A few months ago someone here appended a notice on the cupboard door above the sink in the tea/coffee-making area of the common room, requesting (ordering) to the effect that we wait in line until whoever is brewing their particular beverage has finished before we edge forward and start on our own. As one who prefers the polite social chaos of water/fridge/sink-accessing people politely weaving around each other, like swans on a lake, I’m glad that most disregard this now boiler steam-wrinkled piece of parchment. However, a couple of weeks back, when proceeding to prepare my early evening caffeine fix, and finding yet again a deficiency in the cutlery quota, I was driven to append ‘Sod that? Return the spoons!’
This, of course, has been as ineffectual as the original version. But the other day, someone smilingly asked me whether it was I who’d applied the graffiti. “Err, what makes you say that?” “Dunno, it just seemed the sort of thing you would do.” (It seems I do have some kind of reputation in this particular scientific community.) Then yesterday, in a light-heartened e-mail exchange, a colleague who seems to share much of my sense of humour and has me almost totally sussed, and who I wish had joined our department years ago, also queried whether I was responsible for the scribble, and attached a curious PDF file, extolled as a favourite paper. Now, I would guess that this has in all likelihood been flagged up somewhere on NN before and, like much else, totally passed me by. But if you aren’t aware, and are at all interested on account of similar incidences of your common room spoons up and vanishing like farts in the wind, it turns out that this is a recognised phenomenon, having formed a basis for published research.
And why not? And after the shredding I received at Wednesday’s lab meeting, which I left trembling with a degree of inner rage (partly at myself for the poor job, but at my overt impatience with repeated, occasionally rude, recycled interruptions) – and the impending likely change in my professional life – I sense an opportunity here. Meanwhile, I sought to reciprocate with an ‘unconventional’ paper that I found particularly interesting, and which had formed the focus of a blog piece a while back. So, having forgotten the title/author, I conducted a search of my own archive to find the relevant post… and then wasted some time re-reading it… and a few others that I’m, err, not so ashamed of (Don’t you ever do this? Go on, admit it.), buried among a substantial proportion that I wish would self-destruct. (Snide remark: “So why don’t you just delete them then, Lee?” Ignore.) Where was I? Oh, the lab meeting. The previous day, someone very sweetly said “Good luck with your presentation.” What presentation? Oh that! I don’t like the word ‘presentation’ with respect to lab meetings. And I wished I’d have treated it less so. But, as it’s all gotten overly formal, I decided to give it a title: ‘Ever decreasing circles…’, which was almost totally lost on my audience. And the finale? Well, I found and pasted this in as my last slide. Prophetic, eh? I thought the reason for its inclusion would be obvious. But the lack of reaction meant I felt the need to explain – at which point any ‘joke’ is gone the way of disappearing spoons; or blog posts; or most science ‘careers’.
Sigh. I’m going for a coffee. Just reach down into the drawer and get the spoon I keep as insurance – can’t recall where I got it from.