Creul. Cruel. Irony.

Posted: March 26, 2011 in Post-Doc

So it seems that the bard of Avon (aka William Shakespeare) has decided to inject some of his drama into my life. Today is one of those days that started out benign enough but turned into one of the few times in my life I will ever experience cruel irony that is more at home on theater stages than in the day to day life of a humble scientist. It’s the kind of shit you see on TV and say “wow, that never happens in real life, who makes this shit up?” Prose is not something I know how to write well, so I’m going to try and communicate my experience via a timeline, 24-hour TV show style:

5:50 am – My wife wakes up early today because she has a 9:15 interview for a job she has applied to. This is the first interview she has been able to land after searching for and applying to many jobs for several months now. The interview is in a town that is about a 45 minute commute from our present residence.  She knows she is one of three candidates being interviewed this week after making it past the first interview screening from the previous week. This is a job that fits her skill set extremely well and would be a nice next step for her in her career path. Both of us are nervous and excited at the prospect of her obtaining employment here in the UK.

7:20 am – My wife leaves the house headed for the bus/train to the job interview. After she leaves I decide to do a little bit of housework, tidying up the place, doing some breakfast dishes, taking out the garbage etc. so that when she returns home she can just relax.

8:30 am – I arrive at the lab after my 30-40 minute walk in which I listened to a recent Science podcast (which kind of suck, but more on that in another post). As soon as I arrive in the lab I drop off my backpack and head to my bench to thaw some samples and get the day started.

9:15 am – My wife begins her interview. I look at the clock and note to myself “my wife is interviewing right now while I’m doing X..good luck my love!.”

9:30 am – I overhear a couple of fellow postdocs mentioning an email and some meeting. After a couple of minutes I ask what they are talking about, and they mention that our PI has sent out an email early this morning asking to meet with several of the postdocs this afternoon. I mention that I haven’t seen the email as I haven’t been to my computer since I got in.

10:00 am – I check my email, and respond to my PI that I can indeed make the meeting this afternoon. I also find out that everyone in the lab has been requested to meet with our PI, some of us in groups, some of us individually at various times late in the afternoon. The rumors start to fly about why our PI wants to meet with us.

11:30 am – I get a call on my cell (mobile) phone from my wife telling me that she thought her interview did not go too well. She had a hard time reading the folks and thought they didn’t like her responses to their questions (more on reading the stoic Brits in another post). Needless to say she was a bit distraught as she really wants this job and we could certainly use the additional income.

1:00 pm – The tension concerning the meetings with my PI have been building for several hours in the lab and it is absolutely palpable. I can’t focus on my work so I stick to doing just menial tasks throughout the day. Many of us have lunch together and can only speculate as to why our PI wants to meet with all of us on such short notice.  Is someone getting fired? Did we do something wrong? Is somebody sick? What the hell is going on? No one knows, and our PI is not letting anything on throughout the day.

2:30 pm – I get a call from my wife who is still a little concerned that her interview did not go as well as it could have. She thought she could have done better, but was thrown off by the stoicism of some of her interviewers. I reassure her that it probably didn’t go as poorly as she thought, as I’ve run into this British stoicism and I’ve found that it does not accurately reflect what the people are thinking. As Americans, we both find it very disconcerting at times that people here do not express any emotion whatsoever, positive or negative, via their facial expressions  (again, more on this in another post).

3:30 pm – The first couple of people from my lab go to meet with our PI. The rest of us hang out in the office area, not knowing what to do and just trying to remain calm. You could cut the tension with a knife.

4:00 pm – The group of people in the lab that includes me goes to meet with our PI. We sit down and s/he explains to us that s/he has an offer from another university in the UK and is strongly considering moving the lab to this new location.

Holy shit.

This is what we were talking about as the most likely reason for these meetings all day, but here it is. Our PI tells us all the wonderful reasons as to why s/he wants to move the lab. Some I agree with, some I don’t, but what the hell do I know about the politics of this stuff. The worst part, the new location is about 3hrs driving time from our current location…not exactly a commutable distance. Most people are upset and angry, but it takes a little while to sink in. I finish up what I need to in the lab, chat with some people about things and head out early around 5:20 pm.

5:30 pm – My wife receives a phone call from the organization in which she interviewed and they offer her the job! She is overwhelmed with joy! With the extra income we can finally start traveling more and have a little better standard of living! Yeehaw!

