Since my work is three blocks down from the White House I have to go through two security check points. One when I first enter the building and then another when I enter the EPA section. There are two entrances into the designated EPA area and I usually come in through the back (or less crowded) section. On my way in I always see, and sometimes talk with, a security officer. He is from Jamaica (although I don't really hear the accent) and is very nice. He just exudes a very sweet demenor, even with him towering over me with his badge and gun. It's quite funny, actually. Well, in the past he has asked about my badge, and I'm bringing this up here because of its relevancy to the overall story. Within EPA there are usually two types of workers: direct government employees and contractors. This is typical throughout most government work and most of the actual federal workforce are contractors and not actual employees. There is a difference. Contractors are usually hired for something specific. They work within a specified office for a specified project for a specified amount of time. Direct employees are different. They are hired into a specific office, but may not be hired for a direct project or particular amount of time. (Does that make any sense?). For example, within my office there are two student contractors (they are here on "loan" from GW- The George Washington University), one actual EPA employee (my boss) and me (neither). It can be quite confusing at times and it is my lack of "neither" that made my security guard friend question me.
On the badges you will see a "C" for contractor or "E" for employee. Mine is neither. I have a "G" on my badge which stands for grantee. Due to the circumstances of my fellowship with ASPH and the EPA (which I will not delve into because it's complicated and boring) I am not considered to be an actual employee nor am I a contractor either. So basically I have slightly higher status of contractors but yet don't have to partake in any of the mandated employee things (i.e. training, drills, performance reports, etc). It's actually kinda sweet but can be confusing. So I am trying to explain this to him along with what I do and we both realize it isn't really making much sense and so just kinda drop it.
Well all that to say (sorry I got long winded) today he totally surprised me with this awesomely amazing compliment. I always say "Good Morning" to him and he says it back but today he said, "You know you look like a scientist. I think that's what you are here; you must be a brilliant scientist." That just really made my day, and not only because just a few minutes earlier I had been contemplating if I really was doing anything worthwhile here, if I really am smart, have I really learned anything. Now granted it has been over two years since I've stepped foot in lab, and even longer since I've touched any of my science stuff, but he's right. I am, and always will be, a scientist, a geek, a nerd at heart. His compliment made me smile. Then I got to thinking, as I'm often prone to do, what made him think that. Is it because, no matter how hard I try, I still have this student air about me? Is it because I look slightly like the mad scientist with my slightly windblown and messed up hair (which seriously needs to get cut)? Or maybe because I haven't yet been able to pull off that really important, business outfit and air? It could be something else entirely... carriage, confidence, determination, who knows. All I know is that today, for the first time in a while, a felt like a brilliant scientist.
Compliment and share with those around you... for you never know when it can really transform their day. Oh and maybe I'll give my security guard friend a Christmas card.