Wednesday, December 01, 2010

My Personal Kryptonite

I feel fortunate that the various aromas, fragrances and odors that are given off by chemicals never seem to bother me much. Whether its mercaptans,pretty much anything with a nitrogen in it...whatever, there is very little causes problems. But I was reminded yesterday of one solvent that will quickly have me leaving an area if I get even a small with - ether. That's right, diethyl ether.

A bunch of us were playing around with some nitrocellulose that was dispersed in ether. Out of the 6 of us, 1 was the only one that got light-headed and bolted. I wasn't even the closest person to the sample. And I also had a very strong emotion come rushing in from long ago and far away.

When I was 5, I was hospitalized with pneumonia for 10 days. That may seem like a horrible case, but keep in mind that at that time, women routinely stayed in the hospital for a full week (or more) after giving birth, quite a bit different from the 2 days maximum that insurance companies currently cover. Regardless, that whiff of ether immediately brought me back to those days in the hospital. I don't know why, as I wasn't operated on - maybe a nurse used some to get an antsy 5-year old to fall asleep.

It been said that the sense of smell is the most emotional of the senses, and this certainly provides evidence of that. I very seldom think about that time in the hospital, but that shot of ether brought it all back and with some other emotions that are hard to describe.

I'm fortunate that I never have had to do an ether extraction. That would be something for me to hand off to someone else, or find another extracting agent. But if you ever want to either 1) get me out of the lab or 2) just quickly know me out, a faint fume of ether will do.

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