Can Newman and Redford Paint Our Lab or Fund Our House?

paul simon  Remember-one man’s ceiling…

…is another man’s floor.

Paul Simon–1973

How many of you remember the two great Paul Newman/Robert Redford buddy films from the late 60’s-early 70’s? Most people of our certain age can probably recall “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” but my favorite was “The Sting.” The two played a pair of con men trying to work the ultimate grift on gangster Doyle Lonnegan, played by the appropriately fierce Robert Shaw. In one scene, the con men and their team, posing as house painters,  fake a Western Union agent  out of his office and paint  a wall or two before vacating, leaving the unhappy agent to return to a half painted office and a big mess. And that’s what we have here at the lab. No con, just the big mess!

The lab has been operating for more than 10 years, and the walls, floors and ceilings are showing their age, not to mention wear and tear from exposure to formalin, paraffin, and other assorted chemicals and solvents. So working with building management, we agreed on new paint, carpeting and ceiling tiles, as well as refreshing our vinyl flooring which was deemed too difficult to replace. The problem was how to coordinate all that work with a lab that has some sections open seven days a week, and others that work on a pretty tight schedule to get our cases out on a daily basis. No way can we shut down for a week, or even a day or two. And oh yes, we have an unannounced accreditation inspection coming up. We have to look all in order for that, whatever day it may fall on.

After multiple walk-throughs with the building agent and several different contractors, we arrived at a work schedule. We were provided with a floor plan of the lab, highlighted with seven different colors, each representing a different work phase, each to be done on a different weekend. Doing our best to not interfere with the daily work flow except for those pesky Chemistry and Microbiology sections with their weekend hours. Now that was really tough to work around!

So the painters and ceiling guys are hitting those sections on the run, painting Chemistry on a quiet Monday, and Micro between plate reads from  Friday night to Saturday morning. We have pleaded with the painting crew not to unplug any incubators, refrigerators, our temperamental tissue processors, and so far they have been gentle. On the downside, the non-toxic paint is giving everyone a headache and making us all cranky. Our Safety Officer is popping the respirator masks out. And the paint just keeps on rolling.

So with the ragtime theme music from “The Sting” (Marvin Hamlisch playing Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”)  playing in the background, I ask how all of you have dealt with maintenance in the workplace. Any secrets to your success?


On the home front, construction is moving along, though not as quickly as everyone had hoped.  First floor walls are up, and with good weather we should make some progress this week. Barb and I (well, mostly Barb) are struggling through all the essential decorating decisions. So many choices. So many permutations and combinations. So much money! But I have the ultimate trust in Barb to get it right, and still leave a few dollars in the rainy day fund. And if we go broke, we can always try pulling a con. It worked for Newman and Redford!

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