Today is the second best day of the semester… today my neighbor is dissecting cats! For the next three days I will be attempting to teach about weather observation and prediction while simultaneously fighting off the headache invariably brought on by the delicate aroma of phenoxyethanol.
This is my Trial by Fire. Having long ago mastered lecturing about sexual reproduction while ignoring giggles, discussing schist formation amidst half-witted puns, and demonstrating dike formation without noticing students collapsing to the ground in silent hilarity, I have but one great challenge left to me as a science educator. Every year I am faced with the challenge of carrying on with class for days while refusing to cave to the never-ending stench of pickled felines. Last semester I achieved my personal best of two days before the headache reduced me to some mindlessly long video on extreme weather. I have high hopes today of making it all the way through the week this time!
Most of you will no doubt argue that the smell of phenoxyethanol isn’t all that bad, but if you’re honest with yourself I think you’ll realize that you only think that because you’ve repressed the memory and replaced it with the one of that magical afternoon spent romping amidst the wild poppy fields of Amsterdam. The human nose-brain connection can usually ignore a smell if it has been exposed to it for a longish time; this is how teenagers avoid passing out from their own unshowered funk. However, this particular aroma keeps coming at you until you feel that you can’t possibly stand it another minute and then, unbelievably, it gets worse. If it is possible for a smell to drive a person mad, this would be it.
Other subjects no doubt have their own versions of this Penultimate Test of Human Endurance, but I humbly suggest that Cat Dissection Week is the most heinous of the lot. What is the worst that English can offer… reading the Great Gatsby? Please. The best Math can bring to the table is long divison… amateurs. History might have made a decent offering by providing a lecture on the economies of the Middle Ages, but I understand that their last accomplished lecturer on the subject vowed to shoot himself instead of give that lesson again, so we can hardly count that one anymore.
This year I’ll be attempting visualization and acupuncture therapy in my efforts to ward off the crippling effects of Cat Dissection Week. Mostly I’ll be visualizing that I’m somewhere else while repeatedly jabbing students with paper clips in order to distract me from the horrifying reality of the greenish clouds seeping in under the door and through the vents. Wish me luck!