Monday, October 17, 2005

NFTV: Organic Chemistry ME

It was last July. My son and I were in a neighborhood restaurant. The place has to be the tiniest Mexican restaurant in the city. It’s one block from where we live, and the food is authentic, homemade, and delicious—except for the sopapillas, which are flat and hardly worth the waste of good honey.

We had arrived early in the evening and were seated at a table for two in the back corner of the store-front establishment. The room was the size of a master bedroom. Ours was one of twenty tables arranged in four columns and five rows. with a slightly wider center aisle. Having lived in Texas, we knew our way around a Mexican restaurant menu. We place our orders almost before our behinds hit the seats.

The little two top, covered with white butcher paper, barely fit me, my son, and his Organic Chemistry book. Still he pulled it out and started writing. This behavior was nothing new.

So opens another episode of Nerd Family TV.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m studying Organic Chemistry.”

“We’re at dinner.”

“I know, but class starts in three months. I want to work all of the problems before classes begin. I won’t have time then.”

“I see. What chapter are you on?”

“Chapter 7.”

“I think you have time for a small dinner break.” The food arrived as if on cue.

“What? You want to take a look at my book. Don’t you?”

“Well, yeah.”

He passed over the textbook, and I started paging through it. My son kept working the practice problem that he was on. We both begin eating.

“I’m not sure that I would trust a book on Organic Chemistry with an author who called himself “Buzz.” My son just shakes his head. He continues working and eating.

“Well, this helpful hint is super.” I say with the lilt of sarcasm.


“It says if you want to know what’s in the chart, read the chart.”

My son gives me a look that says “Okay, Mom, if that’s all you can find . . . ”

I mention two others that have a genuine DUH factor. He asks me to explain what I mean. Little did I know he was letting me take enough rope to tie myself into the conversation.

Then he put his plan into action.

“So what do you think of that molecule there? Isn’t it cool?” he said. “Huh? Huh?”

“It’s pretty. Though I might have chosen a slightly bluer shade of green.” He ignored my color choice and instead explained exactly what molecule it was that I was critiquing. Roped in. There I was attempting to make something of bad sopapillas, and he was teaching me Organic Chemistry.

He repeated the procedure for two or three molecules, until it was fully proved that I wasn’t paying attention. I was just not learning. I needed to drop this class. His approach to Organic Chemistry as Dinnertime Fun was not working.

He’s a smart guy. He changed the plan.
Out came his pen and he began drawing on the paper tablecloth. His drawing, which looked vaguely familiar, was entirely in chemical notation. When he’d finished his artwork, he looked up at me with a rare smile.

’What do you think?”

“Of what?”

“Of your picture? I just drew you in Chemical Notation.”


He explained how he used carbon molecules to make my head, torso, arms, legs, feet, hands, fingers, and toes.

“Wait a minute, I only have three fingers on each hand, same thing with the toes.”

“Carbon only bonds in threes.”

“I want the normal five. What would the neighbors think?”

“Well I could give you two helium. That's the next closest, but there would be a problem.”

“What’s that?”

“The two helium fingers would be five miles long.”

“Those are my choices?”

“Yes. That’s how it works.”

“I give. There’d be no getting gloves to fit them.”


I hadn’t paid attention to whether anyone had been looking or listening. But there was no missing that the whole restaurant watched us walk out the door. Apparently that episode of NFTV had it’s highest viewership. Maybe we should have waited to have that conversation during sweeps week.

Why am I still wondering whether I should go for the helium fingers?
—me strauss Letting me be


Sam Freedom said...

ps. Stick with the carbon fingers. There's nothing to be ashamed of...molecule people don't view things like we do. To them, 3 carbon fingers is the mark of an advanced being.

Remember, helium...float away. Carbon, diamonds...a girls best friend.


Bluesky_Liz said...

Carbon. Carbon is good. It's the backbone of life and all. Stick with carbon.

__________ said...

haha. Thats such a great story! :)
five mile fingers whew. You could indeed pick your friends noses with something like that!
Sounds like an amazing kid.

Jennifer said...

That was great (as usual). Sounds like you have a wonderfully unique family--the best type of family if you ask me :)

ME Strauss said...

He Sam,
Welcome, thanks for the advice. You're right I have nothing to be ashamed of with three fingers. After all, it is my son's design.


ME Strauss said...

Hi Liz,
thanks for stopping by.
I stick with the carbon. It is the stuff of life. If it's okay for stars, it's okay for me.

ME Strauss said...

Good to see that you've been finding things nice around here.

I never thought about the upside of five mile fingers. They would be good for tapping people on their should at rock concerts and letting them know to sit down.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Jennifer,
Thanks for saying that.
Yeah we all are just right for each other. We do get into some unusual conversations though.

fineartist said...

This post was absolutely awesome. I can’t imagine…my two oldest children tended to shy away from advanced academic subjects, although they fared well enough in the basics. Samps, well he is only eight, and so far he is convinced that science is a torture device developed by his teacher, to drive him mad.

AKA as I remember never went far without a sketch pad back then, and he would draw tattoo designs while waiting for his food, or read fantasy books, mostly Dragon Lance. Ye gads, and if anyone was to find a hair in his/her food, it would always be him, and he would always nearly wretch.

Anonym daughter, she would read, while she waited, talk to me or aggravate her brother.

She majored in musical theatre in college. I helped her pick her first semester classes. I scheduled her for Anthropology, a class that I absolutely LOVED. She loathed it, and her grade reflected her feelings toward it. She blamed me, said the name alone scared her, and why would I think she would LIKE it?

ME Strauss said...

Hi Lori,
Thank you, such is the life of Nerd Family TV.

We're all is a little weird is what this blog is teaching me. I just can't get over the things that you all find in the simple stories I tell.

The human things you relate, Lori, are so special to me. They say what a great mom you are. How your kids must look up to you. I know I do.


fineartist said...

Liz, I dig you too. XXX, Lori

Mark said...

Nerd Family TV indeed. That's hilarious. I would say you need to get out more but that may be the problem.

ME Strauss said...

Your comment made me laugh out loud. Yeah we do act a little strangely--a part of what makes us us I think.

I can still picture me with two fingers five miles long. Imagine if there were many more of us . . .


garnet david said...

Adorable. I just wanna hug your whole NF through the TV

Janus said...

At least you didn't get to chapter 8 yet (shivers) Well it's nice that you relate with each other and are able to talk and joke around

ME Strauss said...

Hi Janus,
How's work going?

He did finish the book before class started. Then he decided that Organic Chemistry was too black and white for him. Now economics is more his thing. Of course, video is is first love and has been all along.