All Cable Tied Up

| Working | January 12, 2016

(I work as a receptionist and general handyperson at a prestigious Dutch research institute. I am also in charge of office supplies and most computer peripherals, but not all. One of our researchers approaches.)

Researcher: *known high-maintenance individual* “Hi there, I need a VGA cable.”

Me: “Well, I’m not in charge of those; that’s the IT guy and he is sadly not here today.”

Researcher: “But I need a VGA cable.”

Me: “I understand, but I really don’t know where they are kept.”

(It is insanely busy at the reception: film crew in the lobby with famous Dutch people looking up ancestors, several guests checking in, phone ringing, colleague trying desperately to go back upstairs after my lunch break to do his Friday job in bookkeeping.)

Researcher: *not budging* “I need a VGA cable. I was told they are somewhere in a cellar.”

Me: “Oh, that must be the server room! Can you come back in half an hour and we’ll go see if there’s one there?”

Researcher: *not budging* “I need a VGA cable.”

(My colleague gave me the “just go get it done” look.)

Me: “All right, but are you sure it’s a—”

Researcher: “—I know exactly what the one I need looks like. I will see immediately if it is the right one.”

Me: “Okay. Let’s go.”

(We go down to the cellar. I have just unlocked the server room and do not know where the light switch is but I can see a little bit by the hall light, so I start glancing around for the switch. He, meanwhile, starts slapping and sliding his hand around on a bank of switches, plugged-in cables, and such, on a side wall.)

Me: “Please stop feeling around on that wall.”

Researcher: “I am looking for the light switch for you!”

Me: “Please stop doing that! That is not the switch!”

(He keeps doing it.)

Me: “I don’t know what any of that is for! Please stop!”

(He keeps doing it.)

Me: *having spotted the light switch* “PLEASE STOP DOING THAT!”

Researcher: “Wow, you need to calm down!”

(He gives the bank of things one more slap just as I hit the light switch.)

Researcher: “There! I got it! See? I’m helpful!”

Me: *diplomatic silence*

Me: “Here are the VGA cables!”

(I hand him one still in the shipping twisty tie. He SITS DOWN on a technical stool and begins to examine it closely. After a couple of minutes (knowing my colleague is swamped AND trying to go do his own job) I speak up.)

Me: “Is that the one, then?”

Researcher: “I think so…” *continues to study it*

Me: “I really need to get up to the desk again; you said you would know it when you saw it… That IS a standard VGA cable…”

Researcher: “Yes… Yes, I think this is it.” *remains seated*

Me: “So we should—”

Researcher: “I also need a power cable.”

Me: *knowing there is NO hope of NOT settling that right now* “Okay, what kind?”

Researcher: “I don’t know.”

Me: “THIS kind?”

(He examines it closely. After around almost a minute:)

Me: “So, is that the right one?”

Researcher: “I don’t know… This one is… I don’t know… Maybe. Probably. Okay. I think so.”

Me: “Or is it perhaps THIS one?”

Researcher: *instantly* “Oh, YES, that’s it. Thanks!”

(He leaps up, smashing the telephone off wall and dislodging network cables. As I try to put them back in he keeps looming over me and reaching in and grabbing whichever one I am not holding and trying to stick in just anywhere.)

Me: “Please, I have this…”

Researcher: “I broke it; I should fix it!” *continues to grab and stab*

Me: “PLEASE! I know where these need to go in! Just let me take care of it, please!”

Researcher: “Wow, you’re in a bad mood! Here, let’s calm down… Breathe iiiiin… Now breathe oooouuut…. Now iiiin…”

(This makes him start doing some hand gestures, which allows me to finally plug the network cables back in.)

Researcher: “There, see?” *walks off* “I helped put it back together because I broke it and now you’re all calmed down, too! Remember those exercises next time you get excited.” *walks out into hallway* “Aren’t you coming?”

Me: “Yep, just as soon as I put all these cables back in their respective bins and lock the server room!”

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You Can’t Run From Death

| Learning | November 8, 2015

(A student is giving a presentation on analyzing some microscope movies of cells. Prof #1 is well-known for being a keen marathon runner.)

Student: “To determine cell death, we have three inputs: the distance trace, the fluorescence trace, and the coefficient of variance.”

Prof #1: “I don’t understand how the distance trace shows cell death.”

Prof #2: “When you’re dead, you stop running.”

