Yesterday, I had my exit interview. After meeting with someone from Human Resources, I met with Diane, the vice-president of the lab. I wasn't sure of the usual protocol--after all, I've never retired from this lab before!--but she said that she doesn't normally meet with people for exit interviews, but she wanted my perspective on things in the department. I respect Diane very much, so it made me feel pretty good when she said that! We talked for quite a while, and while I don't know if my comments will make any difference, I hope that the department will get some relief soon. To make a long story short, we're pretty much in crisis mode at the moment, because we've lost so many people and haven't entirely replaced them, AND our workload has gone up by an astronomical amount. Diane really seems to want to help our department, and she told me that she doesn't want people to think that they don't care or aren't working to alleviate the problem. I suggested that she come to a meeting and tell people exactly that, because while I could go back and say, "Hey guys, Diane cares!" it would mean a lot more to people to hear it directly from her. So I hope she does that.
Anyhoo, I continued to be in fine form when it comes to my emotional upheaval. I teared up a little bit when talking with HR. I outright cried when talking to Diane, and she even asked, "Are you SURE you want to leave?" and we both laughed. I was getting a grip as I was finishing up my bench (the Hospital culture bench, and it was the last time I'm scheduled for that bench), but then I saw Jillian sitting there and realized that it was the last day shift I'd work with her: I'm off today, she's off tomorrow, and she works evenings Thursday and Friday. That set me off again, and when I told her what I'd just realized, she started crying, and hugged me, and good grief, when will this end?! I was writing to Shane about it, and I said that it's gotten to the point where it's so ridiculous, that when I start crying, I then start laughing at myself, so there I am, crying and laughing, and I'm sure I look like a complete and utter lunatic! I keep trying to reassure myself that this is a big change in my life, and it's natural to feel very emotional at such big changes, but jeez, I just wish I could turn off the water works! Here are a few more pictures (which I'm sure will set me off again!):
Here is Rosemary, caught a little by surprise. (She ended up laughing, though!) Rosemary has been there, gosh...I think over 40 years? A long time, anyway. We've all learned to not engage Rosemary in conversation early in the morning, at least until she can get a little more coffee into her. <grin>
Rosie and I have had plenty of conversations about Notre Dame football, and she's told me some interesting things about Studebaker--her Dad worked there, and she remembers how awful it was for them when the company closed its doors.
Rosemary retired a few years ago, but due to circumstances came back part time. I think she's starting to think about retirement again, and I know she'll make the right decision for her. I hope it works out that she can do it soon!
This is Tanya, one of our lab assistants. It's amazing how many people don't like having their picture taken! Tanya started shortly after I did, and is one of the hardest workers I've ever met. The most amazing thing about Tanya to me is that in 10 years, I have never once seen her lose her temper. She remains cool and calm, no matter how crazy things around her get. Impressive! Tanya has also taken in some foster children recently...she is a very kind person.
This is the set-up area, where we receive all of our specimens, and plate and process them. Those white boxes on the right contain agar plates, 100 plates each. We order...hmmm, I think we're up to 3000 blood agar plates a week, and 1500 MacConkey agar plates, something like that. That should give you an idea of the volume we deal with. Craziness! It probably looks kind of messy, but we have to find a place to stash all of these supplies! We have a big walk-in refrigerator with stacks and stacks of boxes of plates and other supplies. I've never worked in a place with such a high volume.
Here is Felicia...also not wanting to have her picture taken. (I'm going to try to get her again...it will be like stalking my prey. Be vewy vewy quiet....) Felicia is the one who finished the Chicago marathon last year, in that awful heat. She's amazing...she has 5 kids (and some great stories), works full time, and runs marathons. Jeez, what a slacker!
She's also a little sweetie with a big heart, and I'm so happy I've gotten to know her better over the past couple of years. She can also make me laugh out loud. When I laugh hard, I get teary-eyed...gosh, that's a surprise! When I start dabbing at my eyes, she always says to me, "Don't cry, Argentina." Not "don't cry for me, Argentina," just "Don't cry, Argentina." I don't know why, but that cracks me up every time!
While not strictly human, these instruments are part of our lab family, too. This is Lucy, and Ricky is behind her to the left. (Ethel is coming soon.) These are Vitek2 instruments, and it's how we do the bulk of our organism identification and antibiotic susceptibility testing. There have been a few issues, but considering our volume, we need an automated system, and this one works pretty well for us. A few years ago, I went to Vitek school at bioMérieux in Durham, North Carolina, and we still laugh about that adventure. I got about halfway through the week of classes when the area was hit by the worst ice storm they'd had in decades. Trees were down, power lines were down, and there were widespread power outages, including at our hotel. After spending the evening with my classmates in the bar (by candlelight), I woke up to a cold room and still no power. I was able to get one of the last flights out of Durham before they shut down the airport--what was the point of sitting around in a cold, dark hotel?
About a month later, we arranged to have me go back and repeat the class. I think this time we made it through to Thursday, when Durham got a couple of inches of snow and the city shut down. Those of us from cooler climes were like, "What? Seriously?" But a couple of inches of snow there is like getting a foot or more here, and class was indeed canceled.
Needless to say, they didn't send me back a third time. This time, our local rep came to the lab and gave me my last day of training. This was the start of my Bad Weather Mojo reputation, which I believe was finally broken when I didn't bring down a hurricane on our cruise ship this past summer.
Here are Marsha and Eugene doing Vitek set-up. I've worked other places where we used Vitek, and this is a great, centralized system.
Marsha and her husband do hot-air ballooning. There are usually a couple of events around here every year, and they always do the "Glow," which is when the balloons go up at night. It's a beautiful sight. We know what Marsha and Ed's balloon looks like, so whenever I see a pictures of their rainbow-striped balloon in the paper, I say, "Hey! I know that balloon!"
Marsha has also been there 30+ years, and should be getting close to retirement...hang in there! I think you can see how much experience we have between the bunch of us. It's hard to come by, and is what makes us such a great Micro department!
This is Teresa--what a great smile! Teresa is from West Virginia and moved up here to take a position with the lab. She came in with 20 or so years of experience, so is a great addition to the department. Not to mention that she's got a great sense of humor, a great laugh, and a great southern twang to her voice. Her Mom still lives in West Virginia, so we swap tales of her Mom's turkey and other critter sightings with tales of the critters I see around here. Teresa also loves her sports, and was pretty disappointed with her Mountaineers football team last year. Since Notre Dame football tanked so bad last year, I think we were all hoping to live vicariously through Teresa! Alas, it wasn't to be....
Teresa is a sweetheart, and she's got a true appreciation for nature. She sometimes volunteers at the local state and county parks to do cataloging and data collection, and with my coming retirement, I wouldn't be surprised if we run into each other out in a field somewhere one of these days!
More lab stuff--and pictures--to come....