Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Ethidium Bromide Caper.

Today was my day. Yes sir, I rolled into work at an obscenely early hour, sleeves rolled up, ready to go. I had to run a gel of some DNA from a PCR reaction. Recall, we run agarose gels of DNA to check to see if the size of our DNA fragments are what we'd expect them to be.

There are lots of stupid things that go into making something like this work. One of them is ethidium bromide. Ethidium bromide intercalates into DNA, making it easy to visualize under ultraviolet light. Yeah, yeah, this all sounds fancy but it's really rather mindless. In any case, I had to make up a huge vat of solution to run my gel and refill the communal reservoir that typically holds this solution.

As I opened the bottle of ethidium bromide, I tipped a graduated cylinder nearby. I can't tell you why my hands moved the way that they did, but I ended up spilling about 50 milliliters of ethidium bromide into my lap. It was as if my zipper had a big bullseye painted on it, because I had this crap all over my crotch. Since ethidium bromide interacts so favorably with DNA, it is a horrible carcinogen. Yes, my crotch was bathed in this stuff.

I sprung back, looking down at my pants thinking "ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod!" Not only did it look like I pissed my pants, I had the cancer causing equivalent of chernobyl surrounding my unborn children. Think Vavoom, think!

I ran over to the bathroom and immediately pulled off my pants and started rinsing it in the sink. At this point I didn't care if anyone saw me. I realized that my underwear was similarly soaked in ethidium bromide. I quickly ran into the stall, got butt naked, put on my now clean pants. I came out of the stall, rinsed my underwear in the sink and stuffed them in my pocket. Yes, I made sure my skin was clean as well. Yes, I cleansed it all in the sink. I'm sorry, but this was an emergency.

I looked up at the mirror. Yup, it looks like I drank 20 bottles of gatorade and decided to forgo the restroom. How the hell am I going to get out of here? I decided that speed was my only option. I ran over to the back set of elevators and quickly exited the building.

When I got home I took the shower of the century. I got dressed and returned to work. Mind you, I had to cross the bridge to get here and back. It was a good thing I showed up at 5:30 in the morning. To top things off, there were two guys from another lab standing by my bench when I returned. One punk said, in a raised voice, "Hey, new guy, you didn't fill the communal reservoir. What's wrong with you? Don't you know that if you're the last guy to use the running buffer you should fill it up? Man, some people just don't care about the rules." In my haste to save my genitals, I left the reservoir wide open and empty at my bench. "Listen," I said, "There's a good reason it's empty and on my bench. I'm filling it now. Next time you think you can talk to me like that, go sit in a corner. I may be the new guy, but that doesn't mean I'm an idiot. Got that?"

It's sad that it took a crotch full of carcinogen to get me ready to stick up for myself like that. Still, the look on the guy's face was classic and my crotch was carcinogen free. This is going to be a good day, after all.


Anonymous FNPhD said...

Way to go, Vavoom!!!

...dexterity of a surgeon!

I hope you are ok!

11:27 AM  
Blogger irishkeough said...

You need to return those books to the math library before you leave. Sooner rather than later would be nice.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Vavoom said...

No worries, Irish. I'm on it.

12:19 PM  
Blogger dreadcow said...

No more wenis for Vavoom!

Laughed my ass of reading that, by the way.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

I was going to use some pesticides in my yard today; I think I'll call Chemlawn.

Who knows, maybe this stuff causes swelling?

1:06 PM  
Blogger Rattie said...

Okay, I wish I had a scientific dictionary beside me when I read that entry...

4:00 PM  
Blogger Raine said...

I'm sorry, I just had to laugh at this:

"Not only did it look like I pissed my pants, I had the cancer causing equivalent of chernobyl surrounding my unborn children."

You crack me up, V!

9:01 PM  
Blogger LoraLoo said...

You really do have a knack for telling a great story... thanks for making me actually LOL.

11:17 PM  
Blogger Moose said...

I'm super glad that you stood up for yourself, but a "crotch full of carcinogens" conjured very disturbing images.

11:30 PM  
Blogger The Disgruntled Chemist said...

Man, I'm glad that never happened to me when I used to play with DNA!

Good work on the whole saving the genitals from cancer thing, though. Well done. But do you guys not have safety showers there, or was the bathroom closer, or what?

12:01 AM  
Blogger Vavoom said...

Chemist: We've got safety showers and for a moment I considered using it, but you know... I kind of didn't want to have to explain this to my advisor.

12:23 AM  
Blogger Camphor said...

*dies laughing*

That was a hilarious post, and may I never get into lab-wars when I'm dealing with Agarose gel. All I've managed to do so far is... break some gel before it is loaded, and after it's loaded, and while it's being loaded. Hmm. And while it was being made too. Yes, I'm a wee bit clumsy.

*laughs again* Yup, will definately be back.

4:04 AM  
Blogger Li said...

"It was a good thing I showed up at 5:30 in the morning."

There's a 5:30 in the morning now?

7:30 AM  
Blogger Suzie Petunia said...

Holy crap, that's a good story!

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good news! Ethidium Bromide less than 0.1 mic gram / pound of body weight is absolutly harmless.

You are really brave. You handled this accident in a very cool way. Me myself would have freaked out and fainted.

3:05 AM  
Blogger osamabin said...

man, that was a cool story, i work with that poison myself, i use latex gloves, but exchange them every time i touch that f*cking poison-loaded gel. I would be more scared of TRIzol's nasty odors, even at fume hoods you can feel it!

8:04 PM  

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