Recently, my partner decided to embark upon a distance learning degree course at the Open University. Having opted to do Molecular Science, she received a Molecular Model Kit in the post this week, and, with the fervent, feverish enthusiasm that besets a new student on their first day, she dived into her course material and set about re-creating the universe in 3d molecular format. Now, I have to admit, I am a little jealous of her as the idea of embarking on a new learning adventure has always appealed to me and, as with any other mortal on this planet, the desire is always to learn something _totally_ different to your everyday work. In my case, as I work behind a desk as a computer programmer, I dream of doing something outside full of physical risk, so I want to retrain to be a secret agent. Obviously, this is not going to happen as I have now just blown my cover, but I digress…..back to the molecules.
So there I am on a dreary Sunday morning faced with all these complex molecular structures, sitting proudly on the table in front of me. In my defence, I have to say she forgot the first rule of ‘living with boys’. *Never* leave a boy alone with something he can take a part. Up and down the country as I write, there are hundreds, nay, thousands of 30-something year old boys sat in the living room, screwdriver in one hand, head scratching with the other and something in bits in front them. More to the point, something in pieces in front them that a) was not in pieces when ’she’ went out and b) was not broken either.
For many of these men, their journey has just begun and they are filled with the excitement and adrenalin of the self-inflicted challenge ahead. Sadly though, for many, that euphoric feeling has passed by what feels like an eternity ago and the minutes are counting down like seconds as they race to resolve the situation before ‘her’ return. We all know such a situation requires a clear mind and focused concentration but, as the hour of reckoning fast approaches, our heads become cluttered more and more with the thoughts of the fallout. We know we cannot multi-task. We have been told this many times before, but we still cannot help ourselves from trying to simultaneously fix what we broke and think up of a good way out of it when we inevitably fail. And therein, lies the tricky part. The way out. The question will be simple – “Why?”. But the answer in both its content and subsequent ramifications could not be more conversely complex. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, the question is loaded, possibly even rhetorical, but she will ask it anyway as it is not the answer she is interested in but the panic, the fear, the realisation that you have been caught she wants you to feel and the feeling must be both painful and prolonged. Secondly, deep down, we know the truthful answer to the question, but, we are intelligent enough to realise that giving this true reason will cause far more outrage than the discovered outcome already has. Consider the outcome to the following *truthful* answer:
“Well, my dear, I truly thought, as a completely unqualified electrician, I could take apart our digibox to see if we can get Channel 5, and, although we cannot get any channels now, I would hope that you could see past this unfavoured outcome and concentrate on the unselfish effort I put in to improving your quality of life.”
This is why the true reason must never be given. And so, back to my girlfriend’s molecules. I’m sure, to a qualified scientist, the 3d models in front of me would cause some level of both recognition and, possibly, a little excitement. Whatever floats you boat. To me, however, I saw nothing but a travesty. All those shiny colourful balls and bendy connecting sticks and the end result is some carbon and hydrogen compound. A travesty, I tell you. So, with the best will in the world and, more importantly, a whole hour before the expected return, I set about creating something far more universally impressive. I give you, MEGALADAXANT – emperor of the evil galactic alien ant empire….
Evil Galactic Alient Ant Emperor
If only you could experience that childhood excitement, sitting there, crossed legged, tongue sticking out in concentration as I build up not just a molecular beast with my own two hands but, as my mind travels far away, an entire paradoxical universe where good fights evil everyday and animals can talk to humans…ahem.
Good things may come to those who wait, but these good things also never last. Having spent 40 minutes on creating Megaladaxant (c) ™ (r) [just in case], I had 20 minutes to recreate the less violent originals. Now, having been caught in the past taking something apart and unable to put it back together, I had to ensure I felt competent enough to build molecular compound structures from scratch and the answer was an unequivocal ‘yes, I can’. Having passed this particular pre-requisite and embarked, without haste, upon my model recreation, I subsequently discovered, when I needed to begin ‘Operation Putback’, I had missed out the equally-as-important ‘did you remember to note down what the original compounds were?’. The answer to this was, dishearteningly, ‘No, I did not…and now I’m in trouble’. I thought I might recognise them if I saw them in the sciencey book, but how was I supposed to know the world was made of so many elements and compounds? This never would have happened in the good old days of earth, fire, water and wind. I was in trouble and, as all the aforementioned happy feeling drained from my system, I felt the dark cloud of dread seep through my veins. I was a broken man.
Such a situation, however, spares no time for self pity and my self defence mechanism soon kicked in. I needed a way out so what were my options:
1. Wait for her return and just explain yourself.
2. Take a best guess of the originals and build them.
3. Leave the door ajar, claim you were upstairs all this time and that someone must have sneaked in and done it.
All three involved either too much explaining or too much risk so I opted for a fourth option: Take apart Megaladaxant and make a heart shape out of the pieces, then leave it with a post-it note on the table saying “I love you x” and that way, she’ll be too smitten to be angry. It was a perfect plan – I knew what heart shape looked like and I could build it in the remaining 10 minutes. What could possibly go wrong?
So anyway, I’m on my 5th cup of coffee in the interrnet cafe and I reckon she may have calmed down a little now so I’ll head back in a little while and see if she fancies watching a film perhaps.
Maybe just another cup of coffee.