Old Faithful, or The One Where the Terrified Postbac Hit the Ceiling

If you read “OH SH*T IT’S KATHY BATES!,” you’ll know that lab work here in general chemistry can be accurately referred to as a hostile work environment. Between being hustled by the TA’s, KB running in to strike fear in everyone’s hearts, and a general lack of understanding of what the hell we’re supposed to do, being in that room takes years off your life. A good example came on just our second day of lab.

One of our tasks involved heating something in a test tube, which obviously requires the use of a Bunsen burner. My favorite. In lab, nothing is pre-set-up, so you have to go retrieve the tubing and burner, attach everything, turn it on, and spark it off. No problem.


In the craziness that was this lab, everyone was running around carrying acid, mixing gross-smelling things, and lighting other things on fire. Straight out of Hogwarts I swear to God. In the haste, one of our fellow postbacs, SK, was working fast and panicked to hook up her Bunsen burner.

She grabbed the rubber tubing and the Bunsen burner, hooked it up, and turned on the gas. According to our instructions, you’re supposed to really crank the gas valve, then control the flow from the burner itself, so SK gave it a good hard turn.

What followed was chaos. As a horrified TA watched, a jet of water sixteen feet high shot out of the Bunsen burner, hitting the ceiling and raining back down on the lab like a fire sprinkler. Apparently in her TA-taskmaster-induced haste, SK accidentally connected the rubber tubing to the sink spigot instead of the gas spigot; thus, when she turned it on, she sent a high-pressure Super Soaker shot through the burner. Oops.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

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