A Day in the Life of a Lake Nerd: In the Lab

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I have to buy new alarm clocks because I smash them so hard in the morning. My day usually starts around 6:30 a.m., when the alarm clock gets smacked for the first time. Around 7:00 a.m. I begin to seriously consider getting up, and then I usually fall asleep again and wake up in a panic because it is 7:35 a.m.

The next fourty-five minutes are a blur: a bowl of homemade granola, coffee, shower, sometimes another coffee (not today — I’m late!), desperate attempts to cover the dark circles under my eyes, a string of texts from my best friend (coffee? coffee? coffee? you awake?), and a desperate search to find my keys. Sometimes I even remember my glasses, although that usually doesn’t happen until I am already outside, running for the bus.

I’ve been told that there is no better feeling on earth than being the first person to open up the lab. Who knows? When I walk through the heavy doors friendly faces turn towards me. The lab chirps with the sounds of clinking glassware. Machines purr comfortably in the background. I scan the room to see who is using which instruments and plan my day accordingly.

Imagine a mad scientist with his iconic beakers and flasks, swishing around strangely-coloured liquids in an oddly shaped container. That’s what my work looks like. After I get everything set up, it will run on its own, making comforting dripping noises. A quick needle jab into a different machine and finally I can take breath. It is 9:30 a.m.

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I look around for my friend Jacob who still wants coffee (coffee? coffee? I’m hungry.) We buy some overpriced coffee and snacks and sit in wooden chairs. I listen to him talk about his latest problems in rock land and offer some uninspiring advice. Then I tell him the riveting and heart-wrenching problems that I’ve encountered in plant land. Then commences the detailed report about his puppy, Mr. Waffles, which commands my full attention because, well, priorities.

After three cups of coffee I can no longer ignore my emails, which are piling up by the minute. If my emails were a food, they would be the uninspiring gnocchi that I made a couple of months ago. It tasted disgusting, but I felt obligated to eat it bite… by bite… by miserable, horrible bite. Then I threw the rest of it in the garbage.

The next few hours involve a lot of running. I rush from the Earth Sciences building to the Geography building and back again, bouncing from meeting to meeting and attempting to fulfill the multiplicity of commitments that I’ve made to various extracurricular groups on campus. Then it’s lunchtime.

I stumble into the lab, peeling away layers upon layers of hats and scarves and jackets (welcome to Canada). I plop down on a stool and pull out a Tupperware filled with my latest concoction (usually a curry of sorts). I chat with the lab staff and, while nobody is looking, Jacob and I program fake events into the electronic lab calendar. “I think it’s going to be my birthday tomorrow,” he says. “Wow,” I reply, typing quickly, “I didn’t know your birthday was during National Sock Month.”

Around 3:00 p.m. most of the students and staff have cleared out of the lab, which is when I get my best work done. I turn up the volume on a horrible playlist — something trashy like “TOP 40 2016 SUMMER REMX” — and begin to crush plants, grinding them into an unrecognizable powder. I carefully pour the powder into clean, labelled vials, and weigh them out into minuscule capsules. Rinse and repeat.

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Around 7:00 p.m. I usually get hungry, which means that it’s time to go home. Like Mr. Waffles, my schedule revolves around food. I trudge for twenty minutes through the snow to my apartment and stomp my boots firmly on the mat as I walk through the doors. A rush of warm air greets me and I step inside. I faceplant on the carpet (boots still on) and enter into a ephemeral state wherein I am too tired to get up, but am also too hungry to continue resting.

I walk into the kitchen and fry some tofu for a sandwich. After eating I feel marvelous. I put on my favourite pair of pajamas and cue up the next episode of Outlander or Orphan Black and drink a cup of tea. I call my mom and get ready for bed, double checking the locks before closing my eyes. I try not to think about all of the things I need to do tomorrow, and then I drift off to sleep.

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