It started during my undergrad research project.
“I have to go into the lab tomorrow morning to feed all my cells, so I can’t stay out too late tonight or have a hangover tomorrow”, I’d say.
After comments along the lines of “feed your cells?! What, like a Tamagotchi*?!”, people would urge me just to skip the early morning lab session and have another drink, like a normal person. But I couldn’t – weeks of work and 30% of my final degree grade were at stake.
The vast majority of the friends I had in Glasgow during my PhD were fellow grad students and/or fellow scientists, and so they understood all of this. The non-scientist friends I made during my postdoc didn’t understand the technicalities, but were generally in careers or on degree courses with analogous commitments and therefore understood the general concept of spending the occasional weekend or evening in the lab, and basing vacations and other events around experiments when necessary.
However, I now seem to be in a group of close friends where I’m virtually the only one with a non-flexible job (as opposed to freelancing, running your own business, or being able to trade shifts with colleagues who have the same job title).
And it SUCKS.
Way back in 2008, some of our closest friends started planning a trip to Munich’s Oktoberfest in 2013. Their reasoning was that with five years warning, there’d be no excuse for anyone not to be able to go.
“Yeah, I won’t be able to go”, I said in 2008, and again every time the trip’s been mentioned since.
Talk of Munich 2013 is ramping up now that the boys are back from Burning Man (which has been the primary topic of conversation since New Year’s Eve), and people are also trying to persuade me to go to next year’s Burning Man**. Saying that August, September and October are always completely impossible due to a convergence of grant deadlines (see my last post and pretty much any other “grant wrangling” tagged post written between August and November since I started this job in 2007) never seems to get me anywhere, even though I’m in the middle of it (and stressed out about it and losing sleep over it and going to work even when I’m sick because I can’t miss days at this time of year unless I’m dead or at least in the hospital) RIGHT NOW.
All night on Saturday’s second (or was it third?) 40th birthday celebration for Mr E Man, people were telling me things like “but you have another couple of years to sort it out!” (I’m sure it won’t take long to get all the funding agencies to change their deadlines so as not to clash with Oktoberfest), “just go! What’ll they do, fire you?!” (yes, quite possibly, and there are literally two or three jobs posted in Vancouver each year to which I’d be willing and able to apply), “quit and go freelance!” (so I can work on a bunch of other people’s grants for the exact same deadlines, but risk defaulting on my mortgage at the same time! What fun!), “it’s only for a couple of weeks, and you get four weeks vacation time, right?” (it was hard enough getting a couple of days off to go to Vegas), or “I’ll write a letter to your boss saying that you just HAVE TO come” (I’m sure the CIHR, CCS, NSERC and NIH will understand 100% and grant us an extension if we miss a deadline).
Is anyone else in a similar situation? How do you get people to understand that the Science Tamagotchi (or equivalent in other fields) must be appeased, according to its own schedule, which cares not one jot for Burning Man, Oktoberfest, or any other trivial human endeavours?
I’m tempted to say something like “Look. You strangle ants for a living, right?*** Now, imagine that the government suddenly decrees that all the ants in Canada have to be strangled by September 15th, and if you miss that cut-off, you can’t make any money from strangling ants until March 15th of the next year. Also, the clients with the worst infestations always procrastinate on their ant strangling needs until the last possible minute. Now, please can you go on vacation with me on September 1st 2014?”
*Did I just show my age?
**Never mind grant deadline season, with my peely-wally Celtic skin and aversion to temperatures over 27C I’d only go if it wasn’t in the desert in the middle of summer. Why can’t they have it in a nice shady forest or on a beach in Oregon or something?! Or in the desert in the middle of, say, April?! At least have it next to a lake you can swim in!
***None of my friends actually do this. At least not that I’m aware of.