Some of you may know me as the ScienceBlogs intern. Others of you may be saying, “Who the fuck is this chick?” Well, I’m only the adorably nerdy science girl of Seed by day. By night, I’m still an adorable, but I work at a grungy Internet café in Brooklyn and sometimes I have to hold it down when people are assholes (which is usually).
Since I’ve worked at the Internet Garage, I’ve damn near lost my faith in humanity. Why? This is how it goes:
Customer comes into the IG. Customer sees computers, becomes afraid. Customer wanders over to desk where I sit looking very busy with the interwebz, which I always am. Customer eyes various signs on desk. Customer mouths words of signs to self: “SELF SERVICE… To use a computer, you must first get a ticket at the PAYSTATION behind you…” Customer looks at me (looking busy). Customer looks at large neon pink arrow sign reading “PAYSTATION” pointing the way. Customer spins in circle. Customer looks at me. Customer removes money, thrusts it towards me. Customer says: “Can I get like ___ minutes on a computer.”
Me: Motherfuck! “You need to get a ticket from the Paystation right behind you.”
The only thing that restores my faith that the human race is not completely hopeless and intolerable altogether is going into work at Seed where I get to interact with scientists and computer nerds all day.
Anyway, these interactions at the IG are what usually cause my /palmface moments. Today I had a special customer, too. It was a late-20s woman who came in to fax something and was talking with my boss, Bryan, a punk guy from Westchester with sleeve tattoos and a perpetual Yankee’s hat. Earlier that day, Bryan was complaining to me about some acid reflux he’d been having and he brought it up again in front of the woman.
“Why don’t you drink some milk or something,” I suggested to him.
“It won’t help,” the woman interjected. “His Chi is off.”
Me: /deadpan stare. “His what is off?”
Woman: “His Chi. It’s off-balance. I’m an acupuncturist so I know about these things.”
I was amused at this point. I looked at Bryan. He was slightly cringing, knowing what was about to happen.
Me: “And, what is a Chi?”
Woman: “Oh, you know. It’s the life force of the human body. It determines our health.”
Me: “OK but, what exactly is it? What is it made of?”
Woman: /hesitates. “Uh, it’s something between energy and matter.”
Me: /snort. “Something between there huh… so like, photons or something?”
Woman: “Look, it’s been proven to exist for thousands of years, OK? Nobody knows exactly what it is but they know it’s there.”
Me: “Well if you don’t know what it is, then how do you use it to treat your patients? How do you know that what your doing s having an effect?”
Woman: /with the smugness. “Because they feel better, and they come back for more. So that proves that our treatment of the Chi really works.”
“Have you ever heard of the motherfucking PLACEBO EFFECT??!!!!1!!” I wanted to scream, but at this point Bryan was shooting me warning glances so I proceeded to busy myself with something in the desk drawer until she left.
“Something between energy and matter!?!!” I exploded when she was out of earshot. “Is she fucking serious?”
At that point another customer waiting to fax something started laughing. “I could tell you were about to lose it when she said that,” she said.
“Hey, if it makes people feel better, what the fuck does it matter if it’s psychological or whatever?” Bryan said. “If you saw this woman’s paycheck you would vouch for the Chi too.”
“Fuck that,” I said. Bryan’s used to me being lippy by now. It’s the beauty of the manager/employee relationship in Brooklyn. “It matters if this woman is claiming this shit is proven to work to naïve patients who go see her instead of getting the real medical treatment they might need.”
At that point we both just said “whatevs” and he gave me a cheery good-bye. Sometimes, this place leads me into encounters with the most painfully disconnected people on the face of the world. It has become clear that there are people out there who will never absorb science into their operative belief systems. There are others who understand science, but will never go on the line to advocate for it because they don’t give a shit if other people understand or like it. And then there are people like me and the scientists I work with at Seed, who put themselves out there every day to make the others come around as much as they can.