Thursday, August 17, 2006

I am a firewoman. Was.

The vast part of today was spent figuring out classes to register in. I
know what you might be thinking -- how hard can that be? My question
exactly. I kept finding cool classes, but then the time or the prereq's
didn't work out! So now I'm finally set -- with 3 chemistry classes and one
biophysics class. At one point I was so desperate that I started looking in
nutrition classes. But then I realized that I'd have to explain to some
advisor sometime why I took "The Nutrition of Noodles" or something like
that (they don't have that class yet, but it MIGHT be coming soon).

I didn't like the mental picture of an advisor's disapproving stare. So I
avoided the nutrition classes. I would have taken statisics, but TIME put a
stop to it!!!

Ah well- enough of that! It's bringing up bad memories.

TODAY was firetraining day. Imagine this: the Main Quad on campus (a friendly, grassy plain in the shape of a rectangle) has a fire safety demo set up. One woman mans the remotely-controlled propane fire. Two firemen stand amid a sea of fire extinguishers. 77 students are separated into two groups of 38 1/2 students each. A propane flame starts ferociously. A
student yells "Call the Fire Department!" and in slow motion pulls the pin
on their fire extinguisher. They aim the nozzle and squeeze the handles
together. Approaching the raging fire, they sweep the flame with the stream
of CO2. A gushing noise fills the air. As the CO2 begins to run low, the
pitch climbs higher and higher. But the flame has flickered out. And yet
another catastrophe has been avoided.

Each of us got to try our hand at being fire heroes. So there was a total
of 77 fires put out today. I, being the eminently qualified person that I
am, failed the aim the nozzle and approached the flame with the nozzle
pointed down at the ground. At first I wondered what was wrong, and then I
could hardly help laughing at my own stupidity. One girl managed to put out
a fire while holding her purse under one arm. Several guys wore flipflops
the whole time!

Of course, a group this big doing something this interesting is hard to pass
up. I turned around about halfway through the training and saw a dad, mom,
and little girl watching the whole thing with eyes wide-open. I think they
were wondering what in the world we were doing. The grad student next to me
turned to them and said, "It's the chemistry department." That explained
the whole thing to the parents. They nodded their heads slowly, knowingly.
I half expected them to touch their heads and sympathize with our strange
mental state. Only the daughter stood transfixed for several additional

(I think I told some of you this already). At one point, two innocent bystanders strolled up to our group. The one guy was content to watch, but the other guy marched up and took a fire extinguisher. He pulled the pin, and with a completely straight face attacked the fire and put it out. Then he and his friend went on their merry little way. The guy who just watched keeps laughing, and they both talk in a language I've never heard before. I'd like to have known what they were saying.

All in all, it was the highlight of the whole TA training day.

Picture reference: Fire

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