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Double The Size, Half The Intelligence

, | Working | March 7, 2014

(I work for a rapidly growing research/manufacturing company doing all of their inventory maintenance and the majority of the purchasing. I am the only person who works in the warehouse/stockroom even though it is clearly a job for two people. That, combined with the fact that the computer they give me is old enough that it is running Windows ME, means that it is hard for me to keep up with purchasing all our supplies. I get called into the conference room for a surprise meeting with the head of HR, the VP of operations, and my supervisor. I assume it is to discuss getting another person down in the warehouse so I can keep up with the purchasing, which has more than doubled in the last three months.)

VP: “Do you know why you’re here?”

Me: “Well, I assume it’s so we can discuss the productivity in the warehouse.”

VP: *looking disappointed* “So you have noticed that you have been getting behind with the orders for the past few months?”

Me: “Well, yeah. We added a new research lab and an entire new manufacturing facility so the purchasing has increased a lot.”

HR: “[Name], I think everyone here knows that’s not the source of the problem.”

(My supervisor and I look at each other, confused.)

Me: “It isn’t? I thought it was pretty obvious that the demands on the warehouse have more than doubled when we doubled the size of our facility.”

VP: “[Name], we’ve had reports that you have been watching movies on your computer instead of working.”

Me: “What?! Who told you that? I haven’t been doing that! I don’t have time for that!”

HR: “[Name], I think it would be best for you just to come clean at this time.”

Me: “Have you seen my computer? It barely handles email! There is no chance it could possibly play a video!”

VP: “There is no other explanation for why you suddenly started falling behind.”

Me: “When did I start getting behind? Was it about three months ago, when the new lab and production facility opened?”

HR: “Yes. We think that maybe you just sort of gave up with the increased work and that is when you started watching movies.”

(My supervisor and I are stunned into silence.)

Supervisor: “… [My Name], I need to discuss this with [VP] and [HR]. Could you please go back to the warehouse?”

(I found out later that the ‘reports’ came from a meeting with the executives where they were brainstorming about reasons why the purchasing and warehouse might be falling behind. They decided that I gave up and started watching movies on my computer, and so that is what they reported to HR. My new warehouse assistant started about two weeks after this meeting, and the VP avoided talking to me whenever she saw me. I found and started a new job four weeks after the meeting.)

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This Joke Is Still In Utero

| Learning | July 21, 2013

(I’m on a research trip through my school, but my group gets stuck at the airport due to missing a connecting flight. Luckily, one of the professors on the trip has a sister that lives in the area who is kind enough to let us stay at her house while we wait for the next flight out. This particular professor teaches anatomy. Most of us students are downstairs when we hear someone racing down the stairs.)

Professor: “I’m a uterus!”

(The professor has a pink striped bed sheet over her head. We look at her with confused looks on our faces.)

Professor: “I’m a uterus! See this is the endometrium—” *she grabs the sheet* “—these are the fallopian tubes—” *points to her arms* “—and these are the ovaries!” *waves her hands over her head*

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Disrespect My Authoritah

| Working | July 6, 2012

(I am working in a roading company. One of our tests is to rate stone chips for cleanliness in order to see if they can be used for certain applications. This test has a 20 minute waiting period for settling in a column of water. Note that all tests in a laboratory like this need to be done to a proscribed international standard, or the laboratory can be closed down.)

Supervisor: “Are you doing the Cleanness tests?”

Me: “Yes, there’s five of them.”

Supervisor: “How come you take so long to do them? I hear you sit the tubes on the bench for 20 minutes!”

Me: “That’s part of the test procedure.”

Supervisor: *laughs* “You come up with some good excuses to slack off, I’ll give you that! Look, you know you can work around the manual, don’t you? There’s bound to be some short cut in it!”

Me: “I don’t think there is, but if you can find one, I’ll do it gladly.”

Supervisor: “I’m going to check out the manual right now. You try and challenge me, and you’ll see what happens!”

(I get two tests done completely and am working on a third when he returns.)

Supervisor: *grinning* “So, you think you’re pretty clever about the Cleanness test method?”

Me: “Well, I have been doing it for—”

Supervisor: “Oh, you were right…but I’ve just been into your personnel file and written a note saying you have a problem with authority. How do you like THOSE onions, clever boy?!”

(From then on, every time we had a new manager—which we did frequently—the person with a “problem with authority” was always singled out and made special notice of by the new manager.)

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