The L-Space Web: The Timelines: 1st Annual All-In AFP Stupidity One-Upmanship Contest

1st Annual All-In AFP Stupidity One-Upmanship Contest

September 1999

Subject: [I] Poorly afper
From: Julia Jones
Date: 9th September 1999

Excuse poor typing for the next few days. I just found out the
hard way how hot the glue in a hot glue gun actually is.

From: Martyn Clapham


I almost did that myself, although my 'best' trick was to catch
the back of a TV tube with my hand before the charge on it had
chance to leak away. It tingled a bit! :-)

From: David Ferguson
Date: 10th September 1999

I once picked up a hot soldering iron by the wrong end.I wasn't
really paying attention and it took a few moments to connect the
funny smell to the pain in my fingers. Hmmm, probably not
something to boast about, unless they do a TV game show called
"I'm So Dumb.."

When I was very young (about 8 or 9 I think), we had to do sewing at
school, and I managed to stitch a piece of cloth to my thumb (just
through the outer skin layers) without noticing.

From: Kincaid

The best I have done was (mostly) a friend's fault. We were working
on a phyics electronics project, and I noticed this nasty smell. I
ask my mate three times what the input voltages are, and each time
- 5 volts is the reply. I can't see any magic smoke, so I start tapping
componants, until my finger stuck to a tranny. Turns out the eejit has
put +_20 volts across the board, and was evaporating the solder on the
tinned tranny. I was no a happy chappy, but the tranny kept working,
even though it had glowed red hot.

TTFN, Kincaid "Sizzle, Arrgghh"

Subject: [I] 1st Annual All-In AFP Stupidity One-Upmanship Contest
From: David Chapman
Date: 11th September 1999

I once got my thumb caught in an operating bandsaw. If I hadn't got
such strong fingernails, I could have lost the tip of my on-hand thumb.
Certainly taught me to keep an eye on what I was doing.

Can anyone top that for gormlessness?

From: Eccles

Yeah, when I was about 7 or 8 I tried picking mud off a conveyor belt
which was used to sort potatoes My arm got dragged under the roller as
I tried in vain to pull it out again.The only way they could remove it
was to dismantle the conveyor belt. I was fine apart from a few minor
scratches and a small bruise - I heard a lad about the same age as me
did that the very same day and had his arm crushed. I consider myself
very lucky.......

From: Emma

Getting back to electrical stupidity, I once stuck sewing pins in a
power point until it set fire to the vinyl bean bag I was sitting on
at the time. Hey, I was curious as a kid.....

From: Jonathan Ellis

My claim to fame, dating from a family holiday when I was 7, is
running directly out of what I thought was the open entrance to a
souvenir shop in Amsterdam - it turned out to be a *shut* plate glass

Alternatively, I could also tell a story about a peculiar orange
stain on one of my school white shirts, from GCSE Science days. While
dirty clothes were frowned on normally, this particular stain was viewed
as an honourable war wound as it had come from an science lesson accident
involving a beaker full of fast-acting alizarin dye, which I had splashed
all over the floor, the table, three people's exercise books and four
people's shirts. (Actually, I tell a lie. It was in fact a baked bean stain:
the incident occurred as above, but my own shirt was not in fact affected.
It didn't stop me telling the story...)

From: Medusa

My go!

Me and my friend Tree were in A-level Chemistry together, and were
trying to make an ester. We placed the test tube in a water bath, and
stoppered it.

Then the class got called over to the front of the class for a safety
demonstration. Half way through, there was an almighty pop from the
back of the class, and the rubber bung from our test tube hit the
ceiling tile, went straight through, and left a nice little bullet hole.


From: Rosemary Warner

My first ever Chemistry lesson and we were being shown the Bunsen
burner by our sadly useless teacher. She pointed out there was a
non-burning bit in the middle of the flame. To which non-believing me
said "show us". So she got a bit of paper and brought it down on the
flame, aiming to produce a nice charred ring. The paper set on fire.
As did the next five attempts.

Oh, and I seem to remember someone lighting a gas tap which basically
turned into an immobile flamethrower.

From: Carol
Date: 15th September 1999

Dale once managed to get his tongue stuck to one of the drawers in the

He lost quite a bit of skin when he pulled himself free and had a very
swollen tongue for a week or so (but I think the being laughed at every
time he tried to speak was more painful than the actual injury)

From: John G

At last a competion I can win.

During my early years as a electrician I trained apprentices and one
time I was showing one such the correct use of a object called a dead
mans hand. This device allowed some switch gear to be run and examined
whilst live but in doing so makes a large amount of internal metalwork
live though this is not apparent.
"Don't touch this bi.....Aaah f@*&!#~g switch" much
finger sucking and leg twitching to the amusement of watching apprentice
as I showed him where not to touch and why.

