It happened again!

I had to go to the hardware store this morning to get a little craft saw, and as he was ringing up my purchase, the clerk cheerfully asked, “What are you working on?” In my newfound spirit of sharing my scientific interests with the community, I said:

“I’m cutting bamboo strips to make artisanal cages for the spiders in my lab!”, with a smile.

Ftzzt. Short circuit. No comment. Silently handed me my receipt. I left.

Maybe it was the smile. I’m not very good at the smiling thing.


  1. raven says

    You might want to be a little careful here, Dr. Myers.
    You must have seen the documentaries where the good citizens storm the castle of the mad scientist while carrying pitchforks and waving torches. › lifestyle › paranormal-beliefs-ghosts-demons-poll

    Oct 21, 2019 45% of Americans believe that ghosts and demons exist …

    45% of Americans are still living in the Dark Ages and believe in demons.

  2. mmason0071 says

    Since Morris is a college town the locals may be used to some odd birds, but you may be taking it a bit too far.

  3. azpaul3 says

    Don’t listen to the above, Doc. You are coming out into the sunshine. You should feel good.

    And don’t worry about that smile. It fits you perfectly.

  4. Callinectes says

    42 muscles to frown, but only four to swiftly extend your arm right across their jaw.

  5. pgmoni says

    My method under such circumstances (like the time my neighbors caught me in the act of photographing a spider inside their mailbox) is to explain (people keep staring) then add something like “but everyone I know think I’m harmless”.
    At which point the joke is on them.

  6. lochaber says

    Yeah, I probably wouldn’t want to talk to someone who confessed to making “artisanal” whatever. Sounds like some obnoxious hipster bullshit…

  7. jrkrideau says

    “I’m cutting bamboo strips to make artisanal cages for the spiders in my lab!”
    Duh, this mihhgt be a bi to curt.

    How about a more general introa nd then move on to the main part.
    something like
    1. I am a biology prof at UMM
    2. I do research on spiders
    3. I am building so cages for the spiders.
    (Haul out your phone and display a few shots of the lab.)
    —in no time at all, you should ave the clerk and friends collecting spiders for you.

  8. asclepias says

    Being seen as weird in a community is not a bad thing, IMO. When I was an undergrad, I had the police called out for a welfare check on me twice by concerned citizens because I was standing in a strange spot apparently doing nothing (I was watching the movements of Canada geese). I eventually picked a regular goose-watching spot on the bike path over the Cedar River, so I got to know a lot of the regulars (including a few of my professors). Then there was the time in grad school when I caught a least weasel in one of my live traps and was on a high about it for the rest of the day. The undergrad assisting me commented, “I’ve never seen you so excited.” I’m sure there were a lot of store clerks who thought I was running a hair salon since every few months I’d buy more hair dye so I could mark any voles that I’d trapped. Face it; to be a biologist means some people will label you as weird, or at the very least a harmless eccentric. (Favorite police story from grad school: One of the grad students was using a university van to transport lupine plants to the nature preserve, and he got pulled over on suspicion of transporting marijuana.)

  9. says

    But these cage frames are going to be beautiful: bamboo end plates with dowel spacers, inspired by Chinese cricket cages, although with much wider gaps that the inhabitants will fill in with webbing. I’m replacing the ratty cardboard frames that aren’t very washable with sturdier construction that I can rinse down and reuse.

    Artisanal is the correct word.

  10. Ed Peters says

    When you reply, is the sclera visible above and below the iris? Practice in the mirror until it automatically shows every time you say “spider”.

  11. William George says

    You’d figure that after all this time the kind people of Morris would just smile and say, “That’s our PZ!”

  12. says

    Yeah, I’d be the cashier who started asking about the spiders. Because I like spiders. (I like most animals in general, with a few exceptions: centipedes are a nope, for example.)

  13. wzrd1 says

    Pity, while it’s unlikely that I’d ever work in a hardware store, even as a customer I’d have suggested sandpaper and/or a file to deburr edges of the cut wood and perhaps, even a Dremel for that task.
    With the Dremel, I’d then point to online and more extensive, off brand accessories, such as wood saw blades and diamond blades for cheap (with the warning, one gets what one pays for).

    Still, even money, he thinks that you’re just screwing with him.

  14. lochaber says

    yeah, hipsters ruined that word…

    I’m hoping you post some pics of the cages you end up making at some point.

  15. psychomath says

    Stupid hipsters preferring handmade goods to the nice mass-produced crap the rest of us so enjoy. What a bunch of jerks. I’m glad I let my lexicon be limited by people I don’t like. It’s how I can tell I’m cool.