Skepchick in the Office
I work in an office. As such, it is simply not possible to survive for more than a week without receiving at least three mass e-mail fowards. I received the first one the second day I worked here — it involved the carcinogenic danger of microwaving plastic containers. I clicked “Reply to All” and wrote, “Actually, that’s an urban legend. You can find out more here: http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/cookplastic.asp .” I hit send, and then held my breath. It suddenly occurred to me this may not be the best way to make friends in a very small department.
The response from the coworker who sent the e-mail was refreshing: “Thanks, I’m always looking for a site that can help figure out whether or not this stuff is for real.”
I’ve been at this job for a year now, and my coworkers and I have the kind of relationship that I enjoy — one in which we cheerfully give one another hell and few jokes are off-limits. The running joke is whenever I openly wonder about something, such as who is that character actor in all those Wes Anderson films, the reply is invariably a sarcastic, “Why don’t you look it up on the Internet?” And usually, I do. I’m a curious person.
Someone may pipe up with, “Did you know that they drilled a hole in the ground and heard the screams of hell coming through?” My response pretty much always starts with, “Um, actually,” meaning the word “actually” is now a Pavlovian cue for the rest of the office to groan.Ã‚ One coworker likes to complain that I ruin everything. “What, did you just look that up on the Internet?” Her chagrin, obviously, only encourages me to further rile her up with delicious fantasy-destroying facts. The argument over whether or not bottled water is safer than tap water was particularly enjoyable.
At times, some of the complaints are real — she really didn’t want to know that the money she spent on bottled water was possibly wasted. For the most part, though, they’ve come to rely on me to be the one to stick up for the truth, no matter what. It’s my thing. A few months ago, we had an intern who no one really liked. She wasn’t very bright and not only was she nearly anorexic but she went out of her way to make others feel bad for eating anything more than carrot sticks. “Oh, yogurt?” she’d tsk. “That’s all sugar, you know.”
So the day she told us that one could contract malignant breast cancer through receiving repeated impacts to the chest, the office turned to me to shoot her down. I asked where she heard that: “The radio, I think.” I did a bit of research and found nothing supporting her claim. I gave her a list of all known causes of breast cancer, which did not include her theory. She got a little angry.
“Where’d you get that list?”
“The Susan G. Komen Foundation.”
“Well I don’t trust that source.”
” . . . but you trust ‘the radio?’”
Victory. My coworkers seemed pleased that I was using my powers for the purposes of good. (On a side note, if anyone else out there has heard this claim, please let me know. It was a first for me.)
Anyway, the most recent forward: Watermelons and Eggs. In case you haven’t received this one, it shows photos first of watermelons that have shapes carved into them. Pretty cool. Then we get this:
These egg shells below were cut with a high intensity precision Laser Beam. This gives a very good idea of what can be achieved with a Laser Beam. From this can be surmised what laser surgery performed on one’s eye is all about. Is it any wonder how one’s vision can be improved in just a few moments? Science is sometimes wonderful, and it’s still on the frontier of gaining new knowledge.
Huh. This is followed with very neat photos of egg shells with intricate patterns cut into them. They’re very cool looking, and it’s nice to see a forward that is pro-science, as opposed to the bulk that are usually touchy-feely crap about the power of prayer and whatnot. But of course, I am somewhat skeptical.
The girl who sent it is the person who is the leading offender of the company email forwards. She leans into my cubicle (yes, I have a cubicle) and says “I swear I checked the photos to see if they were Photoshopped. But I think they’re real . . . ” An uncertain pause. ” . . . are they real?”
“They do look real,” I said, “not Photoshopped at all. But something about it doesn’t ring true. Give me a second.”
She groans. I Google.
Shortly thereafter, I clicked “Reply to All,” and wrote:
I went looking for more (I CAN’T HELP IT, I GET CURIOUS), and I found some really cool sites, like this: http://cherukatheeggman.com/cherukatheeggman/page2.html But here’s the craziest thing — they’re not done with lasers at all. I’m not sure why someone would make that part up, because it’s even more amazing that the eggs are carved by hand with little dentist drills and other tools, and a crap load of patience
The bottled water-drinking coworker responded first.
So despite all the sarcastic banter, I’d like to think that they appreciate their resident skeptical pedant. It’s not actually about ruining all the fun — it’s about showing people how much fun reality is.