I’ve worked in the lab for roughly 10 years now. I’ve been in many labs from New York to Arizona. Every lab is different, the culture is different, the area of study is different. However, every lab I’ve stepped into there has been something eerily familiar. Besides the usual attention to lab safety and designations of lab space and usage, there is always that little something that someone left behind that makes me smile and cringe at the same time. This is the tragic and moving story of The passive-aggressive note. Please take it with a grain of salt. On second thought, don’t touch my salt.
I have seen these little notes in all sizes and shapes with varying degrees of threat level. Some are cute little reminders to do something, or not do something. Some are less cute, more threatening… (for example, "Touch my stuff and you will die") and all the while no one seems to blink an eye at them.
Another colleague sent me this, “New surroundings, same passive aggressive notes” and here’s his snap shot:
It certainly makes you wonder about the effectiveness of all these signs? They were posted because the author didn’t have the time, patience or otherwise ability to track down the offenders (perhaps offenders only lurk in the lab during the night when normal human beings sleep?). But do the offenders really read or take to heart any of these wild notes? I would guess that the notice of the hot pipe was enough to keep any else from making the same mistake as poor Chen. Sadly, in my experience, even these kind of warnings get ignored. I’m ashamed to admit that I burnt myself operating on the innards of a hot autoclave, when I absolutely knew better. (The manufacturer had a huge “HOT” sign right on the pipe!) Look at this notice below. It was obviously ineffective:
What else can we do? As long as we are working together in our labs and passing through and sharing our colleagues’ spaces, there will inevitably be conflict. I applaud the valiant efforts of the note authors. I like to think that most of these notes come from a good place. The intentions are mostly good. I think they reflect an earnest desire for others to simply know that we want others to respect our space, keep our labs clean, and to protect each other from harm. I hope that my fellow lab mates give the colorful, sometimes (okay, often times) threatening little warnings pause and the reverence they deserve.
Sarah Arrowsmith is a Research Specialist working in Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown's Laboratory within Biodesign's Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology. Sarah graduated with a Bachelors in Science in Biology from Elmira College, NY and a Master's in Agribusiness from Arizona State University. She enjoys teaching and volunteering in the community.