Thursday, August 24, 2006
It's Not You, Pluto, It's Us
I never liked science class. My experiments never seemed to turn out the way they were supposed to.
As an adult, every time I throw out moldy bread, I wonder: Exactly how is it that I couldn't grow mold on bread when I was trying to in Sr. Margaret St. Hugh's sixth-grade science class? That piece of Wonder bread was practically hermetically sealed, living in an enivornment akin to a tiny rain forest. And don't even get me started on dissecting that fetal pig in 10th grade.
There were two times when I actually "got" science: The first was when we had to order the colors we saw in the rainbow generated by a prism (I counted it a victory even though technically I ordered them backwards, starting with violet).
The other was when we learned about the nine planets. Nice, solid, round orbs with regal names. Not too many, not too few. Just right for a 12-year-old to get her mind around.
I remember how excited I was about my exhibit for the sixth-grade science fair. It was a model of the solar system, hung inside a large cardboard box that my mother had covered with deep blue contact paper. We'd bought nine styrofoam balls of varying size, and I got to paint them in neon colors. It was beautiful, if I do say so myself. I was convinced I was going to take home a ribbon.
I can still remember the sweaty smell of the church basement where all the exhibits were set up. (It doubled as our gym.)
Unfortunately for my solar system, there were these asswipe classmates of mine who had chosen the occasion to invent something or show how something's done. A target of my particular scorn was the boy who made a glass box with a button on it that you could push to create a visible electrical current. Whatever! You see where this is going. I got honorable mention. Yes, robbed.
Now today comes the news that poor little Pluto -- which, if you did the solar system by scale would end up in another room it's so far away -- is being deep-sixed. Downsized. Laid-off. Divorced. Kicked to the curb like a cheap Sixth Street crack ho'. Defrocked like a pervy priest.
Who ARE these people who get to decide what is and isn't a planet?
(You know teachers weren't involved, because they would have axed Uranus right off the bat. Uranus, by the way, happens to be the name of a street here in S.F. on which a friend of mine lives. The joke never seems to get old. "You know, I really hate it when kids are playing in the middle of Uranus. ... It's really hard to find parking on Uranus. ... Didn't Uranus used to be one-way?" She says the only way she'd ever move is if she found a house on nearby Beaver Street. That way, her housewarming invitation could read: "From Uranus to my Beaver. Come")
But I digress.
Poor Pluto goes around for millions of years calling himself a planet. And then just like that, it's time to get new business cards.
The schoolchildren of tomorrow will live in a different solar system than I -- and I'm already feeling old with my birthday coming up a week from today. (Do you like that subtle plug?)
Och, Pluto, I hardly knew ye.
You'll always be a planet in my heart.
Goodbye, Pluto. We'll always have sixth grade.
Posted by "Stella" at 4:24 PM