Why you didn’t really want the job, water torture edition

I’m more a fan of Maslow than of Freud or Skinner. I’m pretty sure humans are innately programmed to seek beauty and truth and emotional growth through their behaviors rather than live constrained by the subconscious id or the conditioning of their past. But there’s no optimistic, forward-looking philosophy of motivation that can handle more than a few electric shocks before it collapses into a pile of hatred for the world and aversive behavior. (My sister and I agree not drinking coffee on Saturday does the same thing to a person. Self-caffeination beats Self-actualization anyday.)

I went to Curacao last month to help start a new multidisciplinary research project. As suggested by my trip nicknames— “Microbe Girl” and “K-Party”—it was my job to spend the entire trip inside a container lab doing obscure microbiology tasks while everyone else was scuba diving, and then it was my job to not complain about it later on because it was time to drink beer and watch an amazing sunset. Yay…sunsets are way better than scuba diving?

Unfortunately, microbiology involves a lot of elaborate water filtering schemes to separate bacteria from viruses, animals from bacteria, particulate carbon from dissolved carbon, you from your sanity… and this requires water pumps and vacuum pumps and other small appliances, not to mention a lot of time spent not going scuba diving. This was all part of my job as official Microbe Girl. Which brings me to Why you didn’t really want my job, Reason #2: Electrocution. You know those stickers on hair dryers that tell you not to drop them in a bathtub? A really good way to get small appliances wet is to USE THEM TO FILTER WATER.

Dude, at least your dystopian torture-clock wasn't electrified and soaked in seawater (from Fritz Lang's Metropolis)

Dude, at least your dystopian torture-clock wasn't electrified and soaked in seawater (from Fritz Lang's Metropolis)

So anytime a water pump or vacuum pump got wet in the lab (which was every time I used one, and for hours a day), its surface picked up the current from somewhere in its little electrical inner working guts and transferred it to my hand, which isn’t a very long distance from my fragile little heart. !!BZZZZZZT, followed by me yelling, “AHHHHHH!” “WHAT?” and “I HATE MICROBES!” in quick succession. Dude, the only things allowed to re-program my heartbeat are really loud rock shows and really cute boys, definitey NOT Masterflex peristaltic pumps from the ’80s. (You give lab a bad name.)

You would think an electrocution would be easy to learn to avoid (right, BF?). Touch the machine with a non-conductive thing, right? A roll of electrical tape, maybe? Guess what happens when the tape gets wet? YOU GET ELECTROCUTED AGAIN. Here’s some scientific data I recorded during the trip: it literally only takes TWO electrocutions to completely change my behavior. (If Maslow was wrong I’ll drive straight off the edge.)

When I tried to have this problem solved, ahem, last year, the engineer at our research station tried out the vacuum pump, didn’t get electrocuted, concluded that I did not have “the touch” and then left. End of repair. Awesome…I love islands, you know, because of the sunsets. So, if you’ve ever dreamed of being a marine biologist and really making a difference in the world, imagine the long hours, the bad pay, a cheesy consolation-prize sunset, and then imagine getting electrocuted a few times. What’s that? You still want to make a difference? Perfect, because I’m looking for a lab assistant.

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3 Responses to Why you didn’t really want the job, water torture edition

  1. Rachel B. says:

    hmmmm, now I remember why the last year of grad school is the hardest….

  2. Danna Staaf says:

    I’m so sorry/delighted to learn that I am not the only person to electrocute myself–repeatedly–by ingeniously mixing seawater and lab equipment! I was on a boat in Mexico filtering water for in vitro squid fertilization while the rest of the crew went snorkeling, so it is ALMOST EXACTLY THE SAME STORY. Good times.

  3. Macaria says:

    Others from Dara O’Briain Just because sncceie doesn’t know everything doesn’t mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairy tale appeals the most to you Herbal medicine has been around for thousands of years Indeed it has, and then we tested it all and the stuff that worked became medicine and the rest of it is just a nice bowl of soup and some pot pourri And I’m sorry if you are into homeopathy its just WATER! You’re healing yourself, why not give yourself the credit

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