At the moment, in spite of the recent family tragedy, my supervisor has been forced to continue acting as head of school. Our official head of school is on sabatical at the moment and seeing as nobody really likes the job, my supervisor reluctantly took on the responsibility. Apart from the ease of conducting admin within your department when your supervisor is head of school, it also means that people are constantly looking for him. And this, in turn means that our lab is constantly being invaded by various people who are waiting for him to finish with whoever he is with at the time.
Herein lies my motivation for a couch. We need to set up a waiting room with a little coffee table, some magazines (all must be at least 15 years old and slightly faded...) and a couch. That way, we would not be forced to entertain people who are not here to see us anyway.
Today was a particularly good example of this. I had made up my mind last night that today was going to be my catch-up day for all the actual work that I'd missed last week. I set my alarm for 07h00, figuring that with traffic and all I could be at varsity by 08h30 at the earliest, giving me loads of time to do stuff.
I only managed to drag myself out of bed at 08h30...
So, I arrived at university around 10h00 to discover that my supervisor was well into his numerous meetings for the day. I chatted to a labmate while prepping the coffee machine (I'd also made my mind up that, seeing as how today was going to be one of my work-furiously-all-day-to-make-that-guilty-feeling-of-laziness-go-away days, I would have a cup-a'-java to speed things along) and openly panicking about how much I had to do. That's when Mr. S arrived.
For newcomers to this blog, Mr. S is our department's groundsman/tech-support/ex-nuclear-physicist-exiled-from-Russia-and-hunted-by-the-KGB/equipment person. This diminutive individual is characterised by his thick Russian accent and eyebrows and his inability to understand the concepts of personal hygene or personal space. For some inexplicable reason, he likes me (I've never really had any dealings with the man...), which I never really question, not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth (ironic...); he's not someone who you want to get onto the bad side of.
Well today he came around to see my supervisor, undoubtedly about some or other claim form or internal requisition which was not filled out correctly. But seeing as he was busy at the time, Mr. S decided that our lab was the most appropriate place to wait for a free slot. While my labmate and I continued our conversation, in a mode of unease, Mr. S felt the need to point out that I was cold, and drinking coffee.
I agreed. What with it being winter and all...
He then injected himself into the conversation, informing us about irrelevant topics such as the 'vind tschill vind' (Translate: Wind chill factor) and how each area of Johannesburg will experience different temperatures to the other areas because, well, it's different. Both my labmate and I listened in awkward silence, agreeing at the appropriate times and hoping that our supervisor would be lured into the lab by the smell of coffee.
Suddenly, without changing tone or any indication that the conversation was over, Mr. S declared that this wait was taking too long and marched out of the lab. Somewhat confused, my labmate and I exchanged glances and continued with our chat. Suddenly, another person appeared at the door. It was Harry*, another member of our support staff, who, surprise surprise, was here to see our supervisor. We exchanged greetings and almost immediately thereafter, he was summoned into my supervisors office.
About 5 min later, after I had managed to switch on my laptop and settle down to do some serious email procrastination, Mr. S reappeared at the door. This time the topic of conversation was to be the benefits of taking an academic position at our university over a support staff position in terms of the accumulated leave. I sat, at a loss for words (I really don't know that much about how the leave at our varsity works!), agreeing at all the right places and generally looking interested.
Again, he declared that the wait was taking too long and stormed out without any hint of actually being annoyed, and despite the fact that he'd been at my desk for all of 5 min. I think that he anticipated social awkwardness and made the pre-emptive strike, terminating the conversation before he ran out of stuff to rattle off at me.
After relaying part of my plight to Eebee, he suggested that I make a sign like the one below to prevent this kind of thing.
I however think that a more appropriate response to the situation would be the couch and waiting room...
*Names changed to protect the relatively innocent...