Title: More Opic Observations
Author: Jack Haines
Genre: Humorous Short Stories
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 1
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I admittedly have a different interpretation on how things work in my world. I have been told I am sanctimonious, sarcastic and irreverent. Another ex-wife said I was cruel and hypercritical. The truth is I have a large number of soft spots and whenever I see a naked Emperor, I have to scream out. I have a particular weakness for the pompous and those who fear sunlight. No, not vampires. Writing helps relieve the sting from the head slapping after I witness my fellow humans in their environment.
From what I understood, the job interview was for a lab tech to work at a real EPA laboratory with real EPA scientists on real EPA experiments.
Mwah ah ahh!
I could do this; no problem! All I would need is a size XXXL lab coat, a pocket protector and a pair of safety goggles, like the kind Gene Wilder wore in Young Frankenstein.
My wife, sounding a bit like Brenda, from the agency, tried to ease my exuberance by suggesting, "Maybe they didn't see Young Frankenstein, Jack."
"They're scientists, aren't they? Geez!" I then assured her that the goggles wouldn't be a deal killer.
The interview with the EPA was in a small coastal community on the West Coast. They had a secret lab tucked away behind a well-known Marine Science Center, formerly called "The House that Keiko built." The lab and the aquarium shared the same fresh seawater supply pipeline from the Pacific Ocean.
Since the only requirement for employment was to be over fifty-five and mechanical and I set aside the "goggle perk," I felt that I had a pretty good shot.
I pulled my white hair back into a braid and I wore a red checkered shirt under my vest. I felt like Ben, Hoss and Hop Sing all rolled into one. With a neatly trimmed goatee, I was ready to kick some science ass.
I arrived early because I left early for the ninety mile trek from my house. My wife actually drove to keep me fresh for the interview. For a secret facility, they sure had a lot of directional signs marking the way. The man at the front desk immediately pointed to the restroom when he saw my wild-eyed entrance. Hey, they asked for an old guy.
I was taken for a quick tour of the facility. There were at least thirty labs stretched out inside the one story complex. They were all empty. My guide, Bill, said that at one time, all of the labs were in use. He said, in the whole two acre building, only seven employees remained.
He then took me to a door that had a yellow sign with big black letters that read, DANGER.
He smiled at me and said, "This is where you will be working most of the time, Jack."
Boy, this is going to be great! I thought.
We walked down a stairway, got to the lower level, turned left and there in this dimly lit room were six large tanks. The tanks were covered with black plastic tarps. Behind each tank were three pipes. The two-inch PVC pipes were labeled with yellow tape and black letters. FRESH WATER, SEA WATER and DRAIN read the labels. The pipes had shutoff valves, pump switches and flexible plastic hoses on the ends of each.
"You will be in charge of these tanks and all of the plumbing that they need," said Bill. "Any questions about the setup down here, Jack?"
"It all looks pretty straight forward. What do you guys do here?" Now I'm curious!
"We do scientific experiments down here. These tanks hold six thousand gallons of seawater. We control the water temperature, saline content, air temperature and the amount of light the tanks are exposed to by these giant lights."
Danger! Experiments! Wow!
"What kind of experiments?"
"In these tanks we grow Phyllospadix Scouleri."
Filed old spandex, what? I thought to myself, but I'm sure it was imprinted on my face.
"It's sea grass, Jack, the kind that has grown on the North Pacific Coast since the Pliocene Age. We grow it in here in these tanks and tweak with the elements and add pollutants to see how and if it is affected by the subtlest of changes. "
"We do the background studying in case the EPA has to take anyone to court due to building encroachment near the grass beds. If we are already armed, we can protect the tender ecosystem more quickly."
"I get it, well that's important! What would I do here?"
"You would maintain the tanks and the pumps and plumbing."
We continued talking on our way to the interview room where I met Walter. Walter and Bill had both pulled their white hair back into a braid. They must have called my wife to see what to wear today. Walter wore a green checkered shirt under his vest touched off with brown string tie with an agate set in silver holding the braided string just under his buttoned collar. Bill wore a blue checkered shirt under his vest, sans bolo. We looked like a cloning experiment gone bad. I was a bit creeped out. I began salivating when I saw that they both had pocket protectors in the breast pocket of their vests. I scanned the room for goggles, none.
They asked me pertinent questions and I answered the best I could for twenty minutes.
"Do you have any questions, Jack?"
"Let me get this straight, we watch grass grow?"
"Or, not grow," they said in unison.
In the car:
"How did it go, Jack? Do you think you got the job?"
"Gosh, I hope not."