This Practical Is On Fire

, , , , , | Learning | April 11, 2018

(I am studying microbiology at university. We have a practical class in which we have to spread bacteria onto an agar plate. To do this, we have to suck up some of the bacterial solution, place it on top of the agar, and spread it around using a spreader. The spreader is a glass rod, with the end twisted into a triangle shape, the bottom of the triangle being a flat edge that we can push the solution around with. Before using it, we have to sterilise the spreader. We do this by dipping it into a glass of ethanol, shaking off the excess liquid, then passing it through the flame of a bunsen burner. I accidentally get the order of operations mixed up. I dip the spreader, pass it through the flame, then shake the excess liquid off. The excess liquid is now, of course, little fireballs, and I shake them off into a half-full beaker of flammable liquid. I don’t notice for a few seconds, because the flame in the beaker is so transparent, but as soon as I do, I call for the teacher.)

Me: “Mr. [Teacher].”

(He is speaking to the class and doesn’t seem to hear me, so I get louder.)

Me: “Mr. [Teacher]!”

(Still speaking to the class, he is obviously ignoring me and annoyed about being interrupted, so I scream out.)

Me: “Mr. [Teacher]! FIRE!”

(He turns and immediately puts the fire out. The next year, I obtain a job assisting in practical lab sessions for younger students. I am assigned to the same class I had taken the year before and notice something different. They are using disposable plastic spreaders instead of the glass. I asked the same teacher about it.)

Teacher: “Yeah, we had to change because some idiot tried to set the lab on fire last year.”

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