This weekend I was working in a lab room alone for a couple of hours, eventually emerging when I had to retrieve something from my office. I walked out into the corridor, took a few steps, and slipped dramatically and painfully on the hard floor.
A custodian at the other end of the hall started screaming at me "Can't you read signs? This floor is CLOSED. You are NOT ALLOWED here now." I picked myself up and pointed at the lab and said "I came from THERE. There were NO signs. There was NO advanced notification that the floor would be waxed today."
I went to my office, got the item I needed, and returned to the lab via the slippery floor and another screaming session by the custodian. It was not an option for me to leave the lab unattended for more than the few minutes it took me to go to my office, so I had to make another trip across the waxed floor.
I decided I did not need to be screamed at again, especially as the points were irrelevant and redundant, so I went into the lab in the midst of the custodial rant. The last thing I heard before the door slammed shut was that I should stay in my room and not come out again until he was done working. It's been a while since I've been sent to my room for bad behavior.
It wasn't the custodian's fault that his supervisor didn't notify anyone in our building that today was waxing day. When I fell I created an unsightly skid mark in the new wax coating, so I can understand why the custodian was annoyed, even if it wasn't particularly nice that his main concern was to establish that I was to blame, not him.
When he was screaming at me from the other end of the hall, I noticed that a research scientist was standing there with him, having just realized that the main entrance to the floor was blocked and there was no entry allowed for a while. Many hours later this research scientist came into the lab where I was still working and asked, somewhat hesitantly, "So... are you.. OK?" I said yes, sure, I was fine. My arm hurt because I fell on it but it wasn't anything serious.
Another hesitation, then "When you fell, I was torn between asking if you were OK and pretending I didn't see you fall, and I decided to pretend I didn't see you fall."
Research scientist: Because it's embarrassing to fall. I thought your dignity might be wounded. But then later I felt bad for not asking.
Me: But I had a really good reason for falling. That's not embarrassing.
In fact, this incident made me wonder. I may not be dignified enough to avoid being screamed at by custodians who treat me like a disobedient child, but perhaps some of the research staff think I am at least sort of dignified. That would be kind of interesting, but if I had a choice between saving whatever shreds of dignity I have managed to accumulate and having someone ask me if I'm OK when I fall, I would choose the latter.
9 months ago