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Check, please! May 6, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in work.
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Today I had one of the more bizarre experiences that I’ve had at work.  It’s not that the experience is bizarre, but having it at work is.

I was chatting with my student when she off-handedly mentioned to me that she’d felt a tickling on her skin and found a spider crawling on her.  In fact, she said, it’s still there on the ground.

I looked…very closely.  It wasn’t a spider.  It was worse.

It was a very sizable wood tick.

My student is from Malaysia and, in her four years here, had apparently never encountered a tick.  I, on the other hand, have had more experience with ticks than I really care to have had.  Of course, any experience with a tick is more than I really care to have.

I grabbed a piece of scotch tape, grabbed the tick, wrapped it up and threw it in the garbage.  Tape is awesome for immobilizing ticks.  Then I proceeded to explain that ticks are blood-sucking parasites that burrow into your skin.  She mentioned that she keeps her apartment very clean, so I had to explain that it likely was a hitchhiker who grabbed onto her as she was walking past a bush or tall grass.  After recalling several other horrible facts about them and explaining the proper way to remove them, I suggested that she have a roommate check her over, especially her hair.

I think I must’ve made her really panicked.

“Would you check my hair?”

You really can’t say no in a situation like this.  You certainly can’t say something like, “I’m sorry, but professional etiquette makes it impossible for me to make you feel better now that I’ve scared the crap out of you.”  I was amused, though, because the previous students I’ve worked with were all male.  I could easily see them saying something like, “That’s okay.  I’ll go home and die from lyme disease,” before they’d ask me to do a hair check on them.  Unless, of course, we’d been on a geology field trip together.

I spent the next twenty minutes sifting through her hair, which was incredibly thick and ebony in color.  It occurred to me at this point that blonde Scandinavians have a distinct survival advantage in this type of situation given a dark tick will stick out like a sore thumb.  On this particular student, you could’ve hidden a whole nest of them and it would be hard to find a single one because they would’ve blended in so well.

The good news is that she didn’t appear to have any other unwelcome friends. And the good news for me is that no one walked in and made me explain something that I’m sure would’ve looked very odd in an electronics lab.

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