Sometimes being a scientist isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Of course, at this point I’m not really a scientist. I went to school for sciency things, but that was years ago. Years and years. Like, back when Seinfeld was on once a week in primetime, as opposed to nineteen times after midnight when upstart local stations can plug seedy chat line commercials into the ad breaks. That long ago.
Still, science is like a cult. It sticks with you, even when you’ve managed to escape its clutches. You find yourself sometimes consulting its holy books, or listening to its fervent prophets. Also, you shouldn’t drink anything it offers you, because it’s likely to kill you.
(So how do you tell science and a cult apart? Well, one will provide a cohesive and consistent message whose details will help you to further make sense of the world around you. And the other will ask you to shave your head, put on a bedsheet and beg for change at the airport.
Which is which, I leave as an exercise for the reader.)
The point is, I was trained back in my school days in the scientific method. And there are certain techniques and lessons that never fully fade from mind: Observe. Hypothesize. Test. Adopt, adapt and improve. Never lick a Bunsen burner. Those sorts of things.
This has several repercussions for my daily life. I look at things a bit differently than I would otherwise. I’ll never be comfortable eating a Bunsen burner-shaped lollipop, for one thing. That’s the sort of thing that comes up approximately as often as you think it wouldn’t. Still. Something to think about.
“The only way to know if you’re right about something — can I drink a whole gallon of milk? do these pants make me look fat? is that burner-shaped sucker cherry flavored? — is to test it out.”
More relevant is the urge to test things. The only way to know if you’re right about something — can I drink a whole gallon of milk? do these pants make me look fat? is that burner-shaped sucker cherry flavored? — is to test it out. So I do. Even when I probably shouldn’t.
Especially when I probably shouldn’t. What fun is science if you can’t get into a little trouble now and then?
Like tonight, for instance. In the past few weeks, I’ve been having some trouble with bed.
(I said, with bed. Trouble WITH bed. Not in bed. That’s not the kind of trouble I’m looking for here.
Not this time.)
A few weeks ago, I unceremoniously flopped in an exhausted heap on the bed. I do this occasionally — mostly when coming home from a long day at the office. Or from a long walk with the dog. Also, after bending over to tie my shoes or catching up on email or when the commercial break during a Simpsons episode is too long.
Hey, I’m easily winded. Shaddup.
Following this particular flop, however, a funny thing occurred. Not ‘funny ha-ha’ so much as ‘funny crash-thunk-hey-who-just-turned-the-bed-diagonal?’
In other words, I broke the bed. Specifically, a bracket on my side near the head gave way, dumping one of the slats underneath — and thereby also dumping the box spring, the mattress, the pillow, the covers and the flopping jackhole lying atop — onto the floor below.
At this point, ‘science’ kicked in. A little. I pulled myself together, peeled back the mattress and crawled under the bed to investigate the problem. I saw that one side of the bracket had come loose, with the screw tearing out of the crossboard. Immediately, ‘science’ had me thinking of several possible fixes, most of which involved some sort of physics or engineering solution. Or at least some shit I probably should have learned back in Wood Shop. Power tools, certainly. Maybe a level. My head swam with the possibilities.
That’s when I told ‘science’ to take a four-eyed hike, because all those ideas sounded nothing but tiring. Instead, I found the loose screw, jammed it back through the bracket, twisted it back into the board by hand as far as I could, and hoped for the best. Because sometimes there’s ‘science’, and sometimes there’s ‘useless lazy bastard’. And ne’er the twain shall meet.
This all worked out fine for a while. Every night since then I’ve climbed into bed — very, very gently climbed into bed — and dreamed my little dreams in peace. Until this morning. At just around six in the a.m., I turned from one side to the other for a further nap, in evidently too floppy a way. I turned, the bed caved, and again I found myself tucked into a beddy-bye cruising at forty-five degrees from plumb.
Finally, I turned back to science. Two’s a charm, apparently. And this time, I got the wife involved, so things would get done right. Two heads can lick twice as many burners, or something like that. I was out sick during ‘science cliches’ day, so I don’t really know how the sayings go. But you get the idea.
Once we got home after work tonight, we were on the case. Soon enough, we’d stripped the bed down to the frame, had another look at the problem, and put a plan in motion. A good plan, too — not the old ‘cross your fingers and hope you’re not tossed across the nightstand’ kind of deal. We found a new screw to replace the old one, plus a power drill, seventeen sizes of drill bits, and a pencil to mark with. I’m half-surprised we didn’t whip up some blueprints and break out the safety goggles. I’m talking serious stuff, here.
So we drilled a guide hole for this new screw, popped it in, tightened it up, and replaced the box spring and mattress on top of the bed. Everything went as planned, and the fix seemed to hold as expected. We lay down on our handiwork to try it out. All systems go, so far as we could tell.
Only… how can we be sure?
My wife gave me a funny look. ‘Sure of what?‘ she asked?
‘Sure that it’ll hold. REALLY hold.‘
She moved on to a blank stare. ‘It’s holding us NOW, isn’t it?‘
But I — and ‘science’ — wouldn’t be deterred. Sure, we could lie on the bed. Anyone could fix a bed so that you might be able to lie, gingerly and motionless, on top. I got three weeks of that from my last fix, and that was no fix. I know fixes, sir, and you are no fix.
So I started testing. First, I turned from one side to the other. Floppily. And turned back, just as floptastically as before.
‘Whoa,‘ my wife chided. ‘You’re gonna break it again.‘
I explained that I was just doing some mild stress testing, and that if our solution was to hold any weight intellectually, then it was going to have to first hold weight physically. It all sounded very official and sciencish. I flopped some more.
She didn’t agree. Leave well enough alone, she said. Don’t push your luck, she said. Go lick a Bunsen burner, she said, and stop flopping your fat ass all over the bed we just fixed.
‘Aha, but that’s the rub,‘ I flopped back. ‘If it’s really fixed, then this won’t hurt it a bit. I flopped like this for years before it broke down; if we’re as smart as we think we are, then this will have no effect whatsoever.‘ Flop. Flop. Flop.
Finally, I was really for the flopping finale. The flop de gras. Le flop de resistance. The move that started the mess in the first place — a full-drop, half-twist backward blind ass-first exhausted FLOP right into the middle of my groove on my side of the mattress. If the fix held for that, it’d hold for anything.
My wife saw me preparing the approach. ‘So help me… if you break this bed again, you are sleeping in the bathroom tonight. Let it go.‘
No go was I letting. I reiterated my faith in our fix — our sciency solution — stood up, took a big heaving sigh and FLOOOOOOPPED down onto the bed. I simply had to perform the test. And, as I suspected, our fix held like a champ, with barely a creak from the vicinity of the wonky bracket.
Sadly, the bracket at the bottom of the bed was not so cooperative, and gave way with a *snap*, dumping us sideways toward the foot in a heap. I explained that this proved — scientifically, no less — that our bracket configuration was superior, and we should remount all of the hardware under the bed to take advantage of our clear structural improvement.
Instead, she flung my pillow into the bathtub. And turned on the shower. Cold.
Eventually, we reached an agreement. We fixed the one now-broken bracket, the same way as the first. We then tested — gently tested — that the bed would hold weight under minimal-stress (i.e., ‘essentially flopless’) conditions. And I pointed out that since it was a different bracket that gave out, I hadn’t broken the bed ‘again’, precisely, which got me out of sleeping in the bathtub.
Instead, I got the couch. After she threw the cushions under the shower, too. There’s just no beating my wife on technicalities. That girl knows science. And she’s not afraid to use it.Permalink | No Comments