Sunday, October 28, 2007

Chemistry Sets

My parents, like all the parents of their day and most likely like parents today, felt a need to improve our minds. We needed to learn and explore the world around us. Because they didn't actually observe what we did when we were in the world around us they supplemented the world with "educational" gifts. Sometimes these sucked. Like classical recordings. But sometimes they were marvelous. Like chemistry sets.
A chemistry set was the best birthday or Christmas gift you could receive short of an actual bb gun. Chemistry sets had beakers and test tubes and things to hold the test tubes and bunsen burners and most importantly...chemicals. Shit in it's purest form. Shit you mix up and use to ruin the world. You were Dr Frankenstein or Einstein or the inventor of the next best, great thing to be invented. Since none of my friends were engineers or inclined in that direction we had no real scientific method. We just mixed shit up and watched what happened. These were actual, real, potentially dangerous chemicals. Now they would come with a host of warnings. Then they came with nothing. Oh, wait...there was an instruction book that we never read.
So we took my chemistry set down to the basement. Set it on our play shelf and began to make poison gases and toxic fumes and potent liquids that would peel the finish off our furniture. Bubbling, smoking, egg shell stinking chemical messes.
We were in heaven. We might have been in Bhopal but to us it was heaven. Naturally we supplemented the meager amount of chemicals the kit came with by appropriating chemicals from our homes. Cleaning solvents, pesticides, paints, and other liquids that appeared similar in nature were added to the toxic brew. Oh the wonders of science.
Many of our skills would come in handy in college when we had to measure and sort various illegal substances but that was really the last time any of this would matter. What I learned was that shit stunk and that it was fun to mix shit up and set it on fire.
When I was working at my company Fleetrak I had the opportunity to work on a regular basis with engineers. These are very strange people who actually understand the inner workings of things. If an engineer gets a toy for Christmas he takes it apart to see how it works and then makes it work better. He does it in an orderly, logical manner. I've had engineers ask me what algorithm we were using in our GPS engine. I told him I didn't have any rhythm but if I did I wouldn't name it Al. He didn't laugh.
We were not engineers. We didn't follow any rules. We didn't try to learn anything. We weren't under the direct supervision of a parent or guardian and so we were more like imps in the machine. We just fucked with shit. And had fun. Lots and lots of fun.

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