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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.

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