A cautionary tale of the dangers of Chemistry and cannabis.

It was a bright, though chilly, spring day, in the year of our Lord 1997. There may well have been baby rabbits frolicking in the grass, ducks paddling in the lake, bluebirds singing their hearts out in duets with fair maidens in the woods, but I wouldn't have known about it; I was stuck in the chemistry lab, in a practical.

Let us backtrack a little. At the time, six years ago, I was a 2nd year science student in UCD; University College Dublin. The faculty of science was, and still is, situated in the main campus at Belfield, in a three-storey semi-prefab building, with first-floor tunnels leading to the biology, chemistry and physics buildings. All these prefabricated buildings were erected some 35 years ago, to temporarily house the faculty while a more suitable structure was being built. And now, in 2003, they are still in the old building, and as far as I know, there is still no sign of them being moved.

So, anyway, I was in a Chemistry practical, in the second floor laboratory that was reserved for second years. Chemistry practicals could be quite interesting. We had a tradition of writing on each others lab-coats; Orla Dermody once got the shock of her life when Professor Fitzpatrick quietly strolled up behind her and yelled "I am the Walrus!!!", which I had written on her back. Jo Brown, the girl at the bench next to me, treated me as her personal butler, due to my surname; she had me fetching *exactly* ten carefully measured millilitres of di-ethyl ether, or *precisely* four and a bit milligrams of salicylic acid. Most of these substances were to be found either in the weighing room at the back of the lab, or in fume cupboards along the side; but the really volatile chemicals, the most highly flamable solvents, were stored in a small room at the front of the lab, where they also kept the spare glassware.

This small room was populated by the two nameless lab techs, who looked like a classic comedy duo; a tall balding one with glasses and a stutter, who reminded me somewhat of Beaker, from The Muppet Show, and a short hairy one, resembling Terry Jones from the Monty Python team. They spent most of their time either playing pool, loitering in the canteen, or sitting in their little room, smoking. Plumes of white smoke mingled with the peculiar fumes of what were surely explosive chemicals, and the tinkle of shattered, expensive glassware. Every so often, the door would open a crack, and an inquisitive head would poke out to make sure none of the lecturers or the senior technician were about. I guess they developed some weird immunity, and an instinct as to how much they could get away with without blowing the place up, that would explain their survival. They were there long before I was, and I'm sure they'll still be there for years to come, somehow...

And then, there was the time some girl accidentally synthesized amyl nitrate, or poppers as it's sometimes known. Those were the days, my friends.

Back to this particular day. I can't for the life of me remember what we were hoping to accomplish in the practical, but it involved quite a lot of organic solvents; plenty of ethers, acetone, carboxylic acids and the like. Understandably, there were plenty of fumes floating around the lab, and many people had to go outside for some fresh air every half-an-hour or so. The practical itself lasted for three hours, and after tidying up and putting all the apparatus away, I made my way across to the main science building, to stash my lab-coat and notebook in my locker.

As I left the locker room, I met my friend Jon. I can't remember whose idea it was, but we decided to go for a smoke. And I don't mean cigarettes. Myself and Jon used to smoke quite a bit of dope, especially during second year; most of our friends did as well. We weren't complete pot heads, or anything; we just used it to relax. Anyway, we climbed the stairs to the very top of the science building, to the large attic-like room that heald the air conditioning machinery for the second-floor lecture theatres. This was our favoured place for skinning up and smoking, as nobody ever went up there.

Glossing over the gory details, we had a joint, giggled at each other, and covered up our tracks; at this point, I got an attack of the munchies, so I whimsically ran down all four flights of stairs to the shop on the ground floor, to get some chocolate. I felt a little light-headed, but thought nothing of it. Peggy, the woman who ran the shop, commented that I looked a little pale; I told her it was just a cold or something. I spotted my friend Lou coming in, from a visit to the campus Medical center, and started walking that direction.

All of a sudden, my vision was crowded with purpley-green dots, which joined together to completely block my vision; and I walked -SMACK!- straight into a row of lockers. Being a nice old lady, Peggy called over a girl from college services, who asked me if I was alright, and insisted I should go to hospital. Luckily, Lou came over, and said she'd bring me over to the medical center. The services girl reluctantly left me in Lou's hands, and we left the building.

As soon as we got outside, Lou asked me "Have you been doing something you shouldn't have...?"

I replied that she had seen me coming downstairs with Jon, and therefore should have guessed that. Smacking my head off the locker had cleared my head and my vision, and aside from a little dizziness, I felt fine now.

"We'll go over and sit by the lake, you look like you could do with some fresh air. I was really worried when you hit your head like that - your face turned completely green!"


Based on a true story. Some names may have been changed to protect the innocent, and the not-so-innocent - but you'll never know!
This tale of high adventure has been entered for iceowl's excellent quest.

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