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The Lazy Lawyer Lets Us Down

, , , , , | Working | April 28, 2022

I’m a molecular biologist, and my team is excited about a new collaboration with a lab at a university. Basically, we can make a material that no one else can, and the university lab has a certain machine and the expertise to use it, and there are very promising reasons why we’d like to put our material through their machine.

But first, lawyers have to agree that we can do this. I understand the necessity of having unambiguous agreements in place between the two entities, but the level of roadblock is getting absurd. We’ve been having a teleconference with the university scientists every two weeks, preparing for the glorious day when we can see how our material reacts to their machine. As soon as the lawyers say, “Go,” we can ship our material that day and get results the next.

Yet the process drags on for weeks and then months. And the biggest part of the problem is my company’s lawyer. We only have one — it’s a small company — and he’s the CEO’s son. He became the company’s lawyer the moment he graduated law school, and while he’s a reasonably nice guy, he’s also not especially motivated to expedite anything. Oh, and criticizing him in front of his father is a quick trip to unemployment.

All we need him to do is sign a document. He needs to read the document and sign it, and then we can begin our research. The university’s lawyers finished this ages ago. But every time we ask our lawyer, he’s too busy, or he’ll get to it later, or some other excuse. My favorite:

Me: “So, is there anything else you need from us in order to sign the agreement? Anything we can help with?”

Lawyer: “Nah. I just have to do it.”


After about nine months, the university lawyers gave up, and the project never started. One of my motivating factors for leaving that company was seeing a spreadsheet I wasn’t meant to see and learning that [Lawyer] made a higher salary than any of the scientists, including department heads thirty years older than him.

They Want A Solution, But There Is No Solution

, , , | Right | March 18, 2022

I work in a research lab, and part of my job is to prepare chemical solutions for anyone that needs them. If someone wants one prepared, they have to provide a list of ingredients and the final concentrations of each ingredient and state if they want the solution sterilized or not.

A researcher comes in.

Researcher: “Hi. I need a solution prepared, but I don’t know what it is called. You guys have prepared it for me before. It has [ingredient #1] and [ingredient #2]. I think it also has some others, but I don’t remember which ones they are.”

This is already a red flag because we always provide the solution with a label that states the name, date of preparation, and expiring date. It’s as easy as bringing the previous label with you if you are unsure.

Me: “Okay, do you know the date on which it was prepared the last time? We can look it up and check the recipe.”

When I say, “look it up,” I mean go to the box of the year in question, look up the month manually, and then the day, because we keep everything on paper (not computerized) for an ISO rule that we have. We prepare about 150 to 200 solutions per month.

Researcher: “I don’t know which date it was. Maybe last spring? March? April? May?”

Me: “So, you don’t know what the solution is called, or the ingredients it has, or the date that we prepared it so we can look it up?”

Researcher: “That’s right.”


Researcher: “So, when can you have it ready?”

Hilarious Eggsplanations

, , , , , | Right | December 31, 2021

I’m doing undergraduate research in a lab. Our number shows first when looking up the university phone number, so we get some odd calls.

Me: “Hello, [University] genetics lab.”

Caller: “Hello, I’m a journalist from [Local Newspaper]. I needed some information about the recent eclipse.”

Me: “You probably want to talk to the physics department, then.”

Caller: “No, no, I want to speak to some biologist. You see, a farmer called us today with a story of her chicken laying an egg with a starburst on it.”

I start chuckling and put the phone on speaker.

Me: “Okay, so what do you need to know?”

Caller: “I want to run a piece about this chicken, but I need a scientific explanation about how the starburst may have formed. Is it possible that the chicken was scared of the eclipse, and that she transferred the distress onto the egg somehow? You know, like in that movie.”

Me: “Excuse me, which movie?”

Caller: “The one with the elephant.”

My colleagues have stopped working and are silently cracking up in the background. Meanwhile, the head researcher looks like she’s about to blow a gasket

I have clocked by now what movie he is referring to, but I just want to milk this call for all it’s worth.

Me: “Er, I’m afraid I don’t know what movie you’re referencing.”

Caller: “This guy’s mother saw an elephant and caught a fright, and the baby was born looking like an elephant. Is it possible that it happened with the chicken?”

Yes, the movie “Elephant Man” does discuss the theory… as a clue to how backward was the science in those days. Quoting that to a lab full of people who are specialising in genetics, however, will only get you laughed out of the building. The head researcher reaches the end of her tether and comes up to the phone.

Researcher: “For God’s sake, mister, educate yourself! John Merrick suffered from a genetic disease; those were growths on his body! And chickens don’t get scared of eclipses; they just go to sleep!”

Caller: “B-but… what about the starburst?”

Researcher: “There are several factors that will impact on the eggshell appearance, from chicken age to viral infections to mineral imbalance. There is no mechanism for a chicken to record distressing events onto the eggshell, and what would be the evolutionary benefit—”

Caller: “But it’s starburst shaped!”

Researcher: “That’s all you know.”

The caller quit it at this point. We had fun coming up with “scientific explanations” in the following days. My favourite was that the chicken, frightened by the eclipse, had clenched her “egg hole” so tight that it had left an imprint on the shell…

DNA Sampling Was Supposed To Be Getting Easier

, , , , | Right | December 23, 2021

I’m doing undergraduate research in a genetics lab. Among several other things, the lab also routinely does paternity testing. The phone rings.

Researcher: “[University] genetics lab, hello.”

I can only hear her side of the conversation.

Researcher: “Yes, you’re speaking to her.”

Researcher: “We’re at [Address].”

Researcher: “Yes, right down the street from the bus stop. See you later, then. Bye.”

Five minutes later, the phone rings again. Again, I only hear one side of the conversation.

Researcher: “[University] genetics lab, hello.”

Researcher: “Yeah, it’s me again.”

Researcher: “The address is [Address]. Are you at the bus stop?”

Researcher: “Do you see a statue next to you?”

Time passes in silence. The statue she’s mentioning is ten metres away from the bus stop, and at five metres tall, it dominates the plaza.

Researcher: “Yeah, no… not that way. Turn your back to the stadium. Do you see the statue now? No, don’t walk away from the bus stop. Just turn. Turn your head.”

Researcher: “Okay. Do you see a blue building, past the statue? That’s [Road]. We’re [number].”

She ends the call. Five minutes pass and the phone rings again. The researcher does an eye-roll and picks up.

Researcher: “Yeah?”

Researcher: “Yes, the blue… No, we’re not in the blue building, of course; it’s a bank. We’re at [number]. The brown building next to it. We’re… I can see you outside the window, sir. Turn around and you’ll see me. The other way. Yeah. Can you see me waving in the window? Yeah. You’ve found us. Great. As soon as you get here, we can get started. Bye.”

She ends the call with a massive sigh.

Me: “For the child’s sake, let’s hope the father is someone else.”

Well, That’s Even More Than Less Than Unhelpful

, , , , | Working | November 22, 2021

Me: “Hey, [Coworker], you’re into gardening. There’s a bush with purple berries in my garden. Do you think you could help me identify them?”

Coworker: “Absolutely. Bring some in.”

The next week, I do so.

Me: “Here’s a bag of those berries I mentioned. Let me know what you think they are.”

Later that day:

Me: “Oh, hello, did you get a chance to look at those berries?”

Coworker: “Yes. I think they’re either blackcurrant or deadly nightshade. Now please excuse me while I go wash my hands.”