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Born a Texan, but traveled the US extensively.  Now staying on the East coast.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How I Almost Lost This Dream Job And What My Boss Did To Save Me


During my lunch times or times outside, I began finding different pieces of jewelry and I wanted to know what it was made of. 
My dad had been a jeweler at one point in his life and had imparted some of what he knew. 
As a chemist, I had studied the different properties of metals and did some tests.  My boss went on vacation as I found some very beat up jewelry that appeared to be silver.  I dissolved it and tested it and found it was silver, but it was now in solution and I wanted to bring it out as pure silver.  I had dissolved it in nitric acid and I thought, let me neutralize the acid with ammonium hydroxide, nothing happened, so I left a small flask with maybe 10 mLs of liquid on the counter a left for the evening.  Ammonia-nitrogen compounds are not stable, Ammonium-nitrate-silver compounds more so.  It explored destroying the flask and leaving small droplets of silver ammonium droplets within a 25 foot area.  They popped when you stepped on them,  They left a black stain on what ever they touched with in the area.  There was no other damage, but the black spots could not be covered up.  When my boss returned, I was brought into his office and read the riot act.  Simply put, if I ever tried anything like that again, he would find some way to terminate me. 
Like the chemicals I worked with, if I became too agitated, I had a short fuse and could explode, but when I was wrong, I was wrong and I was contrite enough to agree never to do anything like that again. 
The next spring, recognizing that part of the issue was boredom, he sent me to an entomology work shop and with the bit of knowledge I had from being an insect collector as a child, I became the laboratory's in-house entomologist.
While I was definitely shaken by my experiment gone wrong, it also shook off what ever malaise had been affecting me.  I began to develop a fire within me, again.

 Next:
The Fire Takes Off
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