Oh Henry story

Everyone has one — the uncle or aunt or grandparent or parent who tells the same lame story at every family gathering. In my family, I'm that guy. I pretend not to notice the eye-rolling and the "I think my cell phone is ringing" when I start my reminiscences. In teaching, there's no downside to telling the same story year after year — you’ve got a different audience each time, after all.

In grade 11 chemistry, one of my yearly stories goes like this:

Oh Henry bar.I give a clever, yet somewhat aloof, student, let’s call him Jordan, an Oh Henry bar. You know the one: caramel and fudge, surrounded by peanuts and a chocolate coating. For those of us lucky enough to have dodged the nut-allergy bullet, this is about as sweet as it gets. I tell Jordan that all he needs to do to enjoy this tasty treat is to share it with Ernie, a boy in grade three. So off Jordan goes. (Did I mention that Jordan eats candy like there is no tomorrow? At 16, he still goes out for Hallowe'en, dressed as a disaffected teenager, mainly for the mini chocolate bars his tolerant neighbours dole out.)

Ernie’s teacher told him that Jordan's coming over . . . and that Jordan’s going to share a chocolate bar with him. Ernie is the kind of kid who loves candy, but whose parents think sugar’s worse than heroin. The more Ernie wants sweets, the more his parents serve raw broccoli. So you’ll know that I’m not exaggerating when I say that Ernie's climbing the walls waiting for his share of the candy.

At long last, Ernie sees Jordan through the classroom window, holding the half-unwrapped Oh Henry in his sweaty fist. Ernie goes wild. He's jumping up and down, he's screaming, he's salivating to the point that the floor needs mopping. Ernie runs over to the door, throwing it open like a prisoner on the verge of freedom. His eyes are fixed on the chocolate bar. He doesn’t hear the bell for recess, or the entreaties of his peers to come and play. All he sees or hears or smells is Oh Henry. And he's waiting to taste it. Big time.

So what does Jordan, the Oh Henry-lovin' smart-alec do? He snaps one chocolate-covered peanut off the end of the bar, tosses it to Ernie, does a quick turn-around and strolls back to class, enjoying a well-earned snack. Jordan comes back to the lab, shoots the wrapper into the waste basket (three points!) and sits himself down with a satisfied smile of sugar-stimulated satiation. Not a minute later, the VP's voice booms out of the intercom, "Ernie's in tears. His mother's in tears. His lawyer is circling the school office like a shark around a wounded seal. Ernie says he only got a measly chocolate-covered peanut!" So I ask Jordan, "Did you share the Oh Henry bar with Ernie?" He answers, "Yes I did, Sir . . . But you never asked me to share it equally."

And that's how I introduce the concept of polar and non-polar covalent bonding and the Bonding Continuum.