Obnoxious scientist alert

I arrived at the gym this morning sopping wet and dishevelled after cycling through a downpour1, and already slightly out of breath after climbing the stairs.
I scanned my membership badge – kept on the same lanyard as my work ID – and was preparing to move into the main area when the usually silent desk staff asked me if I’d heard of their new special offer.
No, I hadn’t, so they immediately launched into a detailed explanation of how much money I’d save by bundling 12 sessions “just in time for Spring!”.
“Sessions of what?”, though? I asked, while a puddle of rain water formed around my feet.
“Tanning!” With a smile and a nod towards the window, silently challenging me to think of something that could possibly be better on such a miserable morning.
Before I could stop myself, I replied “no thanks, I work at the Cancer Agency”, and waved my work ID badge at them.
After a stunned silence, they decided to find it funny, although they cast a nervous glance or two towards the manager’s office…
Is there any way to stifle this kind of impulse?

1 The sun came out a few minutes later and it’s been a beautiful day ever since. Karma?

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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24 Responses to Obnoxious scientist alert

  1. Katherine Haxton says:

    Classic! I wouldn’t stifle it at all.

  2. Craig Rowell says:

    In this instance why would you want to?

  3. Cath Ennis says:

    Well, it just feels rather rude, and off-putting to non-scientists in an elitist, “I’m gonna tell you what’s good for you” kinda way.

  4. steffi suhr says:

    But that’s not your intention, Cath. And you can’t always hide who you are 😉

  5. Cath Ennis says:

    I could have done it in a much nicer way, and probably would have, if I wasn’t cold, wet and in a hurry!

  6. Eva Amsen says:

    Haha, yay!
    One of my friends (not a scientist) asked me to tell her other friend why he shouldn’t actively be tanning. He didn’t listen to her, but she had said “Eva is writing a thesis about pigmentation and SHE’S going to tell you it’s bad TOO. Listen to her, she’s a scientist!”

  7. Richard P. Grant says:

    I think it was just wonderful, darling.

  8. Cristian Bodo says:

    Doesn’t sound like you’re telling anyone what to do. Instead, you told them that (because of your profession) you are aware of the risks asociated with that and you choose not to do it. Nothing wrong with that!

  9. Cath Ennis says:

    You guys rock! Air kisses all round (mwah, mwah).

  10. Lee Turnpenny says:

    They were trying to screw you for cash. Screw ’em!

  11. Sabbi Lall says:

    Nice answer! Can I quote you if someone offers me a discount on a DNA damage agent?

  12. Cath Ennis says:

    See, this is why I love blogging. I’ve gone from thinking “I shouldn’t have said that” to “well, maybe I should, but I should have said it more nicely”, to “yeah, screw ’em”, all in a few hours.

  13. Cath Ennis says:

    Sarbjit, our comments crossed. Go for it!
    Amusingly enough, the gym offers Cancer Agency employees a corporate discount, as does the beer and wine store in the same mall. Speaking of DNA damge agents and all.

  14. Henry Gee says:

    Great story!
    Years ago when the world was young I shared a house with my sister in Chiswick. It turned out that our phone number was one digit removed from that of a tanning salon up the road, so we often got inquiries for bookings and about services. Oh, the fun we could have had with that. Sadly we were too public-spirited and redirected the calls…

  15. Cath Ennis says:

    Booooo! How boring!
    My old Vancouver phone number was one digit removed from a pizza restaurant. The best call was an obviously very, very stoned guy wanting three pizzas. I said “sorry, wrong number,” and he said “Duuuuuuuuuude! Did I accidentally call England??!!”

  16. Caryn Shechtman says:

    Good story! Now a days, I think it is generally known tanning is bad for you. As a scientist, you are just able to explain why. So, don’t stifle the impulse, you may have stopped those people from going tanning in the future.

  17. Richard P. Grant says:

    After three years living in Australia I am no longer day-glo British. And now she tells me tanning is bad for me. I can’t win.
    Wait, it’s not a tan—it’s rust. Yeah.

  18. Cath Ennis says:

    I have a Celtic tan; in summer I go from blue to white.

  19. Nathaniel Marshall says:

    RPG”After three years living in Australia I am no longer day-glo British”
    Sorry but you still are.
    I too am perfectly adapted to the land of my ancestors in scottish mist camouflage coloured skin.

  20. steffi suhr says:

    Cath, we spent last weekend visiting an old friend of my mothers and, prompted by her husband, I found myself – again – explaining things like climate change (which he said he ‘doesn’t believe in’) and various other sciencey-things. I noticed that the days of me feeling silly and elitist about doing that (having to do it?) are over, and I seem to have found more or less the right words… it felt like maturing in a way. Does that sound silly?

  21. Cath Ennis says:

    No, I don’t think so… apparently I’m quite a bit less mature than you though!

  22. Richard Wintle says:


  23. steffi suhr says:

    Maybe mature is the wrong word. It’s just getting ‘comfortable’ with the whole thing. It must just be repetition and practice. At this point, I also have six years outside of academia – often surrounded by people without science backgrounds – under my belt, so I guess that’s a lot of practice.

  24. Richard Wintle says:

    I too am perfectly adapted to the land of my ancestors in scottish mist camouflage coloured skin.
    For similar reasons, I always feel right at home in the UK – something about the damp air makes it easier to breathe.

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