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Weirdly Unfamiliar With Garbage, All Things Considered

, , , | Learning | January 15, 2022

I was doing undergraduate research in a lab, working toward my thesis. The other people were a hard-working, tightly-knit, mutually supportive group, with a few notable exceptions. One of these exceptions was a girl who did not absolutely care one jot beyond her own immediate needs, and a few things she did still stick out in my memory, years later.

One of the postgrads, who was supposed to mentor this girl, vanished during the weekend; he left on Friday afternoon with a curt “bye” and did not show up on Monday… or Tuesday… or Wednesday. We did ask around whether he was ill or inconvenienced, but she did not volunteer any information. Then, the head of the lab, who was not in any way involved with the post-grad, asked [Girl] if she was going to be able to cope doing the project without assistance.

Girl: “Yes, I can manage. [Postgrad] left me all the instructions and notes.”

Head Of Lab: “Oh, so he knew in advance that he was going to be away?”

Girl: “Yes, he’s quit. He told me a week ago that he had found a proper job.”

And we were wondering whether he was in hospital!

We also had to move because the prefab building where the lab was located was literally losing bits of roof. The movers took care of the large stuff but we had to pack the smaller equipment ourselves. [Girl] and I were in charge of wrapping glassware and putting it into boxes. At one point, I saw the corner of a familiar-looking aluminium plate poking out of a black bag. Because it was just the two of us, and I would never throw that away, there could be only one culprit.

Me: “[Girl], that would not be the aluminium plate from [piece of machinery that I used and she did not], would it?”

Girl: “How would I know?! It’s just some garbage.”

Me: “It’s not garbage! It’s important for spreading the heat evenly across the electrophoresis gel. [Girl], just ask before throwing away techware that you don’t know about. We are already on a tight budget without having to replace lost equipment.”

She just shrugged. I took out the aluminium plate, checked whether anything else of value had been chucked out — it had: clamps, gaskets, stirring magnets, and several other bits and bobs of a chemistry lab — and resumed packing.

During the lunch break, [Girl] told everyone who would listen the story of how I was salvaging garbage from the black bags, a thing she found hilarious.

A few years ago, the former lab group had a reunion. I was invited; she wasn’t.

Group Projects By Any Other Name Would Still Be As Frustrating

, , , , , | Learning | January 5, 2022

I’m a university student, and I’m currently doing a group project with three others. [Groupmate] and I are looking over what the other two have submitted.

Groupmate: “Well, those two numbskulls really half-a**ed the work.” 

Me: *Irritably* “Tell me something I don’t already know.”

Groupmate: “My middle name is Prosperity.”

I blink.

Me: “Really?”

Groupmate: “Really.”

Me: “You’re not fooling around, right?”

Groupmate: “Nope. I’ve got two names: one in English, one in Chinese. My Chinese one is legally my middle name, and when translated, it means Ascend-To-Prosperity, so yes, Prosperity really is my middle name.”

Me: “Is this common?”

Groupmate: *Shrugs* “Back home in Singapore, yes. For example, my friend [English Name]’s full name is [English Name] [Surname] [Chinese Name]. Most of us follow that format, as well.”

Me: “And [Chinese Name] is her middle name?”

Groupmate: *Wriggles palm* “Legally speaking. Even though it’s behind her surname.”

Me: “That’s weird.”

Groupmate: *Shrugs* “That’s just what happens when you grow up in a place that speaks both English and Chinese.”

Me: “Fair enough, but let’s get back on topic.”

We got back to work, but I was a lot calmer and light-hearted now. 

This basically evolved into our usual working relationship. I’d get angry over something, [Groupmate] would distract me with some interesting trivia, we’d get sidetracked for a bit, and I’d forget my anger, and then, we’d get back to work with a clear head.

If Life Was A Rom-Com, You Could Just Take Noah Centineo

, , , | Learning | December 17, 2021

I graduated from the Swedish equivalent of high school in 2001. Graduation prom has been a tradition for many years in my school and it’s always been a fun event, but this year, the girls in charge of organising the event seem to have watched a few too many American high school rom-coms, because they have a very firm idea about how it’s supposed to go.

They release the tickets and I go to buy one. I’m female and I don’t have a boyfriend, but I’m planning to go with my two best (female) friends.

Me: “One ticket, please.”

Girl: “Who are you going with?”

Me: “Oh, [Friend #1] and [Friend #2]. Were we supposed to buy our tickets together?”

Girl: “No, I meant, who is going to be your date?”

Me: “Um… no one? I’m going with my friends.”

Girl: “You need to have a date for prom; we want everyone to come in pairs. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a boyfriend. You can just pick someone.”

