This morning on Facebook (ever the source of fascinating conversation), a friend of mine commented on how much she hates fire. Which prompted me to vehemently concur ("I concur, vehemently!" Any Bones fans out there? Yes? No? That's probably my favorite line from the entire span of the show...). It also reminded me of a couple high school science experiences, which I will, of course, recreate for you here...
When I was a sophomore, I took biology with, I can only assume, a classroom full of biology-challenged individuals. There were only two people in that class who ever managed decent grades -- me, and a girl named Sara. Every now and then, our teacher would allow us to complete some assignment on our own during class -- a situation I normally embraced in other classes with pen in one hand and book in the other, secure in the knowledge that my shy, quiet self could simply do what I do best: work quietly on my own to the betterment of my good grades. In biology, however, my quiet, solitary study time at my desk would suddenly morph into a group of desks gathered around me like metal to a magnet... and, a few rows away, Sara would be surrounded by her own group of desks. We had (unfortunately for me) gained reputations as the only two people who understood what we were doing, and that, in turn, meant that we were unwilling (at least on my part) group leaders.
But Sara and I recognized that perhaps our mutual affinity for the subject could be beneficial when it came to choosing a lab partner for our once-a-week lab work. We paired up, of course, which I assumed could be nothing but positive for me and my biology grades. And then I discovered something about Sara that I hadn't previously known: she was insanely, ridiculously, acutely afraid of dead things. And you can't avoid dead things in biology lab. At first, it wasn't so bad... okay, I thought, I can dissect this earthworm on my own. No problem. Okay, I can manage this frog. (And really, the frog was pretty cool -- those little tiny frog organs are so nice and neatly arranged... they're even color-coded... it's really quite fascinating to dissect a frog...)
And then one day we walked into biology lab and found ourselves face-to-face with sharks -- not big sharks, of course, just little foot-long baby sharks... but sharks, nonetheless. They were slippery... they were rubbery... and they may have been babies, but they were still the biggest dead things we'd had on those biology lab tables. And Sara, as usual, flat-out refused to go near it. I attempted to shove a scalpel in her hand and coax her into TRYING, at least. "I'm not doing that," she stubbornly insisted. "You do it." And I have to say -- cutting open that shark was one of THE most unpleasant things I've ever done. Unlike the nice, neat, color-coded frog, the shark burst open like a rubbery gray balloon full of nasty gray liquid and mushy gray rubber entrails. (What the HECK was inside that thing???) But eventually we made it to the end of the year, Sara and I receiving the highest grades in the class (and frankly, I should've been given extra credit for completing the brunt of the lab work).
The next year we moved on to chemistry, where dead things were replaced with dangerous chemicals and Bunsen burners. The gas for the Bunsen burners was turned on with a lever at each chem lab table -- the only problem was, you could never really tell how MUCH gas was flowing until you held a sparking flint over the gas and lit the flame. If you weren't careful, that flame would shoot toward the ceiling, causing our chemistry teacher to run over and adjust the gas before anyone singed off their eyebrows. I HATED lighting the Bunsen burners, because I've always been insanely, ridiculously, acutely afraid of fire... you can see where this is going...
Once again, Sara and I paired up for lab (although I'll admit my comprehension of chemistry is not quite as stellar as my comprehension of biology...). And I soon discovered that Sara was not too fond of fire, either. This time, however, as we prepared for some experiment or other and the Bunsen burner was required, I was unwavering. I shoved the flint in her hand and told her to light the Bunsen burner. "I'm not doing that," I stubbornly insisted. "You do it." And EVERY time we needed the Bunsen burner in chemistry lab, I would think back to that horrible, squishy, rubbery shark... I would cross my arms, stand back, and make sure that Sara had the honor of lighting the burner. (Force ME to dissect a disgusting shark, will you? Fine. If your hair catches fire, I'll be sure to think about putting it out...)
Yeah, I guess I have a pretty lame idea of "retaliation." But as I watched that flame shoot toward the ceiling and stood back as our teacher adjusted the flame, I couldn't help but feel the tiniest bit of satisfaction... :)