Friday, March 7, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - The Experiment - 3/9/08

High school chemistry was about the most fun C- I ever received. While most of the students were busy memorizing the Periodic Table and learning the atomic weight of helium, I, and a couple of other ne'er-do-wells, spent most of our class-time performing our own experiments. Combining chemicals never meant to occupy the same beaker and finding out what combinations explode, burn, and melt stuff. The chemistry lab had a closet just filled with bottles and jars of chemicals to explore. Many of which probably would not be available to students now, with the threat of terrorism and mayhem and the emphasis on school safety.



The instructor, Mr. Fromm, was a typical scientist. He was a genius when it came to Chemistry, but knew nothing about what went on in his classroom while he was elbow deep in the experiments contained in the syllabus.



One particular chemical, I will never forget. It was in a rather large jar and it was labeled Cyclohexene. In today's world, it would have had about a dozen warning labels affixed to the jar, but in 1969, it sat innocently in the closet. It was stored well back on the shelf and had layers of dust indicating it had never been opened. I opened the jar preparing to pour some into a flask. As soon as the lid was off, the jar emitted a malodorous stench, the likes of which I have never experienced. It was like the smell of rotten eggs, but in that enclosed space was multiplied times 1,000. I nearly passed out, but managed to exit the chemical closet, followed closely by my coughing and wheezing counterparts, who were interrupted from their sulfur, phosphorus, and glycerin projects. Here is a little experiment to give the reader an approximation of the conditions inside that closet: remove an infant's soiled diaper and tape it across your face.


What I was not able to do, however, was replace the lid. So quoting Shakespeare: “the rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril” (amazing the quotes that stick in one's mind) soon spread throughout the entire floor of the building. There was lots of coughing and teary eyes and some puking, as Mr. Fromm evacuated the room. The Chemistry students along with the rest of the classes in the general vicinity went outside to the welcomed relatively fresh air of the local lead smelter emissions. Then Mr. Fromm donned the protective equipment available in all chemistry labs and secured the offending vial. I received some detention, which I was not a stranger to in those days. But it was totally worth it.

31 comments:

keith hillman said...

What great memories. It was such fun making pongs back in our school days. I bet they don't have nearly as much fun today.

tumblewords said...

Ah, the famous Pandora's vial. I hadn't thought much about today's students although the local high school was recently locked down because a student brought mercury.
I remember dipping coins in that lovely stuff and pushing beads of it around with a finger. Poor kids of today!

myrtle beached whale said...

Tumblewords:

You are so right. I'll bet only chemicals kids have access to these days are baking soda and vinegar. Remember the great fireworks we had as kids? Now they get the little black snakes.

Keith:

You don't have to know about American Police procedures to contribute to Lucy's write-a-thon. Take it another direction entirely.

Lucy said...

This brought back terrifying memories of my worst class Dreaded Science ( betcha after reading that poem, you thought it was English!) You told this story so well Rick, I felt like I was in the lab chocking along with you! As always with your stories, your pics. just make it all the more entertaining!
Wonder where Mr. Fromm is today?

myrtle beached whale said...

I am pretty sure Mr Fromm is in the great periodic table in the sky. I am guessing his atomic weight is hovering around zero.

Chris said...

You make my day, great post!!

Amiene R.ev said...

I wonder during Chemical class many years ago, my friends used to make Titanic Sunk in when doing the oliver oil molecular size measure in a big water filled glass container.

And during Physic class, these idiots made some spinning top, using theb batteries.

While, in the biology class, they use to torture some tadpole by making a whirlpool in the glass.

What are insane classmates...

anthonynorth said...

Loved my chemistry lessons at school. Never learnt anything, though.

Redness said...

Brilliant! Remembering wearing the white lab coat, how important we used to feel, how serious we took it all, wonderful post, ooozing memorable aromas and pongs ... except for the diaper, EeUuWwww ;)

Greyscale Territory said...

Enjoyed a wander down your memory lane. Instantly I remembered when I was teaching at one high school, a student literally blew up the lab. He was a very intelligent student and usually never in trouble. But he was quite vocal about his points of view on certain topics.
He disagreed with his Chemistry teacher. He blew up her lab.