From: Mad Dragon

My mum always says thank you to cash point machines when she withdraws her cash!.
Can I have the prize for stupidest parent?

<look shut up you at the back.. no the wombats can't have that prize..
goes off in a sulk>

I have had way too many silly accidents and to name them would take all night :-)
.. well the scar showing routine takes all night.. but can be fun..
ooops did I say that out loud?

From: MEG

Woah! wait up a bit pardner!

So what's wrong with saying thank you to cash machines then?
And those IVR (Interactive Voice Response) thingies.
And the odd automatic door or two?

Okay. IGMC.

From: Paul J Collins

I was at the bank machine recently, and while I was waiting for the
cash to be delivered into my sweaty paws, I was rooting aimlessly
through my wallet... "Hey!" I exclaimed. "Where's my bank card

I win.

From: Sorcha

I know someone who used to service cashpoint machines for a living.
To get at some of the electronics, he would have to undock the machine
and pull it away from the wall (inside the bank), and then climb into
the space with the bag of tools and proceed to snip, solder and trim.

Apparantly, it took an average of about ten minutes before someone would
walk up, not notice the lack of screen, dispenser, etc., and push their
card in through the (now much wider) card slot, and watch in bemusement
as it flopped into the machine instead of being sucked in as normal.

So, after the third time being hit on the head by flung bank cards he
took to throwing them back out of the slot, usually accompanied either
by 'no, you *can't* have any money!' or 'yargerrofoutofit' on
particularly bad days.

From: Chris Ahchay

Talking to machines isn't stupid is it?[1] I do it all the time.
I reckon that it puts you in the right frame of mind for dealing
with 'em. F'rinstance, I always ask our card controlled entry
system at work to let me through and it always does, but on the
few occasions when I've had too many funny looks and forget to
do it the damn machine always beeps at me and I have to try again.

[1] You don't have to answer that question...

From: Gidjabolgo

Scene 1.
An ordinary kitchen, with an ironing board by the sink.
An iron is standing on it, its plug connected to the socket on
the wall behind the sink. From the window, birds are heard twittering,
then a woman's voice from the garden outside: "Oh, I forgot to
unplug the iron. Be a darling and do it for me, please?"

Enter stage left: Gidjabolgo, around nine years, tanned, only wearing
shorts. Walk to ironing board, grip cord, strike pose as if to pull cord.
Stern adult male voice, fading in and out to illustrate it is a memory:

"Never, never unplug something by pulling the cord. You'll damage
both plug and cord."

Gidjabolgo hesitates, then releases the cord, and, standing on tip-toe
stretches right arm over ironing board and sink to grip the plug. Inside
of upper arm touches side of iron.
Sound effect: <Sizzlefritz>
Larvae gasps, and jumps back, staring at the two inch long, angry red
burnmark. Hurried exit, stage left.

Sound from wing: running water.

Scene 2.
Enter stage left: Gidjabolgo, with anguished expression. The burnmark
has now evolved into a big, white blister. Gidjabolgo, looks at it in
horrified fascination, then turns his attention once more towards
ironing board. Begins extending right arm but stops, a pained expression.
Hastily draws arm back and blows on blister. Extends left arm, carefully
avoiding the iron, and grips the plug. Yanks the plug out of the socket,
inside of upper arm touches side of iron.
Sound effect: <Sizzlefritz>
Larvae gasps, and jumps back, staring at the two inch long, angry red
burnmark on his left arm. Hurried exit, stage left.

Sound from wing: running water.

Curtain down.

From: Janice Wright

Bunsen burner shenanigans stories! Here's mine: the gas taps for the
bunsen-burners were (stupidly) mounted very near the electric outlets
on the side of the chemistry lab workbenches.

Step 1: Unfold a paperclip and bend it into a 'u' shape
Step 2: Very carefully insert paperclip into electrical
socket a couple of millimeters, not enough to make contact
Step 3: Turn on gas tap
Step 4: Step back a 'safe' distance
Step 5: Throw a pencil at the paperclip; driving it into the electric
<flaming gas tap>
<short break from chemistry class>

Not to mention the fun we used to get up to with a cigarette lighter,
a 30cm ruler, and some jellybabies - thank goodness for asbestos
ceiling tiles... (sugar burns beautifully)

From: Jaymis

This is one of my father's favourite school stories.

