Monday, December 15, 2008

Thank You Michael Crichton

First, I would like to point out that whoever scheduled a total of ten different examinations over the course of a three-week period needs to be informed that cruel and unusual punishment is prohibited by the Bill of Rights. I suspect that by the end of this week I will have lost what little sanity I have left.

But that's not what I'm posting to say--complaining about examinations may be part of student life, but there are more entertaining remarks that I can make. So here are a couple funny highlights from recent work shifts.

A girl calling me for a refill on her oral contraceptive pills expressed sincere belief when I told her that we didn't have the item in stock and that it would not come in until Thursday. The particular product recently went generic and there are still a few holdovers (despite the fact that they're made by the same company), but either way supplies of the brand name are not as numerous as they once were on our shelves.

I believe her exact phrasing was "wow, you guys can run out of drugs?" No, silly me, let me go open up the extradimensional pharmaceutical holding chamber where we keep the infinite supply.

But why reference Michael Crichton?

Those of you who have seen the movie Jurassic Park may recall a particular scene in which the power is out and most of the main cast is sealed in one of the bunkers, hiding from the rampaging dinosaurs. Attempting to formulate a plan, game warden Robert Muldoon brings up "the lysine contingency," a totally ridiculous safeguard thereafter explained by Samuel L. Jackson's computer programmer character:

"The lysine contingency - it's intended to prevent the spread of the animals is case they ever got off the island. Dr. Wu inserted a gene that makes a single faulty enzyme in protein metabolism. The animals can't manufacture the amino acid lysine. Unless they're continually supplied with lysine by us, they'll slip into a coma and die."

Of course, this makes absolutely no sense. Lysine is an essential amino acid, meaning that it cannot be synthesized by the human body--it must be consumed in the diet. In fact, no animals "manufacture" lysine. And as it is common enough--contained in many plants and all meat products--the "lysine contingency" isn't much of a plan at all.

I mostly mention this because I had trouble refraining from laughing the other day when a woman was desperately searching for L-lysine supplements. I should've asked her if she needed it to keep her pet dinosaur alive.