I am on an airplane again. Do you know how I know? It isn’t the fluffy white clouds floating by my window. Although they are beautiful – images of buttes and snow cones and Marge Simpson’s hair and thunderclouds in the Midwest. No, it is because when I went to the bathroom, I found I had gotten my period early. Again. On a plane. With no sanitary supplies on board and no room for asking my boss and colleagues if we could “maybe just find a drug store real quick”.
We were on a 6 a.m. flight to LA, I had gotten up at 3:30 to prep for the work day because I was staying later than my colleagues to do some due diligence for our stock option plans and bond with the team from LA. The night before, I had been totally unable to sleep putting my two day total of REM at about 45 minutes. The last time this happened (my period at an inappropriate time on a plane, I was headed to Indonesia) and was too afraid to just publicly appeal to my sisters for help.
This time, I went with a total fuck-all after trying both slots of two airport bathrooms at LAX and finally screaming in the last one, “does anyone have a tampon? I will give you $20”. Two women responded and both declined my offer of cash. Sisterhood can be powerful. We may trash each other at work and hold grudges for years and borrow your favorite dress and “forget” to return it, and try to steal your boyfriend, but when in serious need (emergency child care, death in the family, lack of sanitary supplies, pantyhose-related emergency) we come through for each other.
I was headed to California for my new job. My old job. My new old job that used to be my old job but only kind of. It makes sense if you have been fragmented or suffered intestinal parasites in Indonesia and a broken heart courtesy of the world. My new job is working for a biotech company that was born out my old academic organization.
I have been out of the biotech world for about a year. I followed my heart to a sexy job that involved public policy and international employment law and a cause I believe in strongly. I learned a very important lesson – the most important thing to me is the people I work with every day, not the sexy trips to Asia (that cease being sexy when you have to wash your shoes in the toilet after a day at the office). It is the comfort of being able to face plant in front of the CEO and have him give you a high five for your efforts. It is the very popular mid afternoon “does anyone need popsicles?” run. It is the comfort of knowing you can make an inappropriate joke at a meeting where two members are Nobel Prize Laureates and they will follow on with an even more inappropriate response.
Still, I had to man up to relearn this ever changing field of biotech. Biochemistry up rather, because I had forgotten how to explain things like biomarkers and how a mass spec works and microfluidics and what a peptide was. Is. Peptides are.
The people I work with everyday are willing to explain to me the meanings of the vocabulary words I wrote down during a scientific progress meeting and not think I am stupid. Some will even draw a diagram on a whiteboard for me. Or develop a software tool to analyze why I can’t accurately predict the presence of white bloodcells in a precancerous unicorn tumor. I was so glad to be home. With my nerds. With my peeps. (And, they don’t understand things like employment law and having really uncomfortable conversations with employees. I get the HR stuff, they get physics, so everyone is a winner. I am not judging – except for one employee that played cello as a child in a sailor suit. Your parents kind of set you up, dude.)
While we were in LA, I didn’t see any of the things you would expect (sun, small actresses with small dogs in small purses, pedicured nails or the outside of a cab and/or Hilton conference room). I did see the most beautiful Maldi-Tof mass spec on the planet and a bunch of colleagues I consider among the best on the planet and the kindness of strangers in an airport bathroom.
Flying home, jet lagged, sweaty in black clothes, faced with an eight a.m. meeting tomorrow about my future employment options, headed to house in need of a few loads of laundry, unread Facebook invites, an unplanned outfit to a costume party on Saturday, and all I can think of is how much I have to do at work. And I can’t wait to get there tomorrow. I love my nerds, I love my peeps and I love me some science.