Chemistry class is learning about Phospherous. Towards the end of the
lesson the class clown, who had been watching and listening too - sort
of - decides that phospherous is pretty cool stuff and decides to steal
some. He's listened enough to know the Phos. + Air problem so he wets
his hanky and nicks a bit.
This was excellent until halfway into the next class when his hanky
had dried out and his pocket started smoking and spontaneously combusted...


From: Kyle Rogers

Actual fun lab occurrences have included:

1)doing the GCSE leaf boiling experiment(testing leaf for starch i think)
and putting a test tube of ethanol into a water bath BEFORE we turned
the bunsen flame off,

2)mixing bleach and some strong acid (not sure which) in the fume
cupboard to produce chlorine (part of Industrial Chemistry syllabus)
to then see the same chlorine gas seeping back into the lab through
an open window,

3) trying out something i found on the net somewhere, we mixed sulphur
and zinc powder and dropped a match in it. being doubting tomases we
used lots and then craned our heads over it, thinking the mix was a dud,
and then WHOOOOSH. after a few seconds you get a nice green fireball
with lots of smoke. after a few days my eyebrows grew back.
more embarrassing was the fact that i was exactly half way through
saying " well it looks like it's not gonna work" when the
damn thing went off.

4)my own dumbest event was to start a small petrol fire in the back
porch of my house. worried that neighbours would notice i stamped on
it and promptly set my shoe on fire, which i then poured water over
...luckily my much more intelligent friend was at hand with a few
shovelfuls of sand.

From: Suzi

Or - the one which happened with our class... do the "Produce
Chlorine Gas" experiment and then evacuate the classroom as the
teacher hadn't checked that the fume-cabinet extraction system worked
*before* we started <g>

Courtesy of the same chemistry teacher... expansion of gasses experiment
saw a quicker reaction than expected, and therefore the embedding of
the syringe in the wall of the chemistry lab.

Also the same teacher... instead of just using sodium for the reactive
metals in water demo... as he was doing his doctorate specialising in
reactive metals (in particular Caesium) at the time, and he just
happened to have some with him..... well - it was a fairly impressive
bang as the water tank and safety shields blew apart <g>.

One of the tricks some members of our classes did once or twice was
hooking the bunsens up to the water taps instead of the gas taps
... wait until the teacher is looking into the bunsen to see if there
is a blockage, and then turn on the water...

And as for physics classes... there was the "hook the van de graf
up so that it was constantly running" episode where one class hooked
this up to the door to the lab, locked the door, and climbed out the
window (it was ground floor)... teacher gets shock when attempting to
open door... looks through window to see van de graf, thinks he's
discharged it, tries again... and of course there was no-one in the
classroom who could be doing this as the door was locked and everyone
was outside! <g>

I think that's enough of the "stupid things that happened in science
lessons" from me for now...

From: Shim

A little note: concentrated sulphuric acid produces *very strong*
fumes. As in, pour it at arms length, in a fume cupboard, whilst
*still* cowering and gagging.

A second little note: don't walk over to the jar, mutter something
like "What *is* this stuff, anyhow?" and inhale deeply of
the aroma.

Ever had your nose cauterised? That's what it felt like...

From: James Green

There was that time when, during a technical rehearsal (for West Side
Story, if anyone cares) I managed to walk off the stage. Into the

From: Adrian P. Morgan (8'FED)

I'm not repeating the story about the scar on my left index finger,
but I will say: "Never give your sister a water pistol as a gift".

From: Kincaid

Thermite reactions are rather spectacular when they go wrong - our's
got hot enough to break the crucible it was in, then somehow cracked
the 'heatproof' mat used for that eventuallity, and disappeared into
the top of the desk. Fortunately it ran out out that point.

We used to put maggots in the gas taps, then turn them on.
Made the girls scream :-)

From: Carol
Date: 16th September 199

I'm sorry but I have to ask, How *do* you turn on a maggot, and what
difference does it's state of arousal make?

From: Lindsay Endell

I spent most of my nursing career asking if anyone had seen my pen.
The red one. I'm sure I had it a moment ago.

"There's one behind your ear, is that the one?" was invariably
the reply. For four years.

I spent the same period of my life increasingly worried about the
bruises I kept developing. Always in the same place - a half-circle of
bruises around my thighs. Leukaemia? Some strange disease?

No. The drugs trolley. When open, the front flap had pointy corners at
thigh level. I walked into it so many times I'd stopped noticing, and
forgot by the time the bruises came out.

And as for sunglasses, I'm afraid I take after my mum there. "Have you
seen my glasses?" "Which ones?" "My reading glasses. The ones with the
metal frames." "Right. They're on your head. Your other glasses are
around your neck..."

