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?”
“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?”
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 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.”
“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