Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Doomed Science Project

Picture me, Selah, in ninth grade, which seems like a hundred years ago. Our school’s Science Fair loomed. I wanted to participate, and I wanted to win. I’d read the work of J.B. Calhoun, who'd written a paper called "The Effect of Overpopulation in Rats and Mice and thought that it would make a dandy of a Science project, one that surely would garner me a big honkin’ red ribbon. I put together my hypothesis and my allowance, and walked to the closest K-Mart, where I plunked down cash to buy a tiny metal cage and as many mice as I could afford.

The idea was that they’d have babies, and then more babies, and I’d be able to write a brilliant paper like Dr. Calhoun’s (only in my own words) about how the mice stopped acting like normal mice and began doing “weird stuff.” This model would then be applied to the human race and I could expound in my best fourteen year old English how this was what was happening in cities around the world…..cities I’d never even seen, and knew little about, but I digress. I was filled with excitement and anticipation while walking home with my Chinese Take Away cartons o’ mice. Upon arriving home, I set up my “laboratory” with the mouse house (my version of a miniature New York) my notebook and pencil at the ready. If I could have found a lab coat, you can bet I’d have worn it.

Within hours, the boys were fighting. No amount of discipline, pleading, scolding or harsh looks could get them to stop. There was blood, bitten ears, screeching, and horror. I hit my big brother up for some more cash and back to K-Mart I trudged to get a second cage. Within weeks I had baby mice alright, but the mommies got scared because the daddies were still in the cage so they ate them. I bought more cages. As a scientist, I think I failed. As a young girl, I believe my humanity triumphed. And now, so many years later, when, at the end of each day that I’ve eaten, and eaten well – without causing any sentient being any suffering, that young girl triumphs again.

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