Tuesday, October 19, 2010

pick your poison (m)

Yesterday, I consulted to the medical school where I serve on the board.  The meeting was with the Chairman of one of their "star" departments.   

I arrive on time and at the appointed meeting place.  The Department Chairman arrives 5 minutes later, a bit dishelved and white as new-fallen snow.  Not just light-skinned or even pale but Casper-white.  He looks like he hasn't seen the sun his entire life.

We start to head towards the door to the long hallway.  He puts his passkey in the slot and the door won't open.  Then he turns to me and says we have to go downstairs and back upstairs through a security checkpoint.  Actually, it took him ten minutes to tell me just that.   I'm hoping at this point that he can string together a few coherent sentences or this interview will be painful.

We go through the drill at security.  It's a pain in the neck and seems to be over the top.  The Chairman explains that even he, the head of the department, can't access certain floors directly and his colleagues from the hospital have to go through the same security rigamarole when they come to visit him which they do often.

Now, I've been doing this with the heads of the other departments for the past few weeks and never have I had to go through such security.  I wondered why but didn't ask since I imagined the explanation would take us into January.

The meeting is scheduled for 90 minutes.  You have no idea how long that is when the person across from you is explaining alleles, mutations and DNA sequencing and telamerases. 

I discretely checked my watch.  Did the battery die?   How could I have been here only 10 minutes.  I must have grandchildren by now.

There's no way I'm going to get through the rest of this session without coffee.   I think I need some intravenously at this point.  The Chairman is talking away.  It's as if I put a cassette in and pressed "play."  I am completely irrelvant to this discussion.  It's like watching My Dinner with Andre.

I have to stop him.  I ask for coffee.  He stops dead in his tracks.  "Uh, uh, well..." he says.

Well what? I ask. 

As it turns out, the lack of coffee is tied directly to the intense security.  Last spring, someone INTERNALLY poisoned the coffee and almost killed people!  Since they never found out who did it and believe it was an inside job, no one drinks the coffee anymore.

Instead, I die a slow death over the remaining 80 minutes, listening to "fascinating" stories of mutations in mice.

Next time, I'm stopping at Starbucks and bringing my own stuff.

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