Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Watch Your Tongue

It takes a village to raise a child. - Hillary Clinton

The above statement has kind of become a catch phrase that I have heard reinvented and customized for different situations. In my line of work as a scientist, it can be adapted as, "It takes a village to carry out an experiment." The scientists come up with the ideas and the required techniques, the engineers and designers help to develop the plans for the equipment and how it will be constructed and installed, the shop technicians fabricate the components, teams of graduate and undergraduate students help to assemble the parts and carry out the calibrations and testing, and the technicians carry out the final installation.

With all of these folks, I work in and among people with all sorts of backgrounds and education levels. I have found that I am as comfortable debating the latest experimental techniques and approaches with my scientific colleagues as I am cutting it up with the technicians. I think that when you labor for long hours down in the pits with folks over many years, you develop a special bond of trust and respect for each other. ... Well, perhaps I spoke too hastily about that trust and respect stuff.

I was joking around with the technicians the other day and, in jest, made a remark about them being clueless brutes. Much too quickly they told me to watch my step or they would push my down an elevator shaft. They even had their story already rehearsed. "Man he was acting all crazy, waving his arms and chanting wildly." ... "I heard him say that he couldn't take it any more." ... "His eyes were popping out of this head and he was sweating like a pig as he screamed out, 'sic semper tyrannis'."