Monday, August 24, 2015

Of Mice and Paperwork pt. 2

 The date of the mouse course was approaching and I still had no idea where it was being held. I figured it was someplace in Ein Kerem but that's like giving someone directions to your apartment and telling them what apartment complex you live in but not the building or apartment number. Are they supposed to knock on every door in the place in order to drop off your sweater? No, they're going to leave your sweater hanging from one of the bushes in the parking lot. They're not going to look too hard for you.
So I asked the woman I work with if she knew where it was. She had no idea so she tried calling the number given to her by the vets' office in the animal unit, which was for the woman in charge of all the animal courses. No answer. So she gave me the number to try later. I had her email address as well from the form I filled in and emailed to her, so I sent her an email asking her where the course on July 20th was being held, since I will always choose the method of communication which involves the least amount of actual communication with the person. She responded that because of all the emails she was getting she wasn't sure which course I was talking about. So I sent her another email with additional details to which she never responded. I sent her a slightly more urgent one a few days later, to which she still did not respond. I decided that the situation was dire enough to warrant a phone call, which she did not answer multiple times. I even left messages for this woman, but she was obviously on vacation, either literally or figuratively. (If you're asking how someone can figuratively be on vacation, just take a glance at the postal workers in the post office next time you pass by. If at least 2 of them aren't on their phones, chatting with friends that dropped in to show off their babies, or reading the paper with a cup of coffee in hand, then I want to know where you live so I can go to your post office).
When the day of the course finally rolled around, I still had no idea where it was. My plan was to get there early and wander the halls until I ran into someone that knew something. Not the greatest plan, but the only one I could come up with. I started with the animal unit on the 7th floor. There was no one else congregated there but since I was 20 minutes or so early, I figured maybe I was just the first one there (as unlikely as that sounded to myself). When I walked into the first office I saw, I found everyone in the middle of a meeting, staring at me. I backed out slowly and decided to go down to the second floor where I work and ask the secretary if maybe she had any idea where the course was usually held. She didn't know but she tried to call a few people who either didn't know or didn't answer the phone. So I thanked her and went back up to the 7th floor.
It was 2 minutes before the course was supposed to start and all I found was another woman wandering around looking just as lost and confused as me. However, she knew the way to the vets' office through the double doors on the left after the elevator, at the end of the hall, through another short hallway, at the back of the large room where they appear to wash large things, and then in the office to the right. I'm sure I would have found it by myself eventually (like in a month or so). Now that I think about it, maybe it's not that Israelis are bad at giving directions, maybe it's just that it's so complicated to get anywhere that directions are just too confusing to give. You will inevitably forget a hallway or a right turn somewhere. We found some dude standing in the office sipping coffee but he knew where the course was. Turns out it was on the ground floor (floor -2) in the first room before the library. Incidentally, that happens to be a few meters away from the entrance to the building, where I had entered half an hour before.
When we finally got there 15 minutes after it had started, the woman giving the course turned to us and said “you're late.” I spent the rest of the course glaring at her. It was a 2 part course, one a lecture given in broken English (because of all the foreigners working at the labs there) about not losing the mice or smuggling them out of the animal unit in your pockets, etc. The second part was a tour of the animal unit most of us had already been working in “unofficially.” This is where we learned what we were actually supposed to be doing in there. Turns out the process of importing office supplies is more complicated then just giving 'em a shake and wiping them off with your shirt first. It's a sterile unit, meaning entry necessitates the use of lab coats, gloves, booties, and sandwich baggies for phones. Sneezing on mice is frowned upon and pens must be properly irradiated and heated before being allowed in. Obviously, this requires filling out many forms specifying exactly what you need sterilized, and the items are left in a large box at the entrance. You will probably get the stuff you need a week or so later (or not), assuming they can match the right forms to the right items. This is clearly a more efficient system than just having a bunch of pre-sterilized supplies already in there.
At the end of the tour, we were supposed to get palm printed. In order to prevent people without the proper security clearance from making off with all the mice in the dead of night, they give you a personal ethics code plus take your palm print (fingerprints are obviously not secure enough for a department full of mice), which you need in order to enter the unit. Unless someone happens to open the door while you're standing there, but hey, every system has its flaw.
They asked someone to volunteer to go first and since no one else moved, I volunteered. When they didn't find me in the system, I just sighed in resignation. They told me that I obviously hadn't been entered into the system yet and didn't have a temporary ethics number but that they'd hurry the process along so I could get printed as soon as possible.
            A few days later, the woman who is in charge of both the temporary ethics numbers and all the animal courses (whom I'd sent the filled out form to and whom I'd been stalking for a week to find out where the course was being given), and who is obviously very good at her job, got back to me about the matter. Apparently the form requesting a temporary ethics number had not been adequately filled out and she was obviously too busy to get back to me about at at any point in the month between when I filled it out and the day of the course. She was probably too busy mumbling to herself and bumping into things while roaming the halls where she “works.” The confusion seemed to lie in the section where you mark off your status at the university. Since I am both a student and a lab worker, I had to choose one of these options. I chose the wrong one. I was thus doomed to live my life as a leper and an outcast from the system.
Once that minor matter was cleared up (a month and a half after having checked the wrong box), I got a temporary ethics number and was finally able to get my palm printed. I found my way back to the vets' office (back through the double doors on the left after the elevator, at the end of the hall, through another short hallway, at the back of the large room where they appear to wash large things, and then in the office to the right) by some beacon of desperation. Of course there was no one in the office when I got there. Just 3 empty desks. I think it should be allowed to loot office supplies when people are inexplicably not at their desks (especially if there are more than 2 people who are supposed to be working in the office). Just like it should be allowed for the light rail drivers to run over anyone not smart enough to get off the tracks when the train honks at them. That right there should be an entrance exam into the gene pool.
Luckily there was someone in the office next door. I went to her and asked if there was anyone at all around who could take my prints. She confirmed that I had taken the animal unit course and then looked me up in the computer. She couldn't find me in the system (surprise!) so she made a phone call to yell at the person who was supposed to have entered me into the excel spreadsheet 2 weeks ago. She took me to this person's office where she rifled through the papers on the desk until she found the appropriate handwritten list. Then we went back to the vets' office where the computer went down for a few minutes, and finally printed me when it came back online.

She assured me that I should be able to get into the animal unit from that moment on and I immediately went to test it (excuse me for being skeptical at this point). I was in! I cried a bit out of happiness and relief and then went to throw myself a celebratory party at the bar down the street with the mice (after smuggling them out in my pockets).

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