Me: “I don’t really have a lot of guy friends and no one I’d like to go to prom with.”

Girl: “Never mind, we’ll just pick someone from the list.”

Me: “Sorry, what list?”

Girl: “The list of single guys who got tickets. How about [Boy #1]?” 

Me: “[Boy #1] bullied me for three years in middle school and we barely speak to each other. No, thank you.”

Girl: “Okay? What about [Boy #2]?”

Me: “I don’t even know who [Boy #2] is. Why can’t I go with my friends?”

Girl: “Because you need to have a date for prom! You’re going to screw up the pictures!”

Me: “You know what? I think I’m going to skip prom.”

My friends and I ended up having “alternative prom” — just us, our fancy clothes, a lot of very good food, and not a date in sight.

Was I bitter about missing out on the experience? Yes, a little. Did I really want to go to prom with someone I didn’t want to spend time with just so [Girl] could get pretty pictures in the local newspaper? No, not at all.

The same girl yelled at me at graduation for wearing a blue dress, because the tradition for graduates in Sweden is to wear white and, once again, I was screwing up her pictures. I picked blue because I don’t like white, my family had a tight budget, and I wanted a dress I could keep wearing even after graduation. 

Yes, I’m aware that prom probably doesn’t work that way in the US either, but [Girl] was convinced that it was the only right way to do it and the rest of us had to suffer for it.

This Is Why I Avoid My Old Classmates

, , , , , , | Working | December 1, 2021

I stop at a food stand I haven’t tried before. The guy serving me looks familiar but I can’t place him. I order anyway and wait to the side. When my food is ready, I go back up and the employee starts to hand me my food.

Me: “Wait, [Employee], isn’t it?”

Employee: “Oh, yeah.”

Me: “I knew I recognised you. I wasn’t sure earlier.”

Employee: “Yeah, I thought you were just blanking me.”

Me: “No, not at all. Sorry, it’s been a while; I didn’t recognise you. How are you? How have you been?”

Employee: “Yeah, good, thanks. I, err, let me just remake your food.”

Me: “What? Why?”

Employee: “I think I made it wrong.”

Me: “Wrong? How could it be wrong? Wait. Did you spit in my food?”

Employee: *Laughing unconvincingly* “What? No!” *More nervous laughing*

Me: “What the h***? You’re in your thirties and still acting like a child?”

Employee: “Yeah, well, no one liked you at school.”

Me: “Mate, you’re in your thirties. School was a long time ago. Grow up.”

I thought long and hard about reporting him and about how he may do this same thing to someone else. But what proof was there? Would they believe me or even do anything?!

In the end, I didn’t think it was worth it. I avoided the stall for a few weeks, and then, after all that, I never saw him working there again anyway. Sometimes the best revenge is just being happy despite them.

There’s No Watering Down This Important Lesson

, , , , , | Friendly | November 25, 2021

Growing up, I can remember having more sleepovers than nights I slept alone. I thought I was super popular. What I didn’t know then was that my parents were providing food and shelter to some of my less fortunate classmates.

One evening, when I was eight or so, one of my classmates was over, doing homework, when we got hungry. I was allowed to use the stove under supervision.

Me: “Mom, can we make grilled cheese and tomato soup?”

Classmate: “Yeah! I’ll help.”

Mom: “Okay, let’s go.”

I started buttering the bread and putting the cheese on, while [Classmate] opened a can of condensed tomato soup. He dumped the contents in a pan and then filled the can with water. 

Me: “[Classmate], what are you doing?”

Classmate: “Making soup.”

Me: “With water?”

Mom: “Honey, let him make soup his way. It’s okay, [Classmate].”

[Classmate] dumped the first can of water in the pan and then filled it a second time.

Me: “Mom, what—”

Mom: “[My Name], we are trying something different tonight.”

Classmate: “This is how my mom makes soup.”

Dad: “Do you have a big family, [Classmate]?”

Classmate: “Yeah, I have six brothers and sisters.”

I’m an only child.

Me: “What?! Why?”

Dad: “That’s a lot of siblings! What do you like to play?”

[Classmate] pours yet another can of water in the soup.

Classmate: “Oh, we have Monopoly and cards and stuff.”

Me: “[Classmate]! It’s one can of milk, not—”

Mom: “[My Name]. Stop.”

Dad: “[Classmate] is our guest. We will eat what he wants to eat.”

Me: “Okay.”

[Classmate] ate three sandwiches and two bowls of soup. I remember wondering how such a small boy could eat so much, but my parents never batted an eye and I knew better than to say anything.

It took me years to understand how privileged I was. [Classmate] stayed over a few more times before I realized why he was there. When I did, I stopped complaining about his soup and thanked him for sharing his family recipe with me.