In memory of the umpteenth shower spell that’s poured down on my head just enough to lift my hopes for a rain holiday just to dry up with miraculous speed just in time for school, I’d recount a tale from a few months ago, about another incessantly rainy day, and of course, none other than chemistry.
It was a bad day.
To make it worse, it was a Saturday. We shouldn’t have been there in the first place. But we’d turned up for Saturday school, only about twenty one of our class of fifty, and it began raining.
That’s about when I arrived at school, in a bit of a black mood, having trudged up the staircase with a wet bag and wet shoes, only to find an empty class that suddenly did not look worth turning up for.
Within the next five minutes, I had rallied and got seventeen of the twenty putting their bags on their shoulders and ready to join me in our mass walk-out.
(Once you’ve gone inside the school building, you’re not supposed to leave, but that’s really only valid if a teacher has seen you for the day.
I’ve walked out before, you have to do it before the first period for the day begins.)
I lead my little ensemble and open the door to have our class teacher walk in.
So we’re not going home.
We’re sitting in a dim room doing calculus while it rains outside.
Only soon, it’s not just raining.
By the next class, the water begins to fill up the road like a swimming lane as we press our heads against the glass.
It passes, and we’re down to chemistry.
Chemistry had just become such a class, that the groans of ten people were as audible as the regular forty groans.
So of course our chemistry teacher walks in with a bright smile on her face.
I’m going to begin the chapter on amines, she says.
I’m going to complete the chapter on amines, she says.
Back up a sec, didn’t she just say we were going to begin today?
Of course we had just hear both of them right.
But that’s not possible, I hear you say.
Organic chemistry in a single day?
Well, that’s what I hear around me too.
But of course, true to the nature of chemistry, it’s all a game of very good guesses.
You should ge now why the smile on her face was so bright that day.
I don’t suppose you were told that you have two back to back lessons of chemistry today!
And the sky dulls, lightning flashes across the sky, and the clouds further unload their bottled up feelings onto the earth.
Ten thirty we began (maybe).
Twelve o clock it is, and the dance between nitrogen and hydrogen goes on and on, incessant as the rain.
First the basic stuff, then it turns acidic, then takes a pinch of potassium salt, turns reactive.
Now we have a covalent battlefield, atoms and electrons fighting for the place and valency they deserve.
The rain is not letting up.
The chemistry is not letting up.
In fact, the rain doesn’t look like it’s going to stop anytime today.
Nervously, we glance at our chemistry teacher, furiously scribbling away at the board, with speed liquid hydrogen could fuel… goodness, did I just say hydrogen again?
So are the rest of my mates.
We give up that analogy.
Ma’am, would you take a peak outside, the water level’s rising.
I’m sure it is, she responds, finishing the last diazonium salt conversion.
Oh, well, while we’re stuck in here, we might as well do some chemistry, shall we! she concludes, cheerfully, as she rubs out the rest of the board and begins conversions of benzene diazonium salts.
The precious few seconds that she wasn’t writing!
And what’s worse, we weren’t even joking about the water rising. We couldn’t see the road anymore.
Our school’s at a low lying end of a road.
We ask her, don’t you think you should contact the heads and ask if can go home or something? If it fills up too late, we’ll get stuck.
She sticks the latter part to our faces with glee.
Weather matching our moods in here. Dark, gloomy and thundering over our notebooks.
And it’s getting wetter and wetter.
Whiter and whiter, till it’s hard to see the flooded road even. We can hear the pounding of rain on glass, on trees, on the roads (or whatever’s left exposed) loud and clear through the soundproof glass.
The class next to ours takes a break.
A break we’re denied.
It may be raining outside, but I think it’s fuming in here.
Ten minutes of hearing them talk and laugh and move around, all over our scrawled chemistry notes.
They return to class, and now there’s just the sound of pen squeaking on the board, and the deafening rain.
And the grumbles and protests.
Then something flipped.
There was a new sound to add to our collection.
An ear-numbing wail.
It’s pitch shoots up… and then falls.
And then it rises again…
The fire alarms!
In the midst of the worst Saturday weather that month, in the midst of what the pouring, pounding rain, someone had hit the fire alarms!
We picked up our bags and dashed out of the class, for at last, we were free… free of chemistry!
It’s surprising how sometimes the supposed scariest of the situations can leave you in the happiest position you’ve been in in hours.
Pure joy, trapped teenagers running out of a chemistry class, running to their homes, to freedom, running to…
Running to a stand still.
Wait, I’ve been in fire drills before! That is NOT what you’re supposed to do.
But she shakes her head.
Emancipated little chemistry students, trudging along back to class… there was no fire.
It was a hoax, or an accident, for those wondering.
In fact, we’d had yet another hour of Chemistry that day before we were allowed to go home. (And coming home with with shoes turned into buckets, immersed in water till the ankles.)
But what makes me shake my head in wonder is how amusing it was: three hours of chemistry made everybody forget their elemental science.
It was probably just an accident, but I’d like to think that’s how desperate we were then: enough to hit the smoke alarms in the middle of a rainstorm!