Ah, the good ol’ chemistry set. Remember that? You know, the tin box that opened up to reveal the ingredients to magical potions that caused smoke to rise, burned holes in Formica, and launched visions of becoming a scientist one day? A vision very short lived for me.
While the dream remained, I experimented. I may have spent 15 minutes with the lame exercises and assignments the instruction manual offered before I realized how boring they were. Tossing aside the manual in favor of more serious missions and ignoring the warnings on the box and bottles imploring me not to mix this with that…I absolutely mixed this with that. No different than any other devious kid who grew up watching mad scientist and Vincent Price movies.
At first, it was an experiment in experimentation. The initial combo stunk up my laboratory like an old fashioned egg fart. It was so bad, my parents thought I was sick and maybe a trip to the hospital was in store. Until they realized it was their young scientist at work and not the result of a bad stomach virus.
Then there was the concoction that when dripped onto the head of my sister’s Barbie Doll, caused it to shrivel up like a withered raisin.
That experiment landed me another in a series of weekend sentences in my room. To add pain to the punishment, I was forced to hand over my allowance money to help pay for a new Barbie, and this time a Ken doll accompanied her for protection.
I argued with my parents that it was all in the name of science, but they weren’t buying it. Just didn’t pay to stand up for one’s scientific cause at times, I figured. It also got me to thinking that it’s best to never experiment in life. Or if you do…to pick your poison carefully.
If chemistry sets were marketed to parents with the goal of improving their kids for success in later life, they didn’t see me at work, that’s for sure.
Amazingly, these sets were designed to teach basic chemistry skills but by today’s standards they’d be nothing short of a homeland-security breach. In a more innocent time, these kits received the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, and the companies that produced them sold millions.
I must have had one of the last fully equipped kits, because after awhile the safety concerns and government regulations limited the range of materials and experiments available in the kits to low numbers and even duller experiments.
But before the government rained on my parade, it was fun down in my laboratory/basement area, complete with beakers, flasks, test tubes, and vials of chemicals ending in ‘ide’ and ‘ate’ and ‘acid.’
The fun ended when I wanted to hang out with Joanne, a cutie from the neighborhood. While walking into town she accused me of smelling badly…so badly she stopped and waved off the hike. I was sure I had washed the experimental stink from my hands, but my clothes were undoubtedly saturated from one of my more devious experimentations.
Later that night I came up with another Kramer Concoction:
Chemistry Set Chemicals + Chemistry Clothes = No Chance with Girls
Another sad day in the education of a young man in search of a solution.
Wish kids still “played” this way. Now they have their heads in their phones and can’t make eye contact with the Joanne’s!
Isn’t that the truth, Betsy. Glad that you enjoyed this article as well.