Humanities Girl in a Science World

9:57 PM


Dating a chemistry major has been an adventure. I've emptied out chemicals into the distilled water sink, edited rough drafts of junior theses, and spent enough long nights in the chem lounge to be fed free Taco Bell at midnight. I used to hate the ugly science building, used to feel terrified and out of place wandering the halls in search of my love, but after napping on the chem lounge couch for two semesters straight, I feel more at home in Strosacker than many science students do, to be honest.

None of that blue couch napping prepared me for the caddisfly adventure.

What's a caddisfly? I still have no idea. It's just some bug Erich caught, killed, and sorted for his professor (who happens to be my bio teacher -- woot woot!).

I attended the inaugural blacklighting event. Erich bravely chatted with homeowners to get permission to traipse around their riverside property at midnight collecting bugs. Nobody could say no to that cute face and neurotic hand gestures. We rolled in at dusk to set up the blacklight and rolled back in two hours later to collect our booty -- piles upon piles of dead bugs drowned in ethanol.

Fun fact: If you wear a headlamp near the riverside in the pitch dark of a June night, you'll get a mouthful of moths.

A week later, he ended up back at the biological station with bottles of dead bugs. I was freed by the Fourth of July's four-day weekend, so I drove up to the middle of nowhere to spend a weekend roughin' it with the science kids. In lieu of an exorbitant lodging fee, I sorted caddisflies for hours.


See that picture up top? We tweezed out the caddis flies into little piles and then sorted them by color, wing shape, and whatever flight of fancy took us at the moment. Then we bottled and labeled them. Erich's professor has found multiple new species this way. Science!

By order of our professor, we abandoned caddisfly sorting for the majority of the weekend and instead hit the lake with kayaks and canoes.

Fun fact: Kayak races that turn into kayak battles when your boyfriend blocks your path to shore are totally a thing.

I told Erich weeks ago that he needed to teach me how to fillet a fish. Sometimes I'm a little nervous about my inability to do real world things, so I felt that cutting up a freshly caught fish would add points in my favor.

Here's me with the fish:


Am I not just adorable holding two big bass I didn't catch? Look at me being so outdoorsy.

Let me tell you something: I nearly broke down crying/hyperventilating at the mere thought of filleting those fish. Somewhere along the lines in my dreams of achieving Warrior Woman status, I neglected to remember that filleting a fish one has just caught involves killing that fish. I kept envisioning the packaged cod Erich's mom grilled up for us last summer.

Nope. This grill-out was preceded by a solemn parade from the water's edge: Little children ran up to see the fish and then freaked out. I plodded along, staring down their toothed throats. Is that a leech? Their weight strained at the chain.

"Erich?" I wanted to know. "Can they feel pain?"

"I don't know. You can't hear their screams out of the water."

Then he snapped this smiling photo of me about to murder the fish.

I only accidentally murdered them. The first one got semi-murdered when I dropped it on the cabin porch after Erich ordered me to pick it up by the mouth. Instead of touching the fish, I started keening the prescient death of these poor fishes.

"Erich!" I screamed. "It has a tongue! Oh, gosh, it has a tongue! I have a tongue. We are one. Solidarity. I can't do this!"

I turned around to see him sharpening the knife.

About five minutes passed before I worked up enough hardness of heart to grip that fish's jaw in my fingers and carry him inside. That's when I dropped him.

"Now he's dead," Erich chastised.

Except he wasn't dead. He wasn't dead when Erich started filleting him alive. He wasn't dead when Erich had to chase me out of the bathroom and make me stand next to him while he demonstrated a proper filleting technique. He wasn't dead at all as I peered through my trembling fingers.

R.I.P
"Are you freaking out because he's still alive?" Erich asked with great wonder. I nodded. "Okay." And he stabbed the fish's brains out.

Meanwhile, the other fish suffocated.

It was an awful night. I did, to avoid filleting two fish, fillet one-half of the first fish. I cut through the intestines accidentally. We found a partially digested fishing lure and a parasite.

Fun fact: We ate those fish for dinner.


The other exciting things about living in the middle of nowhere for a weekend are old-fashioned gas pumps, associate pastors in khaki shorts, green polos, and charcoal blazers, and the nearest town being half an hour away during a feminine emergency.

I like this science world.

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8 impressions

  1. You made me cry I was laughing so hard at your fillet story. Too hilarious for words. I'm going to have to read it to my avid fisherman second-cousin :D

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    1. Haha! I will never be able to earn an outdoorsy reputation at this rate! :D

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  2. HAHA! Girly I miss you. :) I'm still laughing...

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    1. I feel like all of my semi-funny posts are indebted to the years I've spent reading your truly-hilarious posts! xoxo

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  3. I remember bug sorting!! I spent the summers after my Junior and Senior years in high school picking the Culicoides variipennis (a midge) out of jars of dead bugs and ethanol for the USDA. I can still close my eyes and picture the defining characteristics of a variipennis wing. Ah . . . fun times. LOL

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    1. You too?! What even! I haven't got to the point where I can picture a caddisfly in my brain ("No, Bailey, that's a moth. That's a mayfly. That's...never mind."), but I can imagine how quickly one could get there. O.o :D

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  4. Oh, I feel your pain. My dad made me watch fish getting cleaned when I was between 8-12 when I was at a Father-Son Camp, and it made me cry. I still can't really stand it. I think in a survival situation I'd eat bugs for at least a few days before I got the guts (and hunger!) to catch and clean a fish. If I could figure out how...

    I'm honestly counting on my bubbly personality in the zombie apocalypse. And my legs. At least I can run.

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    1. Josiah!!! Hahaha! You crack me up. :D

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