictable. The cabbage juice spilled as he turned the beaker sideways out of reflex. Unable to hold it at all, he dropped the beaker and the familiar splash and crackle of broken glassware followed. The cabbage juice, stain, smell and all, splashed onto my off white pants. Thanks to my lab partner, I and the purple, staining, smelly cabbage juice were one and the same for the rest of the day.
Later that day I jumped off my bus and the dog that normally came to greet me came within 20 feet, sniffed the air, mused with a whimper, and walked away. He was not really shaking his head, though deep inside I knew that if a dog could do that in digust he would have.
Now, I laugh! It is a great memory, makes a great tale, and did not deeply damage anyone. I would bet that we all have those stories – the “lab partner from hell” stories or the “you will never believe what happened” stories. Considering that these things were common experiences it is great to see where we have all moved on to in our lives. After a lab accident or trauma things are always looking up!
Now it’s your turn. What happened to you in high school or college? Did you think the lab shower was shut off and pulled on the emergency chain only to find that the water was really on resulting in a thorough dousing? Ever clean a test tube with a pure sodium pellet in? (If you ever do, prepare for a loud “bang”). Let us know your story! After all that, things ARE looking up!