The Aresan Clan is published four times a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun). You can see what's been written so far collected here. All posts will be posted under the Aresan Clan label. For summaries of the events so far, visit here. See my previous serial Vampire Wares collected here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chemistry Award

When I was in High School, I was quite good at Chemistry, being one of the top students in my AP Chemistry class Junior year. For this reason, I decided to participate in the annual high school competition of the American Chemical Society. The first level of competition was a district competition, where we had to take a test covering our knowledge of high school level Chemistry. The student scoring highest on this test would then advance to the state finals, where another, even more difficult test was administered. What happens beyond this, I can't tell, since that's as far as I got. There was less than 10 students who participated in the test in our district, a few from my AP Chemistry class, and some from other nearby schools. Surprisingly, I actually got the highest score among these students and thus was sent on to the state final.

I tried to brush up on my Chemistry knowledge before the state test, reasoning that it would be harder than the last and I'd have to do better, but when I actually got to the test, I discovered the test was much harder than I thought and I was woefully unprepared. The test was at a large inner city high school that I hadn't been to before, comprising several long straight halls of classrooms stacked on top of each other to the height of several stories. The test was divided into several sections. The written sections I breezed through, mostly because I simply skipped over the questions I didn't know and was able to answer the few that I did know pretty quickly. Between sections, as the time to complete the section ticked away and the other three students continued to work, I walked down the long hallways of the school to pass the time. There was also a section that involved a practical demonstration: we had to mix two chemicals to produce a gas, which would then fill up a balloon, something like the chemical reaction used to fill up airbags in cars. The other three students completed it, but I couldn't figure out at all what proportions to mix and how to do it and completely failed that section. When I got to the last section and finished it quickly, after having to skip many of the questions, I handed it to the proctor. She said to me, before taking it, with some pathos, "Just try to answer more of the questions," and I told her, "I just can't," and left.

Nonetheless, because I was a state finalist, I got to go to a special dinner where they gave out awards and honored those of who participated in the state final. It was at the Colorado School of Mines, which was a good half hour drive away from my school in Littleton, and I attended it with my AP Chemistry teacher. We had a nice dinner, and then at the end of it, they gave a prize to the winner of the state competition, and then they called the rest of us up one by one and handed us a certificate for our achievement, announcing our name and our intended college major. As you can imagine, this being an award ceremony for the American Chemical Society, most of the students there were planning on being Chemistry or Chemical Engineering majors. So, it was just a long list of "Mike Jones, Chemistry"; "Bob Smith, Chemical Engineering,"; "Jane White, Chemical Engineering"; and so on. My teacher asked me what my intended major was, so we could write it down on an info sheet about me and give it to the announcer. At this point in my career, though I was quite determined that I wanted to be a writer and to study English in college. I doubt that I was my teacher's star pupil, but I was one of the better students and she wasn't aware of my interest in studying English. I contemplated lying to her and saying "Chemistry," but told her the truth, and I could just feel the disappointment in her voice when she said, "Oh. English. I didn't know," and wrote it down on the paper.

When it got to the point of announcing my name, despite that they'd announced everyone else's anticipated majors, for me it was just "Joseph Kranak" and no major. I don't know if this was just a mistake due to the announcer not getting the information, or if the announcer looked at the paper and saw "English" and decided not to announce my major, thinking, "This has to be a mistake. No student who did well on one of our tests could possible go into one of those soft disciplines like English, where he'll probably have classes where they pretend the Periodic Table is a literary text and start deconstructing it according to Marxist Queer Theory and start talking about the 'Phallocentrism of the Lanthanide Elements,' or some BS like that. No, those majors are only for those soft-minded dilettantes, not hard-minded scientists like us." I prefer the latter theory, but I guess an innocent mistake is possible.

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