His Mercury Is In Retrograde

| Singapore | Working | June 3, 2017

(One day, I need to check the room temperature for an experiment, so I find a thermometer in a drawer and leave it lying on the workbench.)

Colleague: “You are not allowed to use that thermometer! Mercury is hazardous!”

Me: “This is a safety thermometer; it has alcohol, not mercury, inside.”

Colleague: “No! It’s mercury! I’m going to tell the safety officer!”

Me: “Mercury isn’t blue!”

(In the end the issue got escalated to our company boss and I had to show documentation from the manufacturer that it was alcohol dyed blue inside. The colleague who started the fight had a Master’s in chemistry.)

Taking You To Account

| Warrington, England, UK | Working | October 27, 2016

(My colleague looks frustrated. This is not unusual, but I ask what is happening.)

Colleague: “Oh, I’ve got to fill in this expenses claim for [Conference] in Idaho. It’s funded by [Organiser], not [Company], so there’s this form I’m not used to.”

Me: “Remember, you’ll need your [International Bank Account] Number as it’s international…”

Colleague: “S***. F*** f*** f*** f*** f***.” *pause* “Thank you, [My Name]. You’re quite right. I’d forgotten about that.” *pause* “It’s just so frustrating. It’s hard enough remembering what I’ve spent and where the receipts are the morning after…”

Me: *smiling* “The morning after the night before?”

Colleague: *also smiling* “Shut up before I hit you.”

The Appliance Of Awkward Science

| USA | Working | September 8, 2016

(I work in a large research laboratory. Coworker #1 is more than a little socially awkward and has that reputation around the laboratory. I and Coworker #2 have just had a set-back on our research in a disease that we are both very passionate about making strides on, and it’s a project that our boss is really pushing. Coworker #2 is feeling somewhat discouraged and I’m trying to comfort him. Coworker #2 and I are also known for being extremely close, both personally and professionally.)

Me: “It’s okay. It doesn’t always work out. We knew that when we became research scientists.”

Coworker #2: “I know. I’m just not feeling optimistic about this right now. Besides, [Boss] is going to ticked, and now we can’t even meet the publication due date he wanted us to.”

(This is when Coworker #1 walks into our lab.)

Me: “Don’t worry. We’ve got months before the due date. We’ll think of something.”

Coworker #1: “Oh, my goodness! You guys are having a baby! That’s so exciting! I didn’t know you were… you know… with each other. Oh, I’m so excited that you’re having a baby!”

(We both stare at Coworker #1 for a bit.)

Coworker #2: “Yes. That’s exactly it. [My Name], the single, virgin, Mormon girl, and [His Name], the gay man, are having a baby together.”

Coworker #3: *who is doing their own work on another bench* “Well, we are scientists. We could make it happen if you wanted.”

Your Blood Will Be On His Hands

| NY, USA | Learning | July 14, 2016

(I’m a lab tech and work with several grad students under a notoriously short-tempered professor. One of our grad students has trouble with English, especially with metaphors.)

Grad Student: “Hey, uh, [Professor] is after your blood.”

Me: “Oh, s***, what did I do?”

Grad Student: “I don’t know… He just said he’s gonna go get [My Name] and to watch out.”

(A few minutes later, the professor shows up. I get ready to be yelled at when…)

Professor: “Hey, [My Name], I’m glad I got you before you left! I asked [Grad Student] to keep an eye out for you, but he just looked scared. I used up all my samples of mouse blood and— Why do you look so scared?”

Me: “Professor, I think we should stop teaching [Grad Student] about metaphors.”

It’s About To Go Bubonic

, | Denmark | Learning | June 29, 2016

(My classmates and I are out in the microbiology department of a hospital as part of our education and have been working with some pre-run patient samples, mostly innocuous, when…)

Classmate: “Hey, I think this is a MRSA.”

Teacher: “What?” *looks over her findings* “Huh, sure looks like it… Hold on, I’ll have to run this.”

(Sure enough, it’s a MRSA someone had missed. It’s a big deal to keep MRSA contained in Denmark, so this near-miss was a little scary. A while later…)

Classmate: “Yersinia pestis…” *aka: the Black Death*

Me: “What?!”

Classmate: *looks up from instruction booklet she was reading* “Huh?”

Me: “Oh, thank goodness. I thought you’d found something else terrifying!”

Classmate: “Yeah, I just attract those!”

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