Tuesday, February 2, 2010

All unique snowflakes are we

Did you read the posted sign? No? Well you should - it applies to you... you and everyone else.

Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize you are special. And that you have special circumstances that might help me to understand why what's posted on that sign doesn't apply to you. My bad.

I work in a building now that has a certain set of safety precautions that all labs and lab members in the building are expected to follow. This building contains the microbiology and immunology department, which means in the labs we work with squicky things like e.coli, HIV, other viruses, human tissue, etc. Basically, things that you wouldn't want to be infected with or contaminated by if you had the choice.

We wear gloves with pretty much everything we do, because we don't want to be touching the stuff we're working with. But we have to respect signs that say things like: "No gloves on door handles." "No gloves in the elevator." They make sense - other people touch those door handles, and you don't want to expose them. And elevators are a given, to me, as well, for the same reasons.

So it baffles me when I see people doing those things. And it especially bothers me, because I'm just a first year grad student, and I don't really have the balls to be like, "Look man, I'd rather not be contaminated by what's on your gloves. Can you leave that baggage back in the lab?" But I have seen people confront others about it, and rather than apologizing and acknowledging that the stuff we work with warrants consideration for the safety of others, people get defensive.

"Well, I didn't touch the BUTTON with my gloves!"
That's nice. But the sign doesn't say "Don't touch the elevator buttons with your gloves." It says "No gloves in the elevator."

"My gloves are clean!"
Well, I don't know that. And I work with HIV. Would you like to take a chance with my gloves the next time I see you? Also, I see that you're carrying a tray of culture tubes with your gloves. So, you clearly don't want to be touching it, but your gloves are still clean. Okay, that makes perfect sense.

What's kind of funny to me about all of this is that one of the things that I hated most working in customer-service jobs was people thinking that the rules didn't apply to them, and that what they read on the signs was for all of the other sheep that didn't bother to try and get out of it.

When I was working in the mailroom at the dorms, there was a very clear rule that packages that we received that day would be available for pick-up at 6PM. This wasn't an arbitrary rule designed to piss people off who had read the tracking information and saw that their packages were delivered. It was because when we came in at 3:00, we needed to start logging in all of the packages we received so that we had a record of them. What the logging did was generate a list of the packages received for the day. It would send an automatic email to each of the people on it telling them their packages had arrived, and that would also allow us to have people sign for their packages to confirm they received them. This was important for us to be able to do, so that we could keep track of all of the packages that came in and out.

So where did the 6PM rule come in? Well, basically, it was because it often took us that long to log in packages and get the list out. If we finished the list early, we weren't going to be pricks about it and not let people get their packages, but more often than not it was 6PM. This rule was clearly posted on signs around, that packages wouldn't be available for pickup until 6:00, but people would come to the window all the time before we'd logged in the package, because the tracking info from the company would show it was delivered, and request that we just give it to them. I and others heard all manner of excuses as to why people's packages were SO IMPORTANT that it just couldn't wait, but to me it just seemed that the bottom line was that people feel entitled to take all that they can get, so silly little regulations like having to wait until a certain time could be easily sidestepped.

Once I stopped working those kind of jobs, for some reason I thought that I was going to be less exposed to people selfishly assuming they're above some pretty basic rules. But now, it's actually worse. In the mailroom, it was something silly like having access to a package that made people try and test the system. Now, it's kind of a big deal that people are so careless with infectious material and proximity to others. Since when did we as a culture get so accustomed to caring so little about everyone else?


  1. This is in reference to your January 29th posting which did not have a comment option... when you decide to share a delicious picture with a sweet little bunny, please make sure I have an invite to said picnic!!

  2. And by picture, I mean picnic. It's been one of those days.

  3. Question: How are people supposed to carry their culture tubes to a different floor then? I have that dilemma in the elevator of my building. I need to carry this thing that I don't want to touch upstairs, but no gloves in the elevator... so I push the buttons with my elbow or carry the item in one gloved hand if possible. Yes, I know there are carts, but everyone touches those with their gloves so I'm not going to touch it with my bare hands. I know this comment isn't at the heart of your point, but it makes me curious if there is a way to solve the gloves-in-the-elevator issue?

  4. Hi Marie! It's my understanding via my lab manager that the labs should have boxes (probably of the styrofoam variety) that the samples would go in before bringing them into the elevator. What we're instructed to do is to put stuff in the box, take off gloves, and go! :)

  5. Oh, and Wifey! I'm not sure why you couldn't comment on the bunny post since others were able to, but thanks for commenting here anyway! You know I love attention!