A Little Slice of Coincidence

, , , , , | Related | February 5, 2021

This took place before I was born, back in Ye Olde 1980s when people had landlines with multiple receivers around the house. My brother and sister were very young at the time — five and three, I believe — and they were playing around upstairs.

Meanwhile, my parents were downstairs, and they decided to order a pizza. My dad picked up the phone and called the pizza place, but they were busy and placed him on hold. While he was waiting, my brother picked up the phone upstairs and pretended to order a pizza, blissfully unaware that anyone was actually on the line. Then, he hung up the phone and continued playing with my sister.

Once the pizza place finally took my dad off hold to take his order, Dad ordered the exact same pizza my brother had requested. He went to the store to pick it up, came back home, and called out:

Dad: “[Brother], the pizza you ordered is here!”

I’m told that my brother’s expression was quite comical.

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They Did Better Than We Would Have!

, , , , | Related | February 3, 2021

My niece’s mother is a big believer in being honest with her children. For instance, she told my niece Santa wasn’t real when her daughter asked who he was. This also applies to giving age-appropriate explanations about “private” topics like where babies come from and private parts. The idea is that if you don’t shush kids when they ask about this stuff at a young age, they feel more comfortable asking important questions, like how to get and use birth control when they’re older and really need to know how to protect themselves.

As such, I’ve been given explicit permission to answer any of my niece’s questions, even about “sensitive” topics, and I know she wouldn’t approve of my not answering her daughter’s questions. For what it’s worth, I generally agree that it is the best policy, but that doesn’t mean it’s always an easy one.

At the time of this story, my niece has just turned four. Since she was conceived using a sperm donor, her mother has already explained the process and my niece has been able to tell others about it for nearly a year now. This is her latest explanation of the process.

Niece: “The penis makes sperm, but I don’t know how the sperm gets out of the penis. Then, when the sperm is put in the vagina, it can find the tiny eggs in the mom’s belly, and that makes the baby start growing.”

My niece turns to me and looks at me questioningly before reiterating:

Niece: “But I don’t know how the sperm gets out of the penis.”

I’m tempted to avoid the topic since she didn’t technically ask me anything, but I know it goes against the spirit of honest communication her mother believes in to avoid answering the implied question. So, I suppose I’m on the hook for answering her.

Me: “Well, do you know how your baby brother pees?”

Niece: Oh! The little hole on top of the penis! Oh, never mind. I figured it out now!”

My niece then wandered away, content with her new knowledge, and I couldn’t help but feel like I’d just dodged a bullet. I figure it doesn’t count as dishonest to skip over any other steps involved until she is a little older.

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Oh, Shhhhuttle!

, , , , , , | Friendly | February 2, 2021

I live very close to my local airport, so instead of paying an absurd amount of money for parking when I travel, I jog from my house to the long-term parking lot, a twenty-minute jog, and then take a shuttle from there into the airport.

On my most recent trip, however, I arrived at the long-term parking lot and discovered that the airport had recently closed the lot due to the health crisis, meaning there was no shuttle to catch to the terminal. It was another thirty-minute walk at least from there to the nearest open lot with shuttle service.

Worse still, I had already been gambling, since I knew rain was expected later that day; about ten minutes into my extended walk, a torrential downpour started. The rain was so hard it actually hurt to walk into the rain and slowed my pace even more. Meanwhile, I was worn out from the first twenty minutes of jogging, and my backpack, stuffed full as my only piece of luggage, was really starting to weigh me down. Despite leaving plenty of “wiggle room” in my plans, I was starting to worry that I was going to be cutting it close to catch my flight.

Fifteen minutes out from the lot I was headed to, I noticed a shuttle leaving the employee parking lot. I know they are not supposed to pick up non-employees — there are even signs on the bus saying so — but I decided it was worth a gamble. I stood at the corner of the turn that they had to take and made a praying gesture, looking sad, wet, and miserable.

Thankfully, the bus driver took pity on me; he broke the rules and stopped to let me get on the bus. I arrived soaking wet at the terminal shortly after, and thanks to his saving me the time it would have taken to walk to the other lot and catch a shuttle from there, I had enough time to make a pitstop at the restroom and change out of my soaking clothes and into some clothes my backpack did a shockingly good job of keeping dry. A local shopkeeper was even nice enough to give me some plastic bags to stash the wet clothes in so I could put them away without getting the rest of my clothes wet.

I caught my flight out and had a wonderful visit and babysitting session with my goddaughters. Thank you to the bus driver for bending the rules for me! I’ll try to plan better in the future!

