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2007-09-09 - 12:04 p.m.


I believe that I have mentioned earlier that there are quite some bizarre machinations with the university and my laboratory setup. One of the most innocuous and yet by far the weirdest involves my laboratory clock.

When the new building was built, somebody decided that it would be a great idea to wire all of the clocks in the building centrally, so that no one clock would have a different time. Anyone who is remotely familiar with engineering a new building will already see the flaw in this brilliant idea - it assumes that things like building clocks can be engineered correctly. I don't believe that I have ever been to a university where the clocks work. Back at Dutchess, professors and students were never given the proverbial time-of-day, unless of course they brought their own batteries...(and then the batteries were usually stolen).

Anyway, needless to say, the clock in my laboratory has NEVER worked. And perhaps also needless to say, I had bigger things on my mind than fixing the damn clock. So I left it. Well, that's not exactly true. One day when Brenda and I were cleaning the lab she mentioned that we should really fix this thing. So we jumped onto tables and pulled it down, ready to slam in some double-A batteries. And THAT's when we discovered that the clock was wired to the wall, in this strange, semi-Orwellian fashion. And THAT's when I said something to the effect of f***-it and left it.

Have you ever noticed how some people cannot stand to be in a room where a picture is slightly crooked? Well, it turns out that some people react the same way to incorrect clocks. It drove one of my lab workers nuts to sit under it - or so Brenda informed me. So we would discuss the clock occasionally. And we would joke about cutting out a perfect little happy face and gluing it over the clock. And then we would move on. again.

The clock entered center stage once more in July, when Bruce the Electrician came to find the missing electrical circuits in the lab. He looked up at the clock and said, "Hey I should be going home - I didn't know it was this late." and we said, "no the clock's just kind of on European time or something - it doesn't work." To which he replied - "That's impossible. They are centrally wired." At which point, Brenda and I just looked at each other.

We explained that it had never worked. At which point Bruce - remember? he's an electrician? - said, "You should really get that fixed." Bruce, bless his electrical soul, occasionally said things that made us think that he had spent a little bit too long and too happy a time in the Cannabis section of British Cannabis...So I just said, "okay."

But you see, an electrician cannot just simply fix a clock - the university has a special clock electrician who has to come in and wave a wand or something to set the thing to the right time...The clock has to go to the shop and a special appointment had to be made with the clock technician to come and mend it. This, of course, had Brenda laughing out loud...while I tried to maintain a more serious, professorial, clock demeanor.

And then Bruce said, "just put in a work order and I'll come back on Monday to pick it up." (British Cannabis is also known for its rather excessive emphasis on the unionized labor work order..) So I did. I put in the work order. And Bruce came back and took the clock away on the following Monday. Brenda and I looked each other. I don't remember which one of us said what, but we shared the same sentiment, "Do you think we're ever going to see that clock again?" "Nope."

So that was the end of July. The clock is still gone. Not that I really cared, because the slightly obsessive compulsive lab worker cared much less about an empty hole where a clock should be. Only about an incorrect clock. So all has been reasonable once again.

And then on Tuesday of this week, I heard that my next piece of huge equipment is arriving - and requires rewiring the lab. So this meant that I needed to put in another big work order, and so I decided to inquire about the clock in a "by the way, has anyone seen my clock?" kind of way.

A new electrician - Fred - was there the next day to check out the wiring situation. He appraised Brenda of the clock situation. Because now the clock had become a situation - apparently, my clock cannot be fixed. And so they had to send it back to the manufacturer. In the meantime, Fred promised, they have ordered me a "temporary replacement clock" to sit where MY clock will eventually reside. Brenda made it clear that a "temporary replacement" was not really necessary, especially since it probably wouldn't take that long to get the old clock back from the manufacturer...right?

Ummm...Fred we had better get a replacement. The "temporary replacement clock" should arrive in about two weeks...

I'm planning on taking it with me when I retire...

I shared this little story with K last week. He shared a dumbfounded look with me in return...

"Do you ever get to any work OTHER than fill in forms and deal with this kind of thing??" I smiled and answered quietly, "err, no."

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