"There Isn't Much That Can Go Wrong" || The Day I Almost Set Fire to the Science Lab

by - 6:48 PM

On my first day of internship my new coach gave me a tour of the school where I'd soon be teaching German. It was more of an exploration: the school had just moved into a new building. The old one, where I'd graduated only a year ago, would be demolished soon. It was my old school in a new jacket: the building was different, the teachers were the same. Most of them recognized me and came up to me for a chat. In a way, it felt like coming home. I felt confident, happy and strong - until I rounded a corner and saw her. My chemistry teacher from 9th grade. She smiled and waved, but I saw a hint of worry and fear in her eyes. Suddenly I wasn't the nineteen-year-old intern anymore; I was fourteen years old, wearing an oversized lab coat and about to screw up big time.

Way back in the distant past of 2011
'So what are we going to do first?' I asked while trying to free my hands from the white lab coat sleeves that were way too long. The white lab coats were supposed to be the smallest, but I was still drowning in fabric every time I wore one.
Lars and Tim, my lab partners who were both well over 6ft tall, looked down at me, but said nothing. Summer vacation was about to start, yet this was our first chemistry experiment as lab partners. My previous lab partners always made me do the entire experiment all by myself and when the time came to write a report, they made a list of the supplies we'd used and added that, along with their names, to my report. I was so happy that my teacher had allowed me to become lab partners with my friends Lars and Tim at this time of the year. The two guys were a bit more skeptical about the skills I could bring to their team.
'Can you set this stuff up?' Lars asked. Lars was the one who did almost all the talking. Tim barely spoke when I was around, he had a bit of a problem talking to people.
'Sure,' I said. 'Can I do the entire experiment? That way you can observe and explain me all the sciency stuff I don't understand.'
Lars raised his eyebrows. 'You sure you can do the entire experiment?'
'Of course. When Stacey and Elaine were my lab partners I always had to do the entire experiment by myself.'
Lars and Tim still weren't convinced of my skills in the science lab, but as I turned the burner on without batting an eye, they finally started to have a bit of confidence in me.
'There isn't much that can go wrong with this experiment,' Lars told me. 'We put sugar in a test tube, hold it close to the flame and wait till it caramelizes. Then we describe the process and that's it.'
'Great.' I put the sugar in a test tube. 'But how am I supposed to hold it to the flame without burning my fingers off?'
Tim pushed and extremely long clothes peg across the table. 'Hold it with this.'
'Okay.' So that's what I did. For five minutes I held the little glass tube full of sugar close to the flame and stared at it. I had a thing with fire. I could stare at it for hours and was so excited every time we got to work with it in chemistry class. I was still hoping we'd get the chance to blow something up, but things never reached that level of awesomeness.
'Nothing's happening.'
I tore my gaze away from the small flame and the still very white sugar. Lars was right. Nothing was happening. 'What am I supposed to do?' I asked.
'Hold it closer to the flame. Or in it,' Lars suggested.
'Like this?' I held the tube a little closer to the flame, the bottom of the tube just above the top of the fire.
'No, closer. I think we have to hold the whole tube into the flame, then move it.'
'Sure.' The tube was now almost all the way into the flame. The sugar turned brown and bubbled. 'It's working!'
'Look, Lars, it's caramel and - crap!' In my excitement I hadn't noticed that the wooden clothes peg had caught fire. The caramelizing sugar was about to bubble out of the tube. I held the tube and burning peg away form the fire. 'What now? What do I do?!' Panic took over. I started waving the clothes peg, but that only made things worse.
'Damn it, Envy!,' Lars bellowed. 'Stop waving the damn thing!'
'But what am I supposed to do with it?' I yelled, still waving the burning peg. The way too long sleeves of my lab coat grazed the fire and almost joined the bonfire that used to be a clothes peg.
'Put it down!'
So I did, without realizing that this idea was even worse than waving the miniature torch. I put the peg on the table, where it almost set fire to the wooden board that was there to protect the table's surface from sticky sugar spills. Tim's notes almost fell victim too, but I picked the peg up just in time.
'What do I do now? WHAT DO I DO?!' I kept repeating those words until Lars snatched the burning clothes peg from my fingers. He walked to the nearest basin, threw it in there and turned the faucet on. 'That's what we do with it!' he said. He turned around and gave me the angriest look I'd ever seen on his face. 'God, Envy. Why did you put it in the fire? Damn it! You're not playing with fire ever again!'

Almost five years later I could still hear Lars yell, I could still feel the heat of the burning clothes peg in my hand. Apparently I wasn't the only one who remembered that day.
My head turned bright red as I approached my old chemistry teacher. 'Hi, ms. Tulumen,' I said in a weird, high pitched voice that made me sound like a nervous squirrel.
'Hi Envy!,' she said.
I told myself to be confident. After all, that one incident was years ago. No need to feel ashamed, right? I could start a normal conversation, like a normal nineteen-year-old would do. I gathered all my courage, took a deep breath - and squeaked: 'Bye!'
Then I quickly walked away, nineteen on the outside, fourteen and ashamed on the inside...

Stay Awesome!

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4 Fellow Ramblers

  1. Haha! Thank god nobody was hurt ;) This reminds me so much of a similar incident that happened to me 2 years back. My lab partner and I were doing this experiment concerning fire as well, and for some reason it started letting out smoke. Apparently that wasn't supposed to happen but we had absolutely no idea, so we continued to let the smoke get bigger and bigger. In the end we set the fire alarm off and the whole class had to evacuate hahaha...
    Love this post x
    The Journeys of My Beating Heart

    1. Hahaha, your story is great! I'd like to say: Why didn't you stop when it started smoking? But to be honest, I probably would've done the same thing and keep going until it all got out of hand XD
      Thank you for commenting :)

  2. I actually am terrified of lighting matches or even fires, in general; at school last week, people asked me to light a match for our chemistry lab and I was hyperventilating because lighting things freak me out... but then, everything kind of freaks me out.

    xoxo Morning

    1. Fire isn't that bad. Maybe you just have to get used to it. I started out using really long matches because I was afraid the short ones would burn my fingers. A few years later I fell in love with fire :P


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