Before readers get any wrong ideas, let me clarify that, no, I don't have any relationship problems. This post is a story about what happened a long time ago when I was in secondary school.
What reminded me of this story was a post around two weeks ago in fellow blogger Dr Sam's blog about his experiences when conducting experiments at school that later spurred his ambition to become a scientist. I dropped a comment in that post by telling about an incident I went through in Science class. I decided that I may as well share the story in this blog with some extension and correction.
The year was 1979 and I was in Form Five. Our Chemistry class was taught by a teacher whose name is Mr Wong Seng Kuang. I wasn't that particularly good in Chemistry. I seem to have a weakness in remembering chemical formulae and how many protons or electrons there are in the atom of any particular element. I have always preferred Biology because I find it interesting and easy to memorise facts about living things.
Mr Wong is a Sarawakian and speaks with a peculiar tone. Sometimes we find it hard to understand what he says. He has difficulty in pronouncing my name properly and every time he calls out to me, the girls in class would giggle. Despite this situation, I liked his Chemistry class and paid attention. In the end, when the MCE exam results came out, I scored better grades in Chemistry than Biology.
One day, Mr Wong gave the class an assignment. We were each asked to select a chemical compound but not let any of our other classmates know of our choice. We were then to exchange our compounds and carry out experiments on the sample given to us to determine what it is. Examples of such tests include lighting a bit of the stuff over the bunsen burner and see the colour of its flame, or checking its pH value to see if it is acid or alkali.
The next day, when we returned to class, all the girls were ready with their samples but I was the only guy out of 16 boys in the class who prepared a test specimen. Talk about being the odd one out. Either the rest of the guys misheard Mr Wong's instruction or simply did not like the subject of Chemistry as much as I did. Mr Wong was real displeased but he decided to proceed with the experiments with those of us who had come prepared.
There were nine girls in my class, and with me being the odd boy out, it made an even ten. Mr Wong drew lots and I ended up being paired with Yana, who is one of the prettiest girls in the class. I don't think I had ever spoken a word to her before that day. Come to think of it, I hardly spoke to most of my girl classmates those days (yeah, right! I hear you say).
Anyway, Yana and I exchanged samples and we proceed with our experiment. The compound that Yana gave me was a grainy white powder that looks very similar to common salt. I carried out the first test and confirmed that it was a type of chloride. It then crossed my mind that I should maybe skip the next proper step and just taste the stuff.... and so I did. Heck, it nearly burned my tongue! Definitely not common salt.
I quickly took a large gargle of water from the sink and spat it out. I wasn't sure if my lab partner had noticed it but if she did, she didn't ask me about it. And I was too embarrassed to tell her.
It was only towards the end of the year when I finally owned up by writing in her autograph book about it. I'm not sure if she found it silly or funny, or perhaps both.
And so nowadays, when it comes to testing chemical substances, I never take anymore shortcuts...