Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Job I Don't Work At

 When I was hired to work at my job, I understood it was a part time job. That was fine with me since I had finals at the time and I'll have time for school whenever it starts (I haven't bothered to check when. I just know that like everything else, it will start “after the holidays.”). I didn't quite realize how part time the job is. For the first 2 weeks I came in every day for 3 or 4 hours, except when I had a final. I had plenty of time to study, but I also had a routine, which is important for me. Especially since I'm physically incapable of sitting at home. I need to have somewhere to go or I start going out of my dishes (this is a direct translation from the Hebrew expression for “to lose one's mind.” It is a strange expression whose origin is unknown to me.). This usually entails reorganizing drawers, boxes, and various rooms in the house. After that's done, the baking commences. This is ok until we run out of room in the freezer.
At the end of these two weeks, the 2 masters students that apparently also work in the lab (surprise, you have colleagues!) returned to work. Up to then I'd been working alone with the doctoral student. The professor was still out of the country, so it had basically been just us 2 (and the 6 or so other people who have temporarily moved into our lab while theirs goes through renovation). In point of fact we were greatly outnumbered 3:1 before the other students returned. This would have been the ideal time for a coup but fortunately the other researchers seemed not to be very ambitious or have any interest in the expropriation of biological equipment.
The last I heard at the end of those 2 weeks was, “we'll call you when there's work.” The other two girls were adequate for whatever daily tasks there were except for entering the animal unit, due to a little mishap involving expired permission forms. As long as there were no new mice, I was not required. Two weeks later, I finally got word that the woman I'd been working with wanted me to come in on Tuesday, the day that also happened to be the day of the mouse course. Apparently the professor was coming back to work that day so she figured he might have some work for us all to do. I told her I'd come in after the course ended at 11:00 or so, which I did.
We had to go check on the mice and take more DNA samples but she kept saying, “I hope we have enough time.” I wasn't sure what we didn't have enough time for but figured she was in a hurry to go...somewhere. As it turns out, they were having a welcome back party for the professor at 12:00 in his office (which I was finally made privy to after a parade of fruit platters sailed by the lab). That was a particularly awkward party for me, as most parties are when you don't know the guest of honor and there are only 6 people in attendance, all squashed into a small office. It was made even more awkward by the fact that I walked in 15 minutes late after finishing up with the mice upstairs and there was nowhere to sit. I had to drag a chair down the hall after finally being introduced to the professor, and sit through first the small talk, and then what basically turned into a work meeting. Seeing as I'd only worked there for a grand total of 2 weeks, I had no idea what they were talking about. I may have dozed off for a few minutes but probably no one noticed. Scientists are not known for being particularly observant of anything not under a microscope.
I worked the next day as well but was then once again told that they'd call me when there was work. It's always nice to know that my work schedule is determined by mice.
After 3 weeks and no word, I was beginning to think that maybe they'd fired me but forgotten to tell me. It felt like one of those breakups that occurs when one party just stops answering the other's calls. I had sent a few text messages but after the first one I didn't even get responses so I stopped trying. Everyone kept telling me to call them or go in and discuss things and bla bla bla, but I didn't really feel like it. If there's no work, there's no work. Why bother having a discussion about it? I started looking for alternative jobs and even contacted a few people.
People kept asking me what I was doing over the summer and my response was that I have a job I don't work at. Then they would say, “well as long as you're getting a paycheck, I guess it doesn't really matter.” Getting a paycheck? I just raised my eyebrows and looked at them until they realized that what they'd just said was quite ridiculous. In point of fact, I haven't yet received my paycheck from July. Maybe the mice take care of the salaries as well.
I finally decided at the end of 3 weeks that I would call them up and ask them if everyone was still alive and kicking (imagine how bad I'd feel if everyone had died of the plague, and while I'd been spared I was badmouthing them all not knowing that they were all piled in a shallow grave outside the hospital). If they answered that there was just no work or that they'd only need me once or twice a month, I would tell them it was unreasonable of them to expect me to work that infrequently and that they certainly never mentioned how little work there would be when they hired me. I would then bid them farewell, after thanking them for giving me the opportunity to jump through the flaming hoops of bureaucracy in vain. I was getting all hyped up to tell them where they could go and what they could do with their mice.
I finally called the woman I'd been working with, and she picked up and said “oh, Natania, we were just talking about you. We have work for you on Sunday. Can you come in?”

My figurative balloon deflated and I just stammered out, “oh, uh, sure. I guess so.” I've since reclassified my job as “a job I work at sometimes.”

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