What Kind of Hero are You?

Are you a hero? I think we would all like to think that we could be heroes if given the right opportunity and the right circumstances. The lack of opportunity may be the only thing hindering us from rising to our full heroic potential.

We may be the office wimp or the short-sighted library bookworm or we might be an Indiana Jones look-a-like but if that fleeting opportunity does not come our way then the world will never know our hidden heroic capabilities. We will always be Clark Kent and never Superman.

What heroic deed might you have in you to perform? Might you be the knight in shining armour for the lady in distress? Might you be the mother who is able to hold three jobs and still take care of the children’s problem with bullies in school while smiling all the time and never raising her voice ……”Super Mom”? Or might you be the one who scores the winning point for your team in the national championships ….”Mr. Golden Goal”?

If you follow the comic book characters of the Fantastic Four; there’s Mr. Fantastic (cause its “fantastic” the way he stretches), the Invisible Girl (for obvious reasons) , Johnny Torch (cause he is all sizzle and fire) and the Thing (cause the name says it all). What might our Super hero name be?

For example, if I see a bunch of young hoodlums picking on an elderly citizen, I might do one of the following; a) Shout at them and show them my muscles and they run away (that would be the Terminator), b) I could do that and they roll around laughing so much that they are helpless (The Entertainer), c) They are not impressed, leave the elderly victim and come beat me up (The Substitute Man) or d) I sneak away and call the cops (The “Call for help” Man, also known as the Energiser Man cause of a longer lifespan than the Substitute Man).

Looking back over my many years, there have in fact been a number of occassions that I have had an opportunity to demonstrate my heroic traits. As I relate the following incident, please help me to decide what my Super Hero name should be.

In my first year at University, I had to do a laboratory class on organic chemistry. This is probably one of the most dangerous lab sessions for first year students because almost every chemical we get to play with is either extremely toxic, foul smelling or combustible. The laboratory had long work benches that could accommodate two working pairs on each side. The central median of the work bench was where we kept some commonly used chemicals and also where the switches for the lights, the gas and the suction pumps were located so that it could be accessed from either side.

During one of these laboratory sessions, we were supposed to use an oil bath to evaporate an inflammable solvent to recover something dissolved in the solvent. The oil bath allows us to reach higher temperatures than 100 degrees Celsius safely as long as no naked flame ignites the oil or the flammable fumes of the solvent. This can be achieved by using a special element heater but on no occassion is the bunsen burner used because it has a powerful naked flame.

When we took our places, my lab partner, Mr. “Run for your life” was not at all pleased to find that opposite us was “Super Clumsy Girl” and her sidekick “Miss. Frantic”. He warned me that the omens are bad and something bad was going to happen. Based on what we were doing, I figured that fire was going to be a likely feature of the afternoon and made a mental note of what to do in case of one.

Sure enough in less than an hour later, there was a “whoossh” as Super Clumsy Girl ignited her oil bath and solvent mix by using a bunsen burner to help “speed up the slow process”. She starts to scream (another super power of hers). Miss. Frantic panicked and dropped her crucible of toxic paste all over the floor (its going to be one big mess to clean up). I turn to yell at my partner to alert the lab supervisor and to fetch the fire extinguisher at the end of the room but Mr. Run for your life was nowhere to be seen. Now that’s fast on your feet.

My calm, objective mind told me that this fire was only flaring because the bunsen flame was too strong. Reduce and shut off the gas and the bunsen flame will stop fueling the oil and solvent combustion and then using a metal plate to cover the oil bath would snuff off the remaining flames. First step was to calmly reach into the middle and turn the tap to reduce the gas.

Despite the flames shooting a spectacular three feet off the desk top and amidst all the screaming from Super Clumsy Girl and the panic dance by Miss. Frantic, I reached and turned the tap and as I did so, I was rewarded by the sight that the flames came down and some one threw the metal plate on the apparatus when it was safe to do so. Crisis over.

There was a lot of back-slapping in celebration after that. Mr. Run for your life reappeared and congratulated me for my brave handling of the situation. I said it was nothing, just cool steely nerves and a realisation that you had to turn off the gas at the tap. As we were talking, we both heard a rattling sound. It was very loud. It was ….. the suction pump. Why was the suction pump on?

Sadly, the realisation set in that I had braved the flames and stood there cooly turning on the suction pump while the lab supervisor had switched off the gas supply at the mains.

So dear friends, what kind of super hero name do you think I deserve? What is your super hero name?


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