Saturday, September 27, 2008

Around the Petri Dish: A Tale of Lab Drama

Have I got a lab drama story for you. The other day I was working in the lab with V and S2. V was plating her yogurt samples, S2 was doing dishes and I was plating what will hopefully be the last preliminary study before I get going on my broth study. We were all working in the same general area, V was totally taking over my bench, bench hog*! And as is not an uncommon occurrence we started chit chatting as we worked. The subject you ask, our favoritest coworkers ever, the visiting prof and PW, mostly VP. VP is leaving at the end of the month, we are talking about having a party, after his plane takes off safely. We were discussing different annoying aspects of working with him. I had already heard how he tends to stroke V's arm as she plates, and he gave her a lecture about how women menstruate (oh thank God, I was wonder what that monthly bleeding thing was, thought I was going to die!) and somehow this is proof that we are fragile and V should be taking care of her husband and popping out offspring, which is hard for her to do right now since her hubby is across the pond and for the past year they've been working on the paperwork to have his limey butt imported. How come we can import everything else into this country hot off the Chinese presses but it takes a year to get a brit approved. I mean come on, he says things like "Bollocks" and quite possibly "Wanker", ooo he might say "Bloody hell"! Or he might say, "Bloody hell you wanker, you stroking my dearest wife V's arm while she is trying to plate is bollocks!" *digressing alert* (seriously if there was a digressing alert I could so use it, though it wouldn't shut up ever and I would have to kill it)

Well he has also decided to pet S2, she was so thrilled to be in with the in crowd. I am so thrilled that I give off "don't touch me" vibes strong enough for even him to pick up on them and only get the occasional awkward arm pat, one pat and it is done, no stroking/petting. I think he is trying to initiate a hand shake with me but I ignore the signal since I am not sure and I don't want to do the hand shake thing. I don't want to touch him (I don't want to touch most people, his creepy vibes put him high up on the list of people I don't want to touch), my right wrist is messed up and I am very protective of it (I let my doc shake it) but know that offering him the left would not just be odd in US culture but as I recall his culture it is a serious offensive gesture (as is telling women they should be home taking care of the family is in ours...) and last it is a fricking path lab!

We discussed his various annoying traits. Laughed that PW had to babysit him. Exchanged theories about how he tries to get us to do his work but playing dumb and/or pretending he doesn't know English enough to understand you trying to explain what he needs to do until you get frustrated and just do it for him. I saw his CV the other night and there is absolutely no way he shouldn't know exactly what he is doing, not like our lab uses anything high tech, that is the other two path labs on our floor, we are old school. My method of dealing with this, act as if I have no idea what he is trying to say. You wanna pretend you don't know English? Fine neither do I! What? How do you what? Huh?

Normally I am overly helpful in lab, especially to new people, but I saw through his games and do no like being taken advantage of. I have never accepted his offers of help and will never help him do his lab work. I don't trust him to be able to work with my bug, the two people in the lab capable of it (well besides Dr. M) are V and myself, it would not take very long to "train" any of the other lab workers (the main thing is making sure it is soaked completely into the plates) but it is MY job and I will do it. I won't help anyone else (besides V if she is in a bind) since I don't want to work with the pathogens and with my wrist I have to be careful not to overdo it with just my stuff.

We made some jokes about how he and PW would make a great reality TV show, like one they watch on MTV that I never heard of... I brought up how if he pet me like he did them I would "accidentally" hit him or something, preferably in such a way to break the blood:testes barrier.** We definitely amused ourselves at his expense and somewhat loudly. What we didn't realize was that he had managed to get back into the lab without our seeing it, he had been in and out and we apparently saw the most recent out but missed the in, oops! We feel guilty and amused at the same time. We were blowing off steam/stress he causes but at the same time it was not a nice/professional thing to do. We don't really know if he could hear/understand what we were saying. M was hanging out in the lab office sitting next to him but he wasn't listening for our dialog and therefore had no idea if it was understandable from across the entire lab... I doubt he did since while he knows English better than he lets on much of the time he doesn't understand it all that well. And really, we could have gotten him kicked out of the lab for sexual harrassment if we so desired, I think being the butt of our jokes is the least he could do ;).

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*V knows about the blog, I wanted some feedback about this aspect of the blog and she was kind enough to give it to me. I share my bench with her and moved my stuff over to S's bench since we both happen to be in and plating at the same time, this may be the first time it has happened since we started working "together" (separate projects but we share almost everything like lab partners). It was totally no big deal for me to move but she felt guilty, calling her a bench hog is totally teasing her if she reads this post (Hi V!).
**There are certain areas that blood does not directly pass into, the brain is one as are the testes. Breaking the blood:testes barrier can sterilize a man. Course it is too late, he has already reproduced and has a daughter in the mix, never know if he will have more though. While I tend to be at least somewhat to each their own I find it sad that girls in other cultures are raised to believe they are inferior and don't have any options other than getting married and making babies, which is a great and valid thing to do but women should have the option to do something else if it is not their thing.


K'man said...

Well. I was certainly surprised. I expected to see a gary larson Far Side cartoon of people in lab coats smearing shoe polish on the eyepiece of microscopes.
NOT this whole soap opera of kids not being able to play nice in the sandbox.
Who says we grow up?

The Microblogologist said...

Grow up?! Nevah!

The funny thing is I was actually going for a soap opera like flavor. Depending on who is involved the lab drama is somewhat ridiculous and yes a sign that some of us need to grow up already. The visiting prof is a sticky situation, he is a guest from another country and there are some definite culture clashes. There are things he does and says, several of them mentioned in this post but there is a lot more, that makes for a very stressful work environment when he is around.

Sometimes the only thing one can do in a situation is try to laugh about it, that is what we were doing. We didn't want to get him in trouble which pretty much wiped out all our options. Better than having to have all of us go on prilosec, and I think I am maxed out on how much a scrawny chick can take so I'd be screwed!

If someone put shoe polish on the microscope heads would roll, research grade scopes are not cheap ;). I do play tricks on one of the coworkers, I'll probably write about it sometime.