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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Signs of… Progress?

(I neglected to report in my previous post the appearance of the latest Zolton Does Amazon piece over at ZuG.com. But if you’re still basking in the sweaty afterglow of Valentine’s Day goodness, then hop on over to read B-Minus Valentine to find out what you should have done this time around.

Or what you should never have considered for even a moment, assuming you enjoy sleeping within fourteen feet of your wife.

Some people lead by example. I take goofy pictures of myself. Go see. I’ll wait. It’s all good.)

So I may have mentioned — and yeah, I did — that I started a new job in January. Overall, it’s going very well — the people are great, the work is interesting, the commute is a breeze. Yep, it’s all unicorn parades and fluffy bunny jamborees over there at the new office. Perfect as a peach. There’s not one thing I’d change.

Well. In a matter of speaking.

I mean, I wouldn’t change any big things. The big things are all good.

I suppose if someone were to put a gun to my head — or one of those fluffy jamboree bunnies, because I am totally allergic to those — and make me point out one thing that feels just ever so slightly less-than-right about the new office space… well, it would be good to have that one thing in mind, right? Just in case? You don’t want to be racking your brain for some nitpicky little nuisance when there’s a glock pressed to your temple. Or a fuzzy lop, for that matter.

So, here’s the thing. My office has a sign. This sign reads, and I quote:

“If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research.”

— Albert Einstein

It’s a nice sign, on an attractive block of wood and with solid, clear lettering. I’ve got no beef with the construction of the sign. It’s top quality.

“If we accidentally run a few cattle off a cliff, or set some buffalo on fire, we’ll work on getting it right next time.”

Neither do I have a problem with the sentiment. We’re a small company doing, in fact, research. Scientific research, even. Not quite the kind that Einstein rolled around in his beardy little head — we’re closer to Scrubs than Big Bang Theory around here — but the message in the sign is applicable, appropriate, and frankly appreciated.

After all, we’re not going to get everything right the first time. Some of this in uncharted territory. It’s comforting to know that a brain the size of Einstein’s recognized that, and that the higher-ups at the company recognize him recognizing it. We’re blazing trails as best we can. If we accidentally run a few cattle off a cliff, or set some buffalo on fire, we’ll work on getting it right next time. That’s how the West was… uh, overrun and exploited and filled with smoky buffalo carcasses.

It’s possible I lost a little steam near the end of that analogy. Moving right along.

The point is, I don’t have anything against the sign itself. I like the sign, and I like that the sign is hung in our office. There is zero problem with the sign.

The problem is where the sign is hung. It’s not in the entryway, where it might inspire us daily. Not in the foyer, by the break room, nor near the door to one of the labs. Instead? It’s hung on the mens’ room door.

Call me oversensitive to context, but that same message has a very different meaning in a laboratory setting than it does when you’re about to enter a room possibly filled with several men, disturbing smells and running water, and there’s a fifty-fifty chance you’re going to be taking your pants down.

In the bathroom, I want to know what I’m doing. And I don’t want to call it ‘research‘. I don’t care if there’s a crowd, or I’m by myself. I’d like to keep my ‘experimentation’ away from toilets, urinal cakes and automatic hand dryers, thank you so very much indeed.

So this sign, which I’d enjoy just about anywhere else in the environment, now gives me a little jolt of morbid anxiety every time I need to pee. It’s unfortunate, but eventually it got me thinking — why are the women getting off so easily? Why don’t they have some twisted-up misconstruable message on the door to their ladypart facilities?

And then it struck me: Maybe they do.

You see, the ladies’ room door is past the mens’, in a little alcove past the back hallway. There’s no reason to head in that direction unless you’re going to the ladies’ room — so I’d never been that way, or even seen the door. I realized that I actually didn’t know what the female population was dealing with, vis a vis bathroom door signage. Surely, it couldn’t be worse than ours. But I decided to find out.

And so, on Sunday afternoon I drove to the office while no one was around to sneak a peek at the womens’ bathroom door.

(Because that’s totally what normal people do on their day off from work. It’s not “weird”.

No, you shut up.)

I badged myself through the door, slunk down the hallway and approached the ladies’ room, wary for any stray weekend employees who might be in the vicinity. With the coast clear, I crept onward to my goal — and on reaching the door, I saw a mounted plaque very similar to the one on the boys’ room entrance. Only this one read:

“There are no rules here. We’re trying to accomplish something.”

— Thomas Edison

Oh sweet cranky jesus. I said it couldn’t be worse — and I was wrong. Dead wrong.

We might be doing ‘research’ in our bathroom over there, but at least we have rules! What’s a restroom without any rules at all? I don’t know. Are there sandboxes where the stalls should be? Do they have a moonbounce in there? Is it something out of Caligula?

I have no idea. But I’m glad I only made it as far as the door. And now I understand why the janitors go in there at night with power washers, putty knives and hazmat suits.

So I guess I’m happier with our mens’ bathroom, after all. I still don’t agree with the sign being there. And I keep my ‘research’ in that room to a bare-bottomed minimum. But at least we have rules. Every bathroom needs rules, man. Those girls are just crazy.

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