A great post!

Smiles and Light

Remiman said...

I'll pass on the baby diaper experiment and accept your findings.
Chemistry labs were no places for guys like us. ;)
rel

Anonymous said...

Excellent writing and great flow. Thoses prompts had to be a chemistry class. Very funny!
I am surprised everyone got hold of the smelly experiments.
We only did those on known quiz days.
Miss Rose

Little Wing said...

About all I remember from chemistry class was four of us girlies hanging a guy by the name of 'twinkletoes' out the second story window and getting caught.
Got me a 2 week vacation, LOL!

Awareness said...

Great story!! For the life of me, I can't remember any of the experiments conducted in my chemistry class (though i was going to quote Chip Douglas from My Three Sons and entitle my piece, "please pass the bunsen burner." Do you remember that line? He used it as a come on to impress some girl in his chemistry class........he practised the line 20 times in front of the mirror!! hahahaha)

The reason I can't remember anything about the experiments is that the teacher overshadowed it all. He was the weirdest, most geekiest guy going and we were intrigued by him. He owned one suit....and snot greenish number that he wore everyday. Around March......yes MARCH......he sent it to the cleaners and arrived wearing an old marching band uniform which he wore for a couple of days! Honest to God!

Anonymous said...

oh, is that what is wrong with you today... or why you get grosed out so easily

Granny Smith said...

LOL! My husband, who was a chemistry major in the college where his father was head of the chemistry department, has similar stories, but his father also had a mischievous streak himself and did some stunts that would lose him his position in a minute if they happened today. For instance, he sprinkled exploding pellets (similar to the caps for cap-guns) throughout the halls so that everyone emerging from classes would have a little line of explosions underfoot.

paisley said...

i think i woulda liked you in high school.....

myrtle beached whale said...

I am not any more mature now. Society has changed, not me. If you did something like that now they would lock the school down, call a SWAT team and they would talk about me on Nancy Grace.

Inland Empire Girl said...

No wonder all the dangerous stuff was locked up by the time I got to Chemistry with Mr. Fromm. I just remember the group of guys in our class during labs almost blew up the room. That lab has now been changed into a classroom... I would think the fumes would still be in the walls. Great post.

giggles said...

Oh you are a funny monkey....well done...the writing, not the event. Can't get that diaper out of my head...that did it for me!!!


Hugs Giggles

colleen said...

I loved the experiments but hated memorizing the elements and etc. I felt bad for the frogs we dissected.

myrtle beached whale said...

Colleen:

In my day we dissected frogs in Biology class, not Chemistry.

gautami tripathy said...

As you read, I love Chemistry expeiments. I never consider the danger of handling chemicals.

sister AE said...

I remember my high school chemistry/physics teacher had to clean out the chemical storage area when he was hired. There were some really scary things stored in the deeper recesses and until he poked around, no one knew they were there. I'm guessing this is more common, even today, than it should be.

LN- Nickers and Ink said...

Well . . . this lifelong English major got a BLAST out of your story.

(Sorry, had to!)

These prompts are really fun. It is amazing how we all go in so many different directions!

;-)

Linda
Nickers and Ink

Anonymous said...

During my senior year, almost every month there was a "mishap" in the Chemistry lab causing an evacuation of the school. This never occurred when the weather was bad! Makes you wonder why. I always thought there must have been a "club" that pledged to carry out this assignment, but no one could ever prove it.

Oh the smells, thanks for reminder.

Very funny!!

Stacy said...

I'm a high school teacher and I just love the VERY vivid details in this story.

Amarettogirl said...

Thanks for stopping by my SS post. Your was very funny and very well-written. I'm not sure I could ever do a smell that foul justice in my writing - great job!

Tammy said...

Great story! I loved the diaper visual and never like the smells from science class or my C's. lol

LittleWing said...

that is so funny... funny how our teachers are somehow so connected to the course materials but not the students... chemistry can be fun.... halellujeh... james buckley.. you should hear kd lang sing it... awesome.. the other lt wing... soon to namechange...

Anonymous said...

Funny. I had Mr Fromm too! We didn't get to play with stuff like that but surprised he didn't associate the two of us and fail me. Haha. Carly