Originally published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.
Mr. Taylor stands before his first period science class, a VHS tape in his hand. Already the sixth graders appear relieved. He announces that today they will be watching a Bill Nye The Science Guy video about buoyancy. The current unit in the curriculum is not about buoyancy. It is about plate tectonics. But this has never stopped Mr. Taylor. He has played at least two Bill Nye videos per week for the entire semester. He does not care. The class does not care.
The tape clicks into the VCR and Mr. Taylor sinks into the chair behind his desk. Bill Nye’s reveling theme song blares and his disembodied head spins past on a background of whirling planets. Mr. Taylor can still taste the stale pang of a bottle of Charles Shaw Shiraz on the back of his throat. Bar graphs pulsate and a triceratops runs by. Mr. Taylor is a bad science teacher. Mr. Taylor is aware of this. It becomes hard to ignore when every morning he wakes up, looks at the clock, and frantically begins googling things like “cornstarch experiment easy with video example,” “thing with bunsen burner and boiling points,” and “plate tectonics how.”
“Science rules!” a female voice declares as a cartoon evolutionary chart flies by to end the title sequence.
Now Bill Nye stands confidently in his laboratory, an ornate palace of glass beakers, caution signs, dinosaur models, and whirling yellow sirens. Unlike Mr. Taylor, Bill Nye is a man of interest, a man of importance. Bill Nye does not sit in a glaring linoleum prison teaching an incorrect version of frog anatomy to increasingly-hormonal tweens. Bill Nye does not eat a half-frozen Stuffed Quesadilla Lean Pocket in his car while blasting talk radio programs so loud that it drowns out his own gnawing thoughts. Bill Nye does not get asked to leave Costco for drunkenly demanding the brand of shampoo his ex-wife used, something called Alpine Mist or Alpine Breeze or Alpine Fresh he’s pretty sure so can’t they just check the goddamn back room and no he doesn’t have anyone to take him home because he’s not fucking twelve?
“Science rules!” the voice refrains.
Now Bill Nye holds a ball of clay over a sparkling aquarium filled with water. He asks if the viewer knows what will happen. Mr. Taylor knows what will happen. The ball of clay will be promised a job coaching the varsity soccer team. The ball of clay will take a menial position teaching middle school science while things are “worked out.” The ball of clay will watch in distress as Interim Coach Ty Freeman leads the team to a state victory. The ball of clay will shout impotently at the principal, write furious letters to the local paper, and drag his keys along the side of Interim Coach Ty Freeman’s dark cherry Kia Sorrento. Mr. Taylor knows what will happen to the ball of clay.
“Science rules!” the voice screams.
And now Bill Nye drives a car near the shores of a lake. He points at the camera, sound effects ringing, and informs the viewer that this is a very special kind of car. Suddenly, Bill Nye jerks the wheel hard to the left and drives straight toward the lake. Bill Nye is a madman. A psychopath. The car crashes into the lake and plumes of water fly upwards, the droplets forming the myriad embarrassments of Mr. Taylor’s life: the forever-disappointed face of his ex-wife, watching him vomit on the faux-leather ottoman after twenty minutes of a P90X workout; the high school soccer team, watching him sadly sitting on the bleachers during practice; his landlord, likely the only attendee at his inevitable funeral, standing apathetically over his open grave marked by a spartan tombstone reading “Brian Taylor, aged forty-seven years, ‘cornstarch experiments easy with video example.’”
But Bill Nye is driving an amphibious car, a demonstration of buoyancy. It drives on the water as easily as a boat. Bill Nye does not sink to the bottom of the lake. Bill Nye does not scream his last scream through mouthfuls of water. Bill Nye laughs. Bill Nye floats.
“Science rules!” the voice howls. “Science rules!”