When I was in graduate school I had a job in Charlie’s Lab. It was a super-nerdy-real-deal-haven of scientific endeavor. Charlie had a number of research assistants, there were three of us sharing our lab space along with some fancy high-dollar equipment. There was the slutty med student who was all emo & crying about this guy & that guy. That is all I can recall about her some 25 years later. I can’t remember what she was working on, but I think what she was mostly working on was getting laid.
Ok, then there was “the dog lady”. Holy shit she was bonkers. She was a breeder of Irish Setters and that was her life. Her dogs & Charlie’s lab, that’s it. All of her money was spent on her dogs and traveling around to dog shows….day in, day out, dogs, dogs dogs. She was working on something involving electrophoresis, preparing “gels”, for what I can’t remember. Something to do with hematology, Charlie was a hematologist/oncologist. So here is the main thing that I want you to know about the dog woman: she taped her glasses to her forehead. You know that image of the classic nerd with their glasses taped together in the middle of the nose bridge part? Well, THIS tape-job had to be seen to be believed… and it’s all true, I swear to you, she taped her goddamned eye glasses to her forehead. It’s important to me that you get this image in your head before I continue my story. Imagine a 50ish woman, bone skinny from near starvation, as like I told you before, she spent ALL of her money on the dogs. She ate nothing but ramen noodles, 3 meals a day, so one can only hazard a guess at how many holes there were in her liver. Charlie should have been studying HER blood chemistry. Anyway, get the image in your head of a bone skinny & malnourished 50-something with hair that lacked from grooming wearing odd, ill-fitting, stretch pants and a sweatshirt with an Irish setter on it along with the stupidest looking tennies imaginable. OK, got that? So here’s the hard part, on her haggard-stress-worn face are a pair of severely dated spectacles missing BOTH bows necessitating the need for the use of several strips of Scotch tape stretched between the bridge of her nose & her forehead… ie: in case you didn’t get this, the ONLY thing holding her glasses to her head was the Scotch tape. She would walk around the whole hospital/university campus like that. Of course she had to be careful about how she walked & how fast she turned her head, otherwise those damn glasses might go flying off her face. Believe me when I tell you that it is not easy looking someone in the eyes when they have a couple feet of cellophane running between them.
No one ever talked about this. There were no jokes, and no offers of charity to get her a new pair of specs. I think probably because nobody in that whole damn department thought that there was anything odd about this, except me. This, apparently, is what true academia looks like. I suppose no one at Princeton gave a thought about handing a comb to Einstein, at least his lab rats would never think of such a thing. All of that being said & supported by the irrefutable facts presented to you here, one can only conclude that I HAD to be the cool girl in that lab, recognizing of course , that coolness is a totally relative & subjective concept.
I was working with Charlie on a Phase 1 experiment involving the investigatory use of a brand spankin-new anti-coagulate in the prevention of post total knee arthroplasty deep venous thrombosis & pulmonary embolism. See there, I was a nerd too, but a cool nerd….. yes, very cool. I remember going for my interview for that job. I had recently decided to never wear pantyhose again. I thought I could bring stockings held up with garters back into fashion. At the time I did not, of course, realize that the practice of using these focockada garters went by the wayside on account of them being a giant pain in the ass. So I get this interview & I am so nervous because this is a pretty sweet job for a student, this Charlie dude is well-known in the peer-review journal reading crowd. All I could come up with to wear was this ridiculous outfit which included sheer gray stockings & a garter belt. Mind you that I am not looking back 25 years on the silhouette that I put together & thinking I looked like a fool, I knew at the time that I looked like a dork…. but you have to wear a skirt to job interviews, we learned that in school. I have to walk from the Grad-student high-rise across two parking lots, through the entire hospital and back, deep, into the med school/research area of what is a ginormous monolith … you follow different colored lines of tape on the floor to find where you are going. I remember passing the George Hoyt Whipple Auditorium along my route. Some genius came up with this strategy of taping the floors to help other geniuses with poor homing skills find their way back to their labs. Doing so greatly reduced the number of “white coats” found lost & mummified in the bowels of the academic machine. This journey of mine was made much longer by the fact that my garter belt was apparently only meant to be worn briefly in the boudoir and not to really hold-up the stockings of a professional woman like myself. Pop! There they go again, letting loose their hold on my stockings allowing them to quickly fall about my ankles in a very not-academic kind of way. UGH! Thank god I am the only person walking in these rat maze halls & I am free to keep hiking up my skirt & re-attaching straps… if only I had met the dog lady before my interview, then I would have known to tape the damn things to my legs.
So long story short, I go into Charlie’s office. Do you have to guess what happens next? Pop, pop, boom! Stockings around ankles…. sweet. I just want to die, but turns out all is OK because I seem to be the only one who knows about this humiliating occurrence. The situation required me to think of nothing during the interview except “it’s all Ok until I stand up to leave…. I need a plan”. I don’t remember anything about the interview except that I somehow managed to remove the stockings while we were talking without the guy seeming to notice…. oh & i got the job.
If I remember, I’ll tell you about the time we all signed up for the mammography study for $50…that’s a good one.