From: iswulf

<sucks finger>

... and I fuft manaffed to cut my finger wiff paper onfe more ....
fit ...

Yep, it feels uncomfortable to type f, g, t, v, b and r ... I'm trying
to condition myself to type with the fingernail ...

From: Sockii

- well, not so much stupid stuff from me, but still a 'quirky' story:

it was a dark and gloomy day, where the teens sat in
their science class. The sky was overcast and though
the lighting in the room was turned on, not all the
fluorescent lights were working. The group of 30 teens
were haphazardly learning the wonders of the modern
world, namely the physics of the combustion engine.

The teacher stood in front of the class, holding an
empty tin which previously contained golden syrup. The
matter of interest was that the tin also had a lid which
could be pressed onto the tin, and thus seal its contents.

The visual demonstration of the combustion engine was to
take place on the teacher's desk, so the students were
urged to crowd around in the front of the classroom, and
take a better glimpse of the power which fueled their
economy. As it happened, one of the gloomiest spots in
the room was at the teacher's desk, where the fluorescent
tube had entirely failed to light, and which the caretakers
had temporarily forgotten to replace. Being a patient and
down to earth soul, the teacher merely exhorted his students
to watch as closely as they were able, despite the poor

The demonstration included a firing of a something which
produced a spark inside of the tin, which led to the
following events. The tin lid shot up 1 metre vertically
into the air, and hit the fluorescent tube. The tube
flickered into life, and blacked out. The tube flicked back
on. One teen was particularly impressed. The fluorescent tube
stayed on throughout the remainder of the day. Seemingly a
remedy for prolonging the life of a fluorescent tube had
been discovered.

From: Morticia
Date: 17th September 1999

I lost my right contact lense once - spent ages looking for it
and then decided to put my glasses on to help me see where it was....

strangely, my glasses made my vision worse....

From: Gertrude
Date: 18th September 1999

Once upon a time, answering the telephone, I had to say "Sorry, I
can't hear you very well. Wait a mo. until I put my glasses on".

Oddly enough, I could hear better with the specs. on,

but on the telephone?

From: Mike Knell

My contribution to this thread is probably best limited to confessing
that my GCSE chemistry project was on fireworks - how they worked, what
was in them, etc.

A quick trip to the shops (it was the right time of year) produced plenty
of potential, ah, experimental subjects, which were dismantled and
examined with enthusiasm. The pellets of stuff which produce the stars
in the nosecone of a rocket were particularly interesting, so this intrepid
experimenter decided to stick some in a bunsen to find out what colour they
burned, and therefore what was inside them.

Future generations need to know that

(a) When you are doing this, leave the petri-dish full of the rest of the
starry things well out of range of any sparks the starry thing may

(b) This petri-dish, in turn, should be left well clear of the
rocket motor tube which was removed previously.

Failure to observe (a) and (b) may result in a highly exothermic
reaction taking place within the rocket motor's fuel, which in turn
produces large quantities of hot exhaust gases which have the
interesting property of being able to propel said rocket motor
around the lab at high speed, following a seemingly chaotic
trajectory. A secondary effect has been observed to cause the thirty
people working in the lab to hit the deck simultaneously and swear

They made me change my project after that, the spoilsports.

Mike "teachers aren't supposed to use that kind of language" K.

From: Gideon Hallett

Aaah. Out for a week and the nostalgia thread starts up again.

Here's my pet story; it concerns my AS level Chemistry practical back in 1990.

Our official, moderated Important Experiment was the preparation of ethyl
ethanoate by refluxing ethanoic acid with ethanol in the presence of a catalyst
. As anyone who knows will tell you, you have to be damn careful when refluxing
some organic compounds; in this case, the mixture boils at 80 deg. C; if you boil
it too hard, it surges up the neck of the refluxing apparatus and out of the top.
With some force.

One thing A level students are not particularly known for is care. One by one, all
but one pair (out of 8) accidentally boiled their reagents
slightly too hard. The reagents promptly shot out of the top of the
apparatus with enough force to hit the ceiling. To add to this, ethyl
ethanoate is a good organic solvent. So when you tried to clean it off
the ceiling, it takes the paint with it; leaving 7 nice "splat"
marks all over the lab ceiling.

