Friday, September 01, 2006

In the Danger Zone

Jobs are dangerous. All jobs. Each has its own unique brand of danger.

Take, for example, the work I've done so far this year. Lets start with my present semi-occupation, as a lowest of low peon at S. Bullock's biotech company. This week, my job has taken me down to the "QC Lab," where you can, if you choose, wear a cool white lab coat that has two patches; one has the name of the company, the other your own name. Unless you are not often in the lab. Then you have to wear one that says "Visitor."

So I'm down there, "Visitor," trying to identify pieces of equipment to log into a database, then jamming little stickers on them to show that they're accounted for. While I'm down there, I compile the following list:


1. Orbital Shaker
2. Mini Vortexer
3. Autosampler
4. Sonicator
5. Spectra Manager
6. Threshold Analyzer
7. Speed Vac
8. Stability Chamber
9. Palltronic Flowstar
10. Cat Mixer

As in, "...dude, I tried to get into see Cat Mixer at the Fillmore last Friday, but it was sold out. Fortunately, I already got my tickets for Autosampler on the 12th."

This passes the time, which is not really necessary, because the absolute terror of knowing that you're walking among all kinds of dangerous chemicals makes time pass very quickly as well.

For example: yesterday, I'm down there looking for serial numbers, which are often hidden under or on the backside of equipment, and there's this one piece of stuff inside a fume hood that I can't see. Since I'm old and my contacts suck, there's no way I can read the numbers, so I ask this lab coated guy to help out. "Sure," he says, as he casually walks over, PUTS ON RUBBER GLOVES, and grabs the same piece of equipment I'd been holding bare-handed a few seconds ago.

"Uh, is this something I don't want to touch without gloves?"

(chuckling) "Oh, yeah. You don't want to touch that blue stuff, or the white film. Nope."

For the next hour, I imagine that the tingling I feel in my hands is only the skin slowly melting away. I am familiar with this feeling, as I also had it last week, when I spilled what was probably water from the centrifuge in room 1024.

So there is danger.

The other day I followed this guy down to the lab. He looked about 50, and walked with this strange, zombie-like gait. He entered the lab silently, which is not surprising since this guy had never spoken in my presence, saw another guy in there and started talking to him. And I swear to you, the language they were speaking was not of this world. Either they were speaking backwards, or the QC lab is secretly populated by Martians.

I don't want to know what Martians + dangerous chemicals equals, so I quickly turned around and left. Again, danger.

Lets move onto one of my other occupations of 2006, real estate. Where, you say, is the danger in that? Driving crazily around San Francisco, I suppose, is dangerous, as is parking illegally several times a day, and sweating profusely while nervously speaking to people at an open house is dangerous for your shirts. But for me, the real danger reared its head once again on Wednesday, in the middle of the presentation I didn't want to do with my mortgage broker friend.

We were in the "boardroom," ("That's the elite conference room," S. Bullock chipped in) here at the Biotech. I was doing double duty -- from blue-collar peon to schmoozing realtor -- throwing out ridiculous statistics about price per square foot, percent change in median home prices -- and I managed to take a look at myself, standing there in my one-and-only sportcoat and my green pants. WhatI saw reminded me once and for all why my attempt to enter society as a productive realtor was doomed from the start. For despite my best efforts at reinventing the realtor, to be the "agent on the next bar stool," when I looked at myself, standing there waving my arms for emphasis as the Powerpoint presentation glowed indecipherable charts on a nearby screen, I saw nothing more than a carnival barker, and a not-very-convincing one at that. Lousy, forced jokes, desperate attempts to seem authoritative, it was pathetic. In the end (for me at least), maybe there is no nice way to be a salesman.

Dangerous, for sure.

And finally, it's no surprise that my primary job, being the Jawa's dad, is also filled with danger. Since kindergarten, we've made it a habit to sometimes stay a little bit after school so he can play with some friends while I talk to my friends, their parents. Yesterday, since it was only the second day of school, the Jawa wanted to play for a little bit. So we stayed.

At one point, the Hammer mentioned the phrase "a penny for your thoughts." She was talking about her own son, the sensitive, someday-to-be-a-good-boyfriend Shaman, who'd suffered a slight emotional breakdown the day before at Krispy Kreme, but as she said it, I was half-listening and half watching the Jawa out there, playing with his friends.

So a penny for my thoughts, at that very moment.

We've all been talking for awhile about how quickly our kids are growing up. At the Jawa's most recent checkup, the little pamphlet the doctor gave me was titled "Your Pre-teen." Which stuck with me. At Krispy Kreme we were talking about whether our kids were old enough to leave at home for just a few minutes say, if we wanted to run down and grab a newspaper or something. We talk about it, naturally, because we're Jews and we like to talk, and we still have plenty of times when our little pre-teens are more little than pre-teen.

But at that moment I glanced over at the Jawa and saw, running across the playground, a big kid.

I'd thought it the night before, when the Jawa and I were arguing so intensely that we spent most of the next day slightly shaken, apologizing to each other repeatedly. I've been seeing more and more glimpses of big kidness, in fact.

You know how something will hit you, and for just a brief moment it'll seem like the most obvious thing in the world? Your friend's new girlfriend is doing cocaine in the bathroom. The pork at the Atomic Cafe is not pork. The Jawa is a big kid. He's shaped like a big kid, moves like a big kid, holds his head like a big kid.

By the time we got home, he was a little kid again, but I guess I'll have to take note of each little kid moment, because soon they'll be pictures and old homework assignments Sandra Bullock neatly placed in a rubber container from Hold Everything and put in downstairs behind the washer and dryer.

Jobs. Each with its own brand of danger.


Anonymous flush puppy said...

You left one of the most dangerous jobs in parenting a pre-teen male - at least for you. Telling him that the body is indeed NOT filled with nougat. Not to mention explaining all the other crazy stuff that happens to teenage boys... Man, I'd LOVE to be a fly on the wall during that talk. SB may be the queen of all things scientific and most gross body functions, but unless I miss my guess, she has never experienced morning wood or wet dreams. Could be the Jawa may want to discuss these things with someone who actually has. RED ALERT!!

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Noodle's Mom said...

Flush Puppy you're wrong--the body is too filled with nougat.

7:30 PM  
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