Sunday, August 18, 2013

I will NOT be Arnold Horshak, but neither will I play the part of the silent idiot who knows nothing.

The internship is going well. I do spend a fair amount of time playing barrister -- I can make a much better latte than I could before I took this position -- and shredding documents,  but I'm not a full-scale custodian. I haven't cleaned a single restroom, nor have I emptied a single waste basket.

This is the person I refuse to be, either in class or at my lab internship job.

The lab for which I work considers this to be a position which should be mutually beneficial to the lab and to me. For that reason, I do a fair amount of filing, shredding, and gopher tasks. They also ascertain, on the other hand, that all of us are exposed  to actual lab work, even if it only involves observing the process. Most pathologists and paraprofessionals take the time, even if it adds time to the tasks they're attempting to accomplish,  to let us look through microscope lenses, or show us how to operate the machine that spins the  liquid specimens, which breaks down the contents of the body substances being tested.  We certainly don't make any actual diagnoses [unlike the other pseudolab where I spent two days, but a few pathologists have asked us to offer opinions about what we've observed and what it might possibly indicate.  This is the learning experience it is supposed to be.

A form of mold was being evaluated. It was in a petri dish. We weren't allowed near it until we were wearing scrubs, masks covering our mouths and noses, eye protection, and rubber gloves. After observing  the viewing and photography of the mold, a portion on the mold was put on  a slide. The pathologist looked at it. He asked each of us to have a  look. He asked each of us what we thought it was. The consensus among my fellow lab interns was that it was stachybotrys. I said it looked like cladosporium to me.  The pathologist, a balding, not particularly thin but far from obese probably late-forty-ish man, pulled out a small, spiral-bound book, and flipped to the cladosporium page, then flipped to the stachybotrys page. He asked us all to look at both, and if we still stuck to our original diagnoses.  We did. He asked me why I thought it was cladosporium. I said that based solely on appearance, it looked greener and less slimy, and a little more powdery or velvety,  than stachybotrys, but that I would be interested in knowing from where the sample came before making a final diagnosis. I also said that the molds react differently to alcohol, and that dropping it into alcohol would help to confirm the findings.

The pathologist said we didn't need any more testing because I was right and that I have a good eye for mold. He said the sample was obtained from an interior PVC supply duct, which is a more likely setting for cladosporium. He said the main indicator, though, was the appearance, the color and the perceived texture.  He dismissed the rest of the lab interns for the day, two of whom shot me visual daggers as they walked away,  but asked me to stay for a moment. one guy, a tall, tanned blond who was probably twenty-two or so, whispered,  "Teacher's pet!" in my ear loudly enough that the others heard. When gave him a puzzled look, he said, "Good work!" I don't really know what to think of him yet.

The pathologist asked how old I was. I told him eighteen. "Are you sure?" he asked

"Pretty sure," I told him. "I can remember every birthday since my second, and I don't think my parents were lying to me about that one."

"I don't mean  'Do you know how old you are?' " he explained. "I mean  'Are you telling me the truth? ' "

"Yes," I answered. "I have documentation of my age, and you can call my parents if you want."

"You're John Rousseau's kid, aren't you?" he asked.

"Yes," I answered, less than thrilled that he had made the connection. I'd rather be judged by my own work, good or bad, than by anyone's preconceived notions related to my father's eminence.

"I didn't mean to accuse you of lying," he clarified. "It's just that you don't look eighteen."

"It's genetic," I told him.  "My parents always looked young for their ages and still do -- especially my mom."

"How old is your dad?" he asked."

"Almost forty-eight," I answered.

"You're right," he concluded. "He doesn't look anywhere near forty-eight. He could pass for  his thirties, although he's been around for long enough that most of us should know he has to be older than that." He paused. "The age thing, " he continued, "may seem like a curse now, but you'll be grateful for it later."

"That's what everyone keeps telling me," I agreed. "But I get pulled over about twice a month just because the cop or CHP thinks I can't possibly be old enough to drive. And I'm eighteen, not sixteen. It's gotten to the point that I'm no longer nervous when I see the red lights flashing."

"The reason I asked about your age, "  he continued, "is that if you're eighteen, you can handle toxic substances under certain conditions. You can prepare slides, for one thing."

"Do you want me to prepare a slide?" I asked eagerly -- probably too eagerly.

"Not today," he answered. "I'm out of here in a few minutes, and you should already be gone. But next time, definitely." He paused, looked in both directions, and continued. "I've got  employees with M.S. degrees who would have insisted stachybotrys on that one.  You have good instincts. Or you paid attention in microbiology class. Or both."

"Thank you," I told him.

"Don't thank me, " he said rather abruptly. "I'm merely stating the obvious."

"Point taken" I answered,  not knowing what else to say.

"I won't say anything about your father,"  he advised me,  "and you shouldn't either. There's going to be plenty of jealousy directed at you as it is."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because you know more than you should know at this stage of your career," he answered. "Some people don't study very hard and don't take very good notes," he explained, "and they resent others who do. Don't take it personally if other interns do take it personally."

Thus ended my most interesting day so far at the lab.  It's such a comforting feeling to know that my peers may be aiming figurative or literal daggers at my back.   I'm not going to wave my arm around like Arnold Horshak, but I'm not going to play stupid, either.  We're at a point in all our academic careers where what we do or do not do, or know or do not know, now matters. I'd say that it's a dog-eat-dog world except that I love dogs too much. It don't like opossums. It's an opossum-eat-opossum world.


1 comment:

  1. You go, girl! Your parents must be very proud. As for the others, screw them. It's the same kind of stupid stuff I ran into in grad school, people being jealous when you show them up.