Simon Jones decided to go one better. For some reason, instead of having
a single-necked pear-shaped flask, he had a 3-necked (surplus holes plugged
with glass stoppers) round-bottomed flask; which heats up rather more than a
pear-shaped one. He boiled it hard enough to shoot the stoppers out of the two
spare necks...the ethyl ethanoate climbed out of the two holes, down the side,
touched the flame, and ...*WHOOOMPH*...Try to imagine something the size and
shape of a glass Christmas tree covered in flames. Of course, the flames heated
up the reagents even further; with the result that the (highly flammable)
contents started boiling hard enough to shoot out of the top; and as soon
as they went out the top of the flask, they hit the flames and ignited.
Practical result; one large apparatus in flames happily shooting out burning>
gobbets of organic solvent to a range of about five foot. To make matters worse,
a particularly large blob landed square on the gas tap, making it impossible to
turn off. Things were starting to look perilous when the teacher came back and
just threw a fire blanket over the whole thing.

Of course, the final bonus of the experiment was that we'd been in the
company of boiling organic solvents for nigh on three hours; we all left
the lab as high as a kite and had to go and lie down for a rest...

And they still hadn't painted over the splatmarks a year and a half

You have to wonder what genius thought that would be a good experiment
for the AS level students.

From: Trevor Curry
Date: 21st September 1999

Ah yes - I knew I had a tale to tell...

At a previous company we had to produce a battery backed memory
and were designing a unit using a lithium battery. Someone decided
to give a junior engineer the job of finding out what happened if
the steering diode (preventing the battery from being charged while
power was present) went short circuit.

So, the test set up was: AA lithium battery being charged from a large
bench supply. The guy thought to put this inside a bell jar (NOT mesh
re-inforced). After 10 minutes a more senior engineer remarked
"there's a lot of energy going somewhere - I should check that" and
exited stage left - rapidly. Shortly after there was an explosion that
left the bell jar knob embedded into the ceiling, several window panes
broken by flying debris and a mushroom cloud spreading across the
ceiling! One whiff of that acrid cloud and the lab emptied RAPIDLY.
Luckily no one was hurt - even the guilty party who was stood next to

From: Bernard M. Earp
Date: 23rd September 1999

Or there was the time I worked in a DIY store (this was before we put
metal shutters up all round) and turned up to open up one morning to
find that someone had been desperate for some glue sometime during the
night and had broken the bottom half of a glass door with a brick.
The problem being that the top half then slid down while his hand was
in the gap or as the police said at the time "Well we won't have to dust
this one for fingerprints will we." I was very sorry I had had sausages
for breakfast that morning. Oh, and that happened on his way in, a trail
of blood lead from the door to the glue section and back out again. He was
eventually picked up when he went to the hospital a day later. . .Obviously
he had not been feeling pain at all

From: Kevin Hackett

Just my own little confession...

I have been known to put my keys down so I can use both hands to look
through my pockets for my keys. :-S

From: Martin Julian DeMello
Date: 24th September 1999

I'd have provided a list of stupid things people did during my A Level
chemistry practicals, were it not for the fact that I was actively
involved in most of them <g>.

One of the most notable was the time I went, full burette in hand, to
ask the prof a question. Or at least, it was a full burette, until I

From: Martin Julian DeMello

The practical guide to experiment classification:

If it's green, it's biology
If it stinks, it's chemistry
If it doesn't work, it's physics

From: Mike Knell

Hmm.. I'd suggest a slight modification to this:

If it doesn't work, it's physics.
If it smells, it's chemistry.
If it really really _stinks_ it's biology.

From: "Bellman of Ankh"

I witnessed something even more spectacular whilst studying for 'O'-Level
chemistry. Our teacher had a jar of chorine gas and a bottle of ammonium
something or other that gave of ammonia as fumes. He had the top of the
ammonia bottle off and was talking for some time explaining what was about
to happen when he mixed the two together. He then took the top off the
chlorine gas jar and put his nose in. Result: instant dragon impression as
ammonium chloride formed in his lungs and came out through his nostrils.This
by the way is a "bad thing" and he was off sick for quite some time.
I also learned some new words.

My own claim to stupidity also happened in chemistry class, but a year later
studying for 'A'-level. For some reason I misread the set-up guide for the
apparatus and didn't realise it was important to attach a small rubber hose
leading out of the window when making Hydrogen Cyanide gas. Fortunately the
same teacher (now recovered) spotted my grave error before any real harm was

My own personal favourite was someone else's blunder which shut down the
chemistry lab for four weeks while they replaced the plastic plumbing.
Someone had poured about half a bottle of ether down the sinks. Someone
else at the other end of the bench had recently lit a Bunsen burner and
thrown the spell into the sink. Result: three foot flames coming out of the
plug-holes and melted plumbing.

An awful lot of stupidity for one chemistry class and miraculously I'm still
alive. You may or may not be glad to know I do not have a job that involves

The Timeline section of L-Space is maintained by esmi

The L-Space Web is a creation of The L-Space Librarians
This mirror site is maintained by The L-Space Librarians