The Rumor Mill Isn’t Broken Down!

, , , , , , , | Learning | July 22, 2020

Years ago, a student locked himself in a windowless supply room accidentally by panicking after the light blew out and hitting the push-lock while trying to open the door. A physics professor saved the day by kicking in the door.

That year…

Sophomore #1: “Did you hear about [Physics Professor]? He kicked a door off its hinges to save a student!”

Other Professor: “It wasn’t that impressive. It was a cheap door.”

One year after…

Sophomore #2: *To a new freshman* “Last year, [Physics Professor] had to rescue a student trapped in a locked room. He knocked the door over with a single kick.”

Two years after…

Freshman: “I heard a story about [Physics Professor]. There was this student stuck in a room, and no one could get the door open, but he looked at the door and worked out where it was weak because of physics and was able to break it down!”

Four years after…

Sophomore #3: “Hey, [My Name]. Were you teaching here when [Physics Professor] had to rescue a student locked in a room? I heard he analyzed door in his head and knocked it off its hinges with a single blow.”

Me: “No, it was a cheap interior door. He just kicked it and it broke.”

Five years after…

Student:so, the story is that [Physics Professor] is looking at this door, and he realizes that because of its shape there’s a single flaw, right, so he smashes it at the perfect spot and it just shatters. [Other Professor in my department] confirmed the story!”

Six years after, the topic of fire doors comes up in a safety lecture, and one professor jokes that we need to leave them open “because we can’t all smash our way through doors” like the physics professor.

Then, the year after that…

Sophomore #4:so, the student’s stuck in a room, the building is on fire, and [Physics Professor] saves the day by analyzing the door…”

Finally, eight years after it happened, the physics professor and I are talking.

Physics Professor: “By the way… one of my new students asked me if it’s true that I used math to break a door and save a room full of students trapped in a burning building. Any idea why?”

Me: “Do you remember [Student] from eight years ago? The story seems to have mutated a bit.”

Physics Professor: “OH. Huh. Well, I told them it was all true.”


This story is part of our July 2020 Roundup – the best stories of the month!

Read the next July 2020 Roundup story!

Read the July 2020 Roundup!

1 Thumbs
515

Tailgating Is Much More Fun At A Stadium

, , , , , , | Working | May 29, 2020

The lab where I work requires that you either sign in at the front desk or swipe your ID card to access one of the exterior doors. There are very strict rules, enforced by security camera, that no one is to be allowed in by “tailgating” you through the exterior doors without swiping their ID card to open the door. Even if you recognize the other person, if you are spotted letting someone in, you will get written up and pulled into security retraining. So, we don’t do it, even during the morning rush. A person comes up, swipes, walks through the door, closes it, the next person swipes, opens the door, walks through, closes it, etc.

On this particular day, I’m coming in a bit later because I’m going to be working late into the night, and I see someone I don’t recognize standing around outside holding an unlit cigarette. It is pretty common for people to come out and take a smoke break, and he is in the area where people generally do that, so I don’t think much of it as I walk up and swipe my card.

As I’m stepping in, however, I hear hurried steps, and I turn to see him running up after me. On instinct, I reach out and yank the door close, and I actually hear him impact it on the other side, rattling it a bit when it proves to be locked. Cue him audibly cursing me out.

I am pretty shocked by that, and I report the incident to my boss. He looks into it, and it turns out that the guy was a probationary new hire who disliked being “treated like a baby” and being forced to sign in while waiting for his ID card to be issued. So, he thought that sneaking his way in would be somehow better.

On the bright side for him, the company certainly won’t be treating him like a baby, as he no longer works here.

1 Thumbs
615

So… Wait… You Want What Now?

, , , , | Working | March 31, 2020

(It is the middle of the recession and jobs are extra hard to find, and if you do find something it is probably temporary. A detachment agency I worked for before contacts me for a job. Let’s call it a lab technician level one, for sake of ease, while my education would put me at level three, and with experience at level four. I would be receiving a level one salary and job title, but hey, it’s a job. I would be allowed to look for something else, provided the agency got “dibs/first pick” if it was a position through agencies, and failing that, they would keep me on the payroll to find something else afterwards. Not a bad deal, so I adjust my mindset and go in for the interview. Instead of boasting about my experience, I emphasise that I am excited to work with a new product. Instead of saying that I am looking for a stable position, I say that I am curious to see what opportunities for growth might come in the long term, etc. Then, they wrap up with some questions about my personality, which is not uncommon.)

Manager: “How would you position yourself in a team?”

Me: “Initially, I tend to be a bit quieter, observe, and learn first, but over time I’ll become part of the group.”

Manager: “Are you headstrong or more go with the flow?”

Me: “I’m not one to start a fight; I know when to let things go, but I’m not going to lie or hide my opinion.”

Manager: “So, a lot of people in this team are a huge fan of [Sports Team]; would you feel comfortable saying you support the opponents?”

Me: “Well, I don’t care about sports at all.”

Manager: *laughs* “Okay, that’s a good, honest start.”

Me: “But if I favored the opponents, sure, I would say so.”

