Friday, October 15, 2004

Eating in the lab

One thing I miss about grad school (and there's not too much I miss) are the lax safety regulations. Now that I'm in Industry, I can't even have a glass of water at my desk. Something about "safety" and "OSHA regulations" and "not catching antibiotic-resistant streptomyces."

But back in grad school, we ate at our desks all the time. The desks were of course inside the lab because where were we going to get separate space for desks? In fact, I remember The Husband (at the time he was The Boyfriend) asking me why we didn't just get more space. "From where?" I asked him. "Where do you propose we find this 'space'? The building is full, dude." You see, at his grad school, there were apparently 10 rooms per grad student or something, so when his lab needed space they just moved their desks into an empty room. That was not how it worked at my grad school.

Nevertheless, most of us made the attempt, at least, of only eating at the desks that were in a separate area of the lab than the benches. But one undergrad in the lab, known as Cheeks McGhee due to his inclination towards very low rise pants with no belt, had more of a devil-may-care attitude towards health and safety. I had brought in some leftover Brie and French bread for group meeting, and we brought the remaining leftovers back to the lab after the meeting. Several of us were sitting around the desk area chatting, and I glanced over and saw Cheeks cutting bread and cheese on his lab notebook. I gasped, “Dude, are you using your lab notebook as a plate?” I guess he didn’t want to get crumbs on his desk. Nevermind that he worked with polyacrylamide, a neurotoxin. We all stared at him in horror as he shrugged and took a huge bite of his possibly toxic brie-smeared bread.

I threw out the rest of the bread and cheese.


Leah Lar said...

dude - first of all, i love that you say "dude" many times in this story. second of all, i'm not so sure that its an academic thing vs. industry thing as much as it is a state-in-which-you-do-research thing. like in MA, mad regulations. madness. here, in nyc, we dump EVERYTHING down the sink. EVERY. SINGLE. THING. which is easy, because who wants to separate stuff out? not that we eat in the lab. but not because we're not supposed to, but because WHO WOULD DO THAT?!??!??!

Mo said...

Leah Lar,
Whenever I say "Dude" am channeling you, Dude. Soon I'll be signing off with "Word."

As for the eating, you yourself have complained about how nice it would be to be able to drink water at your desk. Just a glass of water! And honestly, it would be pretty safe. And it was particularly safe at grad school because my desk was far away from the benches.


Doktah said...

I think we had a pole going... if any sort of regulatory agency had come to our lab to look at our safety procedure, how long would it take them to have a heart attack and die of shock.