5:43, 5:46, 5:48, 5:54 & 5:59pm – my wife tries calling me on my cell phone to tell me the good news. I don’t pick up because I don’t hear it ring. I don’t hear ring because I’m listening to the Tical album by Method Man and 36 Chambers by Wu-tang on my walk home. I wasn’t sure what kind of mood I was in after hearing the news from my PI until I left the lab and was choosing some tunes to listen to on the way home. The Roots? No. Tribe Called Quest? No. Turns out I was in an angry mood (Bring da’ ruckus!), and I don’t have The Chronic by Dr. Dre on my ipod (only an old, well worn cassette tape back in the US, but I really do need to get that shiznit on mp3).

6:05 pm – I walk into our flat. Before I can say anything my wife says to me: “I’ve tried calling you five times! Why didn’t you pick up?”…before I can reply she screams: “I got the job! They just called me and offered me the job!” She promptly jumps up into my arms and gives me a big hug and kiss. She then sees the expression on my face, and while I’m shocked and excited for her, I start to break into tears.

If you ever wanted to see the moment a man’s heart breaks, that would be it. It was like a moment out of a sitcom. I couldn’t take it. I told her what my PI told us. I apologized profusely. She was shocked. The blood of our emotions was strewn about the flat. No matter how many times we wash it, we know it will never come clean.


Cruel. Cruel. Irony.

What are the fucking chances that within a 1 hour time frame I would find out that my PI is planning on moving the lab and my wife would get an offer for a job of her dreams. While living in a foreign country. With an economy that’s quickly going into the toilet.

12:00 am – Several beers later and after watching a movie with my wife to try and get our mind off things, here I am writing a blog post. Still trying to process things. Considering our options…

WTF…seriously…keep your shit on stage Shakespeare….

  1. tideliar says:

    Aw mate, fucking hell. That’s a fucking bastard thing to happen. I am really sorry that it all hit the fan like this. Obvious questions – Is there someone else you can work with at your current institution? Is there a mid-way point you could live and just deal w the commute? Is long-distance relationship an option (i’ve done it, twice, and it Very Much Fucking Sucks). Can you afford to live apart if it is an option?

    Ugh. I feel your pain bro.

    • funkdoctorx says:

      Thanks tideliar and wormpilot….not so sure there are others at my current institution I can work with as there isn’t anyone there that works in my sub-specialty and at this point in my career I don’t want to meander too long. I have discussed the situation with my PI and s/he is very understanding and is willing to let me stay on in my current location for a few months before moving to the new location to lessen the overall burden while my wife and I figure things out. At least in this scenario my wife would have quite a few more months at work and if she decided to move with me her CV wouldn’t look so odd with such a short stint. Otherwise it would just lessen the time we would have to do a long-distance relationship in a foreign country. I’m reluctant to leave my PI because s/he is one of the primary reasons I took this particular position as it has some unique aspects to it that I find particularly attractive. Additionally, the new institution would actually be better for me research-wise with respect to who is there….it’s just the overall situation that is really tough. But we are feeling a bit better now that we’ve had time to process things and can be a little more rational…more on this lata’…

  2. Worm Pilot says:

    That definitely sucks. Boo! I second what tideliar says…anyone else you can work for? I’m not sure how the visa issues, etc. work for an american in the UK. Is the move a ‘for sure’ thing? I imagine it is considering your PI made the big announcement. I don’t have any advice except to say that sometimes when I first hear things like this I freak out and think it’s the worst news ever, etc. And then after having a little time to digest the situation, I can usually find a solution to make it work or at least come to terms with things and start looking at the good in a situation (even if that takes some serious work). That’s probably small comfort to you and your wife right now, but I would say that regardless of what happens, something will get worked out, and you can move on from there. (and no, I’m not an optimist…I just play one in the blogosphere). Maybe this opens new doors or something that you can’t possibly see coming right now. Who knows? But I’m guessing you don’t have to decide anything right now, so drink some more beers and sleep on it…the right move will come to you!

    Good luck…keep us posted.

  3. Juniper Shoemaker says:

    Dude, are you serious? That blows. I hope there is a solution that’s good for both of your careers.

  4. […] Most importantly, and as a follow-up to a previous post, I have recently found out that my PI is not moving the lab to a new location. We’re staying […]

  5. ploiter says:

    An all around well thought out piece

  6. Thats some scholarly piece of writing..

  7. funkdoctorx says:

    Thanks for the kind words…I’m just glad we didn’t end up moving!


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