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So Much For Collaboration

, , , , | Working | January 28, 2021

I’m a biologist, assisting with a clinical trial of a product the company is developing. This trial is being conducted overseas and run by clinicians who, I discover, made a lot of mistakes when filling out the paperwork we sent them. It’s nothing major in terms of patient safety, just a lot of errors that created headaches for us as we processed the paperwork later. I mention this to my boss, the company’s Vice President, who — as you’ll see — is probably the worst human being I’ve ever had to work with.

The VP suggests that I conduct an online training session for our overseas collaborators. This seems like a good idea, and I want to make sure they really understand their mistakes, since they’ll be filling out the same paperwork throughout the rest of the clinical trial. So, I put together a short presentation using scans of the paperwork they already submitted, where I annotate in PowerPoint to indicate which boxes were filled out incorrectly and why. I schedule the presentation for the next morning.

The VP demands to see the presentation first, so I send it to her. She reads through it and then calls me to her office. She says it looks fine, and I should go ahead and send it to all six collaborators so that they can review it before the presentation. No problem; I send it and then go home for the evening.

When I come in the next morning, I have an email in my inbox from [Collaborator #1].

Collaborator #1: “Hi, thanks for sending this. Not sure if you’re aware, but unlike the other members of the clinical team, I’m supposed to be blinded during this study, and your presentation included scans of actual paperwork with participants’ study IDs. No worries, because as soon as I noticed this, I closed and deleted the file, but please be careful of that in the future!”

Embarrassed, I reply to [Collaborator #1] and apologize, and she replies again to say not to worry about it.

Then, the VP calls me into her office.

VP: “I saw that you sent unblinded data to [Collaborator #1]! Tell me, what were you thinking when you did that? Did you just flake out or something?”

Yes, she uses the term “flake out” repeatedly during this conversation.

Me: “I’m really sorry about that, but she deleted it, so no harm done—”

VP: *Rolling her eyes* “I’m just trying to understand why you would do that. You almost derailed our entire clinical trial! So what was it? Did you just flake out and send her that presentation?”

Me: “Well, no. Honestly, I didn’t realize that she was supposed to be blinded—”

VP: “You didn’t realize? You didn’t realize? I’m just so angry right now. All of this work, this whole trial, it could have all ended today because you flaked out.”

I say what I’ve been trying to avoid saying because I know this won’t end well. 

Me: “You told me to send it to her.”

VP: What?!

Me: “Yesterday, after I showed you the presentation, you specifically told me to send it to her. You listed six people to send it to, and [Collaborator #1] was one of them, so I included her in the email.”

VP: “Now you’re blaming me? I can’t believe this! You make a mistake, and instead of just admitting that you flaked out, you’re blaming me for your mistake?”

Me: “I’m not blaming you. I’m just saying that you told me to send it to her, and that’s why I sent it to her. I’m very sorry I did that, and now I know, and it won’t happen again.”

VP: If I told you to send it to [Collaborator #1], and I’m not saying I did, I didn’t know that presentation had real patient data in it!”

Me: “But… you did. I showed you the presentation before I sent it. We sat right here in your office, and you went through every slide.”

VP: “I couldn’t tell what the slides said! The writing is so small!”

I’m now understanding how this will end.

Me: “I’m really sorry, but you reviewed it and said to send it, so—”

VP: “But I didn’t know what I was agreeing to! And now you’re blaming me! I don’t know why you can’t just take responsibility for this. So, what happened? Did you just flake out?”

And of course, this is how it was going to end all along.

Me: “Yes. I flaked out.”

The happy ending to this story is that, after more than a decade of suffering under this VP, I found a job with much more professional management. I’ve been at my new job for a year and a half, and I’ve yet to see anyone publicly belittled, which was a regular occurrence at my old job. My former coworkers say that nothing has improved.

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Nope, Still Terrifying

, , , , | Healthy | January 28, 2021

My wife has had some persistent issues with gum infections ever since having an extremely severe jaw injury. It was probably about as bad as a jaw could be injured. Despite this, she had relatively minor scarring, and many people do not immediately realize that she has major injuries just when looking at her.

The two of us go to the dentist together, each with our own appointments. I just have a basic cleaning, but my wife will be having a root canal done. The dentist, who we have been going to for years now, has a new assistant. She finishes with me fairly quickly, just in time to witness the dentist go straight from talking to drilling into my wife’s tooth, without the use of any anesthetic whatsoever.

She is immediately horrified. I think the dentist decides to mess with her a bit, as he just tells her:

Dentist: “[Wife] is pretty tough. She can handle it.”

My wife responded with a thumbs-up.

The dentist initially just went back to work, but relented after a few seconds and let the assistant know that my wife actually had no use for local anesthetic for this because she’s actually already completely numb. The root canal was in her lower jaw. The jaw has a nerve running through the bone on each side, and her injury had completely destroyed these nerves, leaving a complete lack of any sensation from her lower jaw including gums, lower lip, and part of her cheeks and chin.

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