Canada’s Greatest Know It All Episode Seven: Which Came First, the Nerd or the Egg?

Scientific method for the win.

Scientific method for the win.

Around about the time that we moved to individual challenges a strange sort of magic happened to me. I don’t know what it was, but I remember talking to my sister who said that I may just win this thing, mostly because I didn’t seem to care as much if I won or not. Which isn’t to say that I took the opportunity for granted or thought it was all a joke – but I also didn’t get as worked up as some of my co-competitors, unless skydiving was threatened, or I was homesick, or guilty about missing work, or I couldn’t find a decent dinner – fine, maybe I am wrong on that. The point is that I entered a weird space where I really didn’t think about anyone else, but just decided to have fun.

This resulted in a string of remarkable days with fun challenges full of surprises, for no one more than me. My success in the memory pyramid had everything to do with my training in science – I knew that changing more than one factor at a time would quickly confuse me. But it was the egg drop that was among the most entertaining of our challenges. I had very little idea what I was doing but for two main guiding principles: use triangular or cone shaped vessels to protect the eggs, and make as much mess as possible. I figured that if I didn’t know what I was doing I should at least make it look interesting. I did actually hear from someone, maybe my mom, that if you had to travel with eggs then packing them in honey would help keep them from breaking. So I got some styrofoam cups, some honey, some coleslaw for the bottom of the cups to keep the eggs of the bottom, a big bowl, duct tape, and a bag of chips because I was hungry. I had no idea what to expect from my contraption so decided to drop the bucket from 30 feet. I was almost laughing too hard to count down its release. But I did. It was dropped. It exploded. There was honey everywhere.

I truly thought that every single egg in the world would be oozing out of the bottom of the pile of plastic, honey and salad. Daniel disdainfully ordered me to go clean up my mess, and as I walked towards the carcass of my first engineering project ever, a production assistant with a shovel came over to help me. But to my surprise, as I approached I saw one egg, sitting on the plywood target, whole. The styrofoam cup that had held it was shattered, and honey was everywhere, but the egg was fine.

I threw my hands out and demanded that. No. One. Touch. It. It was a long shooting day but I insisted on slowly putting the remnants in the shovel myself and gingerly carting it to my table. Pulling apart the detritus with the delicacy and precision of a surgeon, I found that every single styrofoam cup was broken, and every single egg was whole.

Flush with my success on the first drop, at the autoparts store I decided to build on the theme of working with viscous fluids. I picked up a t-shirt, some wire, and roughly 50 litres of transmission fluid. I planned on suspending the eggs inside the drum and dropping the whole thing from 75 feet. Well, that wasn’t the best idea I ever had – they can’t all be winners – and during lunch the technical supervisor and inspiration for Canada’s Greatest Know It All, Rick Minke, pulled me aside and told me that my brilliant idea was actually an environmental disaster, would I please return to the store and start over. Yes sir. So in the show when I mention that I have had dumber ideas, it’s the transmission fluid to which I’m referring.

My failure in the egg drop challenge was not from breaking eggs, but from not dropping the eggs from a high enough height. During the interviews leading up to elimination Daniel really pressed me about my inability to take risks, I think trying to establish a story line that I don’t give myself enough credit. I calmly and straightforwardly pointed out that dropping the honey bomb from 30 feet was in fact quite ballsy, and would he kindly refrain from his armchair psychiatry? It touched a nerve: does confidence mean constant bragging? Or simply knowing you can get the job done? I had never been accused of lacking confidence but the experience was quite eye opening – as I scientist I have been trained to be skeptical, clear, and precise. I have not been trained in the fine art of self promotion. As I start a new career in consulting and science communications, I am finding that this is a skill I had better develop, fast.

My reticence to trust my engineering resulted in me being in the elimination zone, with, of all people, Scott. The favorite since day one. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the elimination, reasoning that if I won, I won, and if I lost, the next day I would see my little girl and husband. During the interviews leading up to the challenge I said that I really believed that if anyone could beat Scott, it would be me, and I believed it. I was asked if I had ever played poker. Yes, I said, weekly, with my grandmother and great aunts, my whole childhood.

As the elimination challenge, euphemistically called BS, was announced I really did resign myself to the fact that I would be going home, because I am a crappy liar and very trusting. Scott and I quickly dispensed with the niceties and called a spade a spade and declared lies to be bullshit, which Discovery did not bleep, to my surprise. Scott told me that the black box recorder was fluorescent yellow and even though I knew better I said it was true. The game went downhill from there, with Scott quickly picking up on my lies and me completely at sea. Andrew got excited about moonwalking and interjected with a demonstration of what walking on the moon would really look like. Owen asked someone to bring Junior a chew toy.


What you gotta ask yourself is, do I feel lucky?

At one point, Scott asked a question and took too long to look up, and I realized that he wants me to believe this. I will never forget that feeling for the rest of my life. After that, I trusted my gut with every answer and quickly had him dialed. I started lying with more confidence, making a different face with every answer. Long story short, I won, and Scott had to go home, and I felt terrible.

Owen mentioned online that in episode 7 they really did capture our camaraderie, friendship, and the fun that we were having. We all wanted the adventure to last forever. As elated as I was to win, and at a challenge that no one would have predicted I could win, I felt terrible to have swung the axe for a friend.

5 Responses to “Canada’s Greatest Know It All Episode Seven: Which Came First, the Nerd or the Egg?”

  1. Monique Myers March 1, 2013 11:13 am

    I enjoy watching each episode and getting to know the personalities involved more and more. Owen knows me as the young French teacher from his high school days, and his ingenuity, zest for life, and sense of humor hasn’t changed at all. Thanks to him posting links to your blog, I get an even greater appreciation and sense of closeness with the amazing experiences you all are having with every post. Although Owen has my loyalty, I’m rooting for you too! You GO, girl! Can’t wait for the finale! “Vouloir, c’est pouvoir!”

    • Carla March 1, 2013 12:04 pm

      Merci beaucoup Monique! Owen must have made quite an impression in high school – I have heard from a few of his old chums and teachers! He’s fantastic and the best part of the whole experience was meeting such interesting people!

  2. owen garratt March 1, 2013 1:05 pm

    “Such interesting people”?!?! Hmmm…that sounds a little euphemismy 😉

    • Carla March 1, 2013 1:25 pm

      Euphemismy? Is that French?

      • owen garratt March 1, 2013 1:45 pm

        It might be, but the one to ask is Monique!