My best friend and I were in our first year of high school, teaming up on a science lab experiment to grow borax crystals from a super-saturated solution. The experiment required the use of a Bunsen burner to heat up the water in the test tube. This allowed the water to absorb more of the borax, and reach the super-saturation point. Our team was in the middle of this last step, carefully monitoring the progress, when I accidentally knocked over the test tube. We felt crushed at that moment, as we stared at our experiment spilling over the table.
Determined not to flunk this project, we cleaned up my mess, and started all over again. We rushed to compress what was a twenty minute project into the last ten minutes of class. This time, during the super-saturation phase, we cranked up the heat on the Bunsen burner to screaming blue hot, in order to melt the borax crystals faster. We completed the experiment, labeled our test tube, and handed it in to the teacher. Then came the stressful weekend of waiting and wondering how our crystals turned out.
On our return Monday morning, there was a petri dish sitting on the teacher’s desk, holding what appeared to be a half inch diameter clear gem. When the teacher came in, she told everyone to retrieve their test tubes. My friend and I could not find ours, and panic began to set in. Had we failed miserably? Did our accident doom us to getting a big fat zero?
We sat nervously as our teacher explained that normally, the crystals grew haphazardly due to miniscule impurities in the solution. Looking at all the test tubes in the room, they all had what resembled little stalagmites sitting at the bottom. But on rare occasions she continued to explain, you ended up with a perfect single gem-like crystal, like the one that was in the petri dish on her desk. That’s when she looked at me and my friend, and told us that the perfect crystal was ours, and congratulated us on our excellent work.
I realize it was just a high school science lab experiment, but moments of perfection come few and far between in life. At that moment, we felt like we went from zeros to heroes. The real gem I took away from that experiment was the friendship I have shared with a dear friend, Mr. Raymond Ponticelli, for almost thirty years.
Yes, we’ve had to clean up a few more messes together over the years but all good friendships take a bit of work. (And I hope we get to be friends for another thirty years!)