(I end up getting the job, and in this field, it’s very common that no matter what your education or experience is, you go through a phase of training with your hand being held — almost literally — so the company can check off and certify that you’ve been trained. Mentally, I roll my eyes, but I take it in stride. This period lasts pretty long in this job, though, and at some point, the training starts to scale down, but I hardly get any real work to keep me busy. What little work I do receive is very easy so I do it pretty fast, yet I get fairly limited access on the software systems, leaving others to “finish” my work for me. I start asking my trainer and manager for more work, but they brush it off or refer to the posted schedule. Said schedule uses all kinds of color coding and descriptions which are far from immediately obvious. In fact, when I ask about it, it seems everyone knows just enough to do their own job, but all the other information on the schedule is a foreign language to them. I end up talking to the planner and he only knows that when job A comes in it’s yellow, job B is blue, C is yellow, etc., but when I ask why A and C are yellow even though they are very different tasks, he basically shrugs. I go through several weeks and more phenomena like this, along with some odd bits. A coworker tries to sell a phone he found on the street, and when I point out to management that he is essentially selling stolen goods, the response is, “Yes, we will discuss with him that he shouldn’t do this at work,” and my motivation takes a hit, to say the least. I get called to the manager.)

Manager: “So, it’s clear that you aren’t really making improvements to the department.”

Me: “Do you mean I should work harder? I want to, but nobody will train me.”

Manager: “No, not like that. We hired you because your education and experience put you on a higher level than the rest of the team and we’re expecting you to take the team to a higher level.”

Me: “I thought I was hired as a level one technician, so that’s the job I’ve been doing. I’ll be happy to give you feedback on any shortcomings I see; I just didn’t want to be too critical as a newcomer.”

Manager: “Yes, you’re a level one technician. We specifically asked during your interview if you would speak openly and address things you would disagree with. So, when you see things not going well, we expect you’ll take the initiative and improve them, not just report them to management.”

Me: “So, I should develop myself into something like a team leader?”

Manager: “No, I’m the manager; you’re a technician just like the rest. But you should make things go better.”

Me: “O… kay… So, I should use my experience to see where you can reduce costs or make tests go faster?”

Manager: “Don’t think in terms of specific metrics. You’ve attended several team meetings now and heard the criticism we get from upper management. You also should have noticed that things aren’t going as well as they should.”

Me: “Sure, for one thing, it seems nobody fully understands the schedule.”

Manager: “Yeah, don’t mess with that; the planner takes care of the schedule.”

Me: “So, you don’t want me to train the rest of the team, nor will you give me any form of authority. You want me to make improvements, not to share critiques with you but to fix it on my own. I should not change the way the team is run and I shouldn’t be thinking of any measurable efficiency like costs, time, accuracy of results, etc.?”

Manager: “I’m glad you understand. Now get to it.”

(After a few weeks of mutual frustration, they kicked me out for failing to meet expectations. Initially, the agency was pretty pissed, but once they confirmed my story of the contradictory role, they became more sympathetic and admitted that there had been a big miscommunication on what kind of person the company was looking for. I ended up doing some headhunting for the agency until they found me a position that worked out a lot better.)

1 Thumbs
385

They Say There Are No Stupid Questions, But…

, , , , , , | Working | March 20, 2020

(I’ve been dealing with morning sickness for weeks and my doctor’s office has sent me four reminders in two days this week to get blood work done, unrelated to the pregnancy. Today, I’m finally feeling well enough to go to the blood lab in the morning. It is a 30-minute drive to get there, and I’ve had to take a little time off work.)

Me: “Hello, I’m here for a blood draw.” *provides my name, date of birth, etc. as needed*

Blood Lab Front Desk: “Oh, we don’t have any record of this. Are you sure your doctor’s office sent it over?”

Me: “Yes, they’ve even sent me multiple reminders this week to come here.”

Blood Lab Front Desk: *confirms the name of my doctor* “No, there’s no record of this. Do you want me to call them?”

Me: “No, thank you. I’ll call them myself as I won’t have the time now to wait for them to send the order over and still do the draw.”

(So, I call the doctor’s office and explain the situation.)

Receptionist: “Well, we sent the order over. We faxed it.”

Me: “Okay, but they are saying they don’t have it, so they won’t do the draw. I’ve just driven for 30 minutes to do this and taken time off work. Now I don’t know when I’ll be able to do it again.”

Receptionist: “Um, well, we did fax it. Well, do you, like, um, want us to fax it again?”

Me: “Yes!”

(Inside I was thinking, “No! Please just continue to be as useless as you are right now.”)

1 Thumbs
368

The Solution Is Math

, , , , | Working | February 3, 2020

(I work as a chemist. I’m fairly new, and one of the youngest people working. An internal customer comes in, wanting help interpreting the data I sent him. Note: this man has a PhD in chemistry.)

Customer: “I need this in percent! You sent it in… ppm?? What is that?!”

Me: “It stands for part per million.”

Customer: “Well, how do I get percent?

Me: “You have to convert to part per hundred. It’s just an order of magnitude conversion.”

Customer: “Part per hundred isn’t what I need, either! I need percent!”

Me: “Part per hundred is percent. That’s what percent literally means. Per hundred.”

Customer: “No, it doesn’t!”

(Repeat for ten minutes. I eventually gave up and did the conversion for him. Makes me wonder what math classes he took in that PhD.)

1 Thumbs
432