Should I buy a lottery ticket?

I’m not a gambler, but every once in a while a weird coincidence strikes–sometimes so weird that I wonder about my “luck,” and with such a rare and unusual event unfolding, whether it would be more likely for me to win the lottery. Of course, it helps if you buy a ticket.

At the beginning of the week, I was minding my own business, working on the discussion of a manuscript when an e-mail came through. Now that’s not unusual; even 50-100 of them in a very busy day isn’t out of order. This particular e-mail happened to be an invitation to travel some time in the fall to deliver a seminar and meet faculty at another institution. As this is something I enjoy doing–particularly meeting and talking with fellow cell biologists (who are not plentiful in Nebraska), I gladly accepted and we set about the “waggle dance” of finding a suitable date.

I was informed that the seminars are on Thursdays at noon, with the speaker coming in a day earlier, to meet with several faculty from the department for dinner. We ended up settling for one of two potential dates in Oct., to be decided soon. So far, so good.

On Thursday, I received another e-mail from the same institute, from someone who had introduced himself as the Chair of the department, asking me again about my willingness to come out for a Thursday seminar in the fall. No big deal, I supposed that my previous contact, Dr. So-and-So, had asked his chair to contact me directly. It did seem a bit odd that the chair provided me with several dates to choose from, although none were in Oct.

As it happens, one of the new dates was actually a lot simpler for me. So I wrote and thanked the chair again for the invitation, and noted that although Dr. So-and-So had set a couple of tentative dates in Oct., I’m actually pleased that he now contacted me and gave me a different date altogether that works better for me. All’s well than ends well.

A few minutes later I was rewarded with a big thank you from the chair, who was happy that I accepted one of the proposed dates he put forth, and that he and the department were looking forward to my visit. He also pointed out that he had absolutely no idea who Dr. So-and-So was, and what I was talking about regarding an Oct. visit!

As it turns out, I had received two separate seminar invitations from entirely distinct departments at the very same institution in the space of 4 days! Now how likely is that?! How embarrassing was that, too–of me to simply assume that since it was the same institute, that it was the same department! It’s a good thing I’m a lot more careful about the experiments we do in the lab than about scrutinizing invitations to deliver seminars!

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of about 10 students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery that is now in press! All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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3 Responses to Should I buy a lottery ticket?

  1. This isn’t the institution you’re visiting in October that I’m currently sitting in, is it?

    If so, your story surprises me not in the slightest. It’s the sort of thing that happens here all the time. 😉

    • Steve Caplan says:

      No, not the institution that WAS scheduled for Oct. and now is looking at later January 2013!
      Is that a punishment for bad behavior, a winter invitation?

      • Kind of depends. Last winter was unbelievably mild… which means it was cold enough to be blah, without any hint of “winter wonderland”. However I imagine it gets way colder where you are than it does here… so maybe it’s a blessing?

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