Bunsen burner: (n) a small adjustable gas burner used in laboratories.
It happened to me this morning when I read the words “Bunsen burner.” I found myself suddenly terrified, with a little tingling in my bowels.
I did not realize I had this memory of a Bunsen burner which is–pardon the expression–seared into my consciousness.
I was a sophomore in high school and arrived late to chemistry class on a day when Bunsen burners were going to be used for some experiment. I think we were going to take a beaker of fluid and warm it under the Bunsen burner to see what happened to the consistency–yet the exact purpose is beyond my recollection.
But because I arrived late, I ended up with the Bunsen burner due for retirement. The teacher warned, “Be careful. That one’s a bit tricky.”
Since I had never used a Bunsen burner before, I didn’t know what would make one temperamental. So I got it all hooked up, released the nozzle or whatever you do to get it to light–and it didn’t. I turned it off and tried again. No luck.
I looked to my teacher for help, but he purposely averted his eyes as if he did not want to deal with this particular apparatus.
I was about to try a third time, reaching over, and suddenly the Bunsen burner decided to come alive.
I burned my hand.
I was pretty sure it was third degree, but was later told by my doctor that it was just a scorch. But it hurt like hell, though I’m not sure why hell would hurt–or maybe I am.
After all, it’s a place of fire.
Like a Bunsen burner.