My Science Fair Project, Explained. Years Later.


It was middle school.  It was the science fair. And it was mandatory. I need to go on record with this one. Just to clarify what the fuck I was thinking. Not that anyone remembers or cares. Except I imagine myself perched on a velvet throne chair in the memory of a teacher somewhere, some grizzled war veteran of middle school science, whom after a few Coors Lights, thinks “man, but this one dumb kid, once.”

Of course, this teacher would have to be some kind of monster to be so contemptuous of sixth-grade science projects while chugging Silver Bullets. But Christ, sometimes, I just want the public school teachers of my memories to have been a monsters in mundane ways, and not in underage sex scandal ways that made the national news.

The science teacher wore wire-frame glasses, expensive joints from Pearle Vision. You could tell he paid extra for the anti-glare coating out of pure vanity. His hair was slicked over in a way that said Exotic Bird, or Ryder Strong Pin-Up in Teen Beat. The science classroom smelled of glue and teenage sweat that was barely concealed by the rolled-on gobs of Caribbean Cool deodorant. An eternal and unidentified burning smell had its own presence in the room. The science textbooks had the dense smell of cheese, each one a wheel of Gouda that could have been served with crackers.

Science itself is a blur to me. The Scientific method might as well have been the rhythm method. Or Tibetan methods of lucid dreaming. The Methodist Church.  I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. If you were one of the dumb ones, you were left to die at your desk while Wire Frames schmoozed with the smart kids over by the Bunsen burners.

I pretended not to care and fantasized about my tri-fold poster board. Some people were drawn to the female form. I was drawn to tri-fold form. That stark white poster board greeted me with allure and nakedness. It was sexual. It made me feel smart and important. Like I was Doing Science. Like the time I printed out my poems on our dot matrix printer at home and felt like a writer. Like the time I smashed ants on the sidewalk and felt like a serial killer. Like the time I watched My So Called Life on MTV and felt depression for the first time, because even though they were supposed to be the outsiders, they still weren’t as outside as me.

Fellow classmates proposed their science project ideas to Wire Frames like they were proposing marriage, much to his fanfare. He oohed and aahed. His breathing became voluptuous. His cheeks flustered as he pulled books out of locked cabinets to aid students in their projects. His hands shook as he wrote out his marriage vows, which might have  only been library book recommendations for further research.

I proposed my project at home to the dog. She didn’t immediately hork up the cat’s food, so I took it as her approval. At any rate, the cat food usually came back up while we were eating dinner. Sure, there’s light jazz dinner music, but have you ever tried dog vomit sounds while your mom yells at the dog for eating the cat’s special diet formula food? It’s serene.

Anyway. Here it is. My Grand Important Contribution to Science: What Evaporates Faster? Hot or Cold Water?

Water is science to me. I’m not dumb. I mean, I’m street smart. I’m creative. I can write good. I can perform basic self-care and hygiene. I can do simple math in my head to add the tip. I can raise children. I can not kill certain houseplants that are only the heartiest of motherfuckers.

That is to say, I got nothing left in the brain for science.  My brain space is like, okay don’t eat poison berries off random bushes, avoid quicksand, here’s a random but seemingly essential encyclopedic knowledge of dengue yellow fever symptoms, how to make a grilled cheese without  burning, how to sort shapes into Fisher Price bucket holes, and where all the warp pipes are in Mario.

I got nothing else.

So what evaporates faster, hot or cold water? Whys it cold, whys it hot, wheres it come from, whats it do. Hell if I know. Tap water, cups, science. Sexy tri-fold, I will dream of you tonight.

The main problem was, I didn’t keep the water samples at any consistent temperature. Instead they both turned to room temperature within minutes, and over a series of weeks, I measured how much they lost to evaporation. So really, the question was, what evaporates faster — water that was warm from the tap initially, or cold?

I stashed my cups away in cabinets. Because above all, what water needed to evaporate was darkness, silence, and solitude. I’m certain if I had done my project on the psychology of water, I would have gotten an A.

Soon, I began sweating it. I was measuring millimeters upon mere millimeters, stretching that shit out for science. I needed to report something, and pitting two cups of room temp water against one another ain’t exactly rocking the world of science. And no one — not my parents, not Wire Frames, not the dog, not the voice of God — was ever like, your idea is stupid as hell. I was like an American Idol contestant, sent out in the audition rounds just to be relentlessly mocked for being a moron. We’re not going to say you suck, we’re just going to send you out there TO DIE.

Now I think, well, my dad was working night shifts at the maximum security prison, and my mom was working full-time as a bank teller and managing the household, so my little water project was  low on their totem pole. Everyone was just trying to get  by, and I was just trying to get out of middle school. And that’s it. That’s the damn hustle.

I got a C from Wire Frames, which when paired with my participation ribbon, went together like an aged Manchego goes with a smokey Cabernet Sauvignon. And it’s hot water. Water that came out hot from the tap evaporates .0002 percent faster over the course of a month. You’re goddamn welcome, Science.

One thought on “My Science Fair Project, Explained. Years Later.

  1. Haha I did a water Science Fair Project too, although it was, “Which water has more minerals? Tap, Sparkling, or Natural?” Apparently, my teacher thought it was a dumb idea and gave me a C, despite the fact that the local news had stopped by my booth to talk about my project. I mean, I think mine was just as valid, after all, my best friend had done, “Which music makes plants grow faster?” and received an A!

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