So I haven't done much chemistry lately and it is perhaps due to an incident that occurred earlier back in spring which was discouraging. This is not a tale of near disfigurement but a run in with authorities.
A friend of mine and I were working on a methyl salicylate synthesis as an introduction to esterification. It was actually more of a prep session as we were purifying store bought methanol through distillation and hydrolyzing and purifying salicylic from acetyl salicylate (asprin tablets). All of this was happening in my small apartment by the way. We had a distillation setup with water pumps, hot plate stir, glassware everywhere, the works and we were geared up with goggles, gloves, and aprons. We had been working all day and it was quite warm in the apartment so I just kicked the door open and we continued on with our business not thinking twice. It wasn't until later that evening I heard some footsteps on the stairs outside. I looked over to the door to see a man peek into the doorway as an alarmed look came over his face. Thinking it was a nosy neighbor, I said bluntly, "Can I help you?" At which point the man stepped into, hand on his holstered gun and said, "So what we got goin on here boys?" There were three city police officers at my door.
I was so sick I could have just died. Of course, at that point I decided it was best to be polite and cooperative, so I invited them in. They explained they had received a tip from someone in my neighborhood that I was running a meth lab (ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE JUST SO YOU KNOW). I attempted to explain my hobby and that I was making methyl salicylate or wintergreen oil and that the distillation setup was for the distillation of methanol. At which point, they couldn't decide if it was meth related or moonshine related (Both are pretty common in my state). Of course they asked me all the standard cop questions, if I had any firearms on me or drugs in the house and what not. About this time, my roomate who was shut up in his room the whole time writing a term paper came out to see what the commotion was, much to his horror. The officers needed me to explain what every item was and what I intended to use it for. One officer in the back (I guess he felt left out) shined his flashlight on a crock pot on my counter and asked what I had going on in there. To which I muttered "A pork roast?" The one thing they couldn't get past is what I intended to do with the wintergreen oil. It had never occurred to me what I would do with the stuff, probably just discard since the point was the process not the product. I finally reasoned that I could make a candle or something. So the officer asks, "So you're making candles here then?" I looked at him not really knowing what else to say but, "Sure?" He wrote it down.
In the end they actually apologized for the disturbance, saying we didn't quite fit the profile of meth dealers. No charges, no fines, they just told us to be careful and have a good evening. I was quite astonished actually. Especially since we were also messing around with extracting iodine from povidone iodine which was admittedly questionable. I thought for sure between the iodine, the smell of acetic acid, the crushed pills, and distillation of at least a kind of alcohol that they would have torn the place apart but nothing ever came of it. Again, I was not nor ever intended to manufacture an illicit substance but they still could have given me a lot of trouble. I was VERY lucky. That close call sort of turned me off of the hobby a while but I've been thinking about it lately I may get back to it soon. Quite a shame for all that equipment to lay around unused.