Thursday, October 21, 2010

Accidental Lab Happenings

First of all, let me say that all the lab accidents I've been a...victim?...of have, so far, either been due to malfunctioning equipment or random acts of less-that-knowledgeable students. They do the weirdest stuff!!! Especially if you say, "Don't do THIS." Then THIS is the first thing they want to try.

Ok, so there were a few accidents due to one pack rat professor that took place in the process of rehabilitating a stockroom. I'm not sure where those mishaps fall at all. The entire 50-lb box full of ceramics that just willfully leapt from the top shelf was just waiting to happen since the 50's probably. That it waited for my term of office is significant and bears consideration. Then there was the nitrogen triiodide incident. As with most things, I wasn't entirely sure what he was hoping to accomplish there, but if he'd simply notified me of the contents of that beaker I'd have known to proceed carefully when the excess dried up. The excess that he left in the bottom of the beaker sitting in the sink with all the other beakers. Stuff looks like water when you're making it...but it ain't. We lost a janitor--a good one--over that.

Second of all, I admit that there is a certain quality that I seem to possess. Some people like this quality. Usually anyone who tests anything at all loves this quality because if anything at all is going to go wrong, I'll find it. Either I'll find it, or I'll be there when it happens, or I'm observant enough to see it, or crap just goes wrong in my presence. That latter one is, very often, how it feels. And, fortunately, something akin to the converse of that is also true. If I can get something to work correctly in my presence, then I can get it to do so reproducibly. Nice.

Today, though, it was mostly "crap just goes wrong in my presence." Sometimes crap goes wrong enough that you get a free shower in front of thirty of your peers.

Today's agenda: cat dissection. Let me tell you, dissection is no longer as bad as it used to be. You aren't in immediate contact with pools of formaldehyde. And your liver thanks you. I thought formaldehyde wasn't used at all anymore, but it turns out it is! Specimens are just rinsed in a glycol solution afterward to prevent (haha) the overwhelming odor of formaldehyde from permeating the lab and causing attrition among the ranks. So, it's more like an underwhelming overwhelming odor. And when you cut open your little kitty, after you've hacked through a considerable amount of adipose tissue, etc. there is still a pool of "stuff" to be drained off so that you can look at, in my case, the arteries and veins without going for a swim.

This is the point at which I approached the sink to rinse the gack DOWN the sink so that I could go on. I'll leave a side note here to say that the instructor did not think it necessary to wear a labcoat/apron or safety glasses. I have only one comment on that choice: stupid, stupid, stupid. Being blind, my safety glasses come with me. Yay! Still, when the fitting on the sink nozzle broke off, the spray pushed all that formaldehyde/glycol/adipose/gack stuff back UP the tray and all over my face, neck, and chest and even into my eyes despite the glasses. It was like someone had turned a disposal on in reverse. Yuck. And it started to burn.

And I started to curse.

And I don't honestly remember where Fred the cat went and I don't care.

Needless to say, I got a rather quick and decent eye rinse followed by a brutally cold shower of my upper body. Yes, with my clothes on. Perfect. No one really knows it, but this is why God really invented book stores and collegiate athletic wear. My one critique of the bookstore is that they don't sell bras. That spongy bra padding can soak up a lot of water. So, needless to say, there were two wet, round circles on the front of my brand new t-shirt before I even made it to the parking lot. I felt like I was nursing again. That hasn't happened in...years. Awkward.

And, yes, everyone thought it was very funny.

Except for me.

And really, think about it. In all your history of science classes and labs...exactly how many times have you EVER seen ANYBODY use an eyewash station or safety shower? This is my third time for the shower (and I'm pretty sure the shower wasn't necessary--overzealous lab people--it wasn't like my first two trips involving highly concentrated acids in the hands of students combined with explosions). First for the eyewash station.

I'm starting to develop a complex.


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