Friday, May 05, 2006

I don't know

I have no idea what to name this blog entry.

I work in a lab. It has its good days and its bad days. Today was a bad day. Not because of experiments, but because of people. See, nothing can be simple in this lab. A person cannot just buy something for the lab without other people sticking their noses into it. And they are not just politely curious, they are aggressive about it. And one person cannot just take care of a problem that they have found, everyone has to get involved. And when I say everyone, I usually mean The Boys. There has to be discussion, there has to be debate. Do we really need this thing you are ordering from a company? Why can't we use this other thing? Is this problem you are trying to take care of really a problem? Maybe it's just your imagination. For example, you must defend why you want to talk to the dishwasher about missing glassware, because maybe there's another explanation for why our good glassware is gradually getting replaced by substandard glassware (gnomes, perhaps?). Have you put radio transponders on every piece of glassware and tracked their movements? Perhaps we can put GPS chips on them and set up a computer program. It doesn't matter that unless someone is stealing the glassware there are only two ways it can disappear--breakage, and not coming back from the dishwasher. And unless breakage is linked to the spontaneous appearance of the not-so-good glassware (that doesn't have the lab initials on it, and is of a brand that we don't buy), then it seems to follow that logically we are not always getting back our glassware after washing.

Seriously, it is so bad that I think if I said I had menstrual cramps they would say, "How do you know they're menstrual cramps? Couldn't it be appendicitis? Are you actually menstruating right now? Are you sure? I mean, has there been any blood loss in the last hour or so?"

You think I'm exaggerating, but I am perfectly serious.

Which is why today, I just couldn't take it anymore. I got upset. I started arguing. Literally, I got so mad, my vision blurred. I have never, ever been that mad in all my life. Over missing glassware. And then, when I tried to cut off the argument, they just kept going! I had to forcefully state, "!" And leave the room. And when I came back in (because, you know, I have work to do), somebody brought it up again and I had to say again, "I don't want to discuss this anymore." "Not ever?" was the reply.

Honestly, how am I supposed to deal with this? And is it all men who do this, or just scientists. I can't tell because most of the men I deal with do this sort of thing to one extent or another but they are all scientists.

You know, I don't even really care about the glassware. It is the complete lack of respect for my opinion, knowledge, experience, and in the end my privacy that just drives me up the wall and makes me want to cry. I cannot just say, "I don't want to discuss this anymore," there has to be debate even about that.

If ever there was a day that I was going to walk out of grad school, it would've been today. I have stayed in grad school through my husband moving away for three years, two cats dying, and serious mental illness, but today, I was ready to walk out the door.

Over glassware.


  1. Oh dear! Ohdearohdearohdear!! If I weren't so far away I'd come speeding over and do some karate chopping for you! It's not too late to switch to art history... ;)

  2. Well, I have no answer for you. I work in a lab, and I'm happiest when everyone else is gone. (smiling)

  3. Next time I think you should trick them into taking the evil elevator and send it down to the 5th floor! Though then you'd probably have to hear a debate about the mechanics of elevators every time you saw them...
    I just found your blog and I see that you are a U of C grad student, too. We should meet up for coffee and knitting some time - let me know :)

  4. Ahh...academic labs. Yup, it's the male scientist boy thing. Especially if they are under 30 and they are also your "level". :) I speak from experience. Assert yourself and make statements, not questions. Repeat after me: I will never state a fact as a question. I.e. "what do you think about this gel apparatus I am buying?" Just either a) buy it or b) state "we got a new gel apparatus" when it arrives. And you really should just head off to the dishwashing staff and "reinforce" the "lab initials" etc with them. Dishwashing has a high turnover and sometimes, one person is out sick and all hell breaks loose--- you get the cheapo stuff and the other lab gets your good stuff. Go hunting. Find your stuff. I was a lab manager/sr. technician (trained and supported grad students on NMR/Mass Spec/Cell culture) for 5 years. Now I run my own lab at a biotech. Try varying your hours and process your PO req's before the guys arrive. I *heart* the lab and I, too, prefer it from 6 am to 9 am when i am alone. But, yeah. It's a guy thing. They are getting intimidated b/c there are a lot more female scientists now than ever... the glass ceiling is shattered and they have no idea what to do.

    :) Kate
    email if you need a virtual kick in the pants to your labmates. :)

  5. i was younger then, so it could have been me, but i never had as many personality difficulties as i had when i worked for an academic research lab. either as a tech or as an administrator. don't quit because the boys can't play well with others.

  6. *hug*


    I think it must be the intersection of male-ness and scientist-ness. Either of these factors can lead to irritating-ness, but combined, they're leathal.