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It’s been a woeful week of working blues.  And I don’t think it’s just me.  Almost everyone I talked to seems to be tired or restless.  Lunch breaks are turning into hour and half affairs with all of us laying listlessly around the table long after we’ve finished eating.  Sighs and complaints are common, and the phrase “I can’t wait until the weekend” heard more than once.  A friend recently told me she found herself absentmindedly listening to the same voice mail on her phone over and over again before realizing she was hitting the repeat button.  Another stressed coworker is already planning to stay in lab again this weekend (the same one who, for awhile, vowed not to shave his facial hair until his project was finished—but eventually gave in out of disgust, thank god). 


Two weeks ago, I was on fire—figuratively.  Everyday I arrived to work, eager to tackle the next experiment on my list.  Would I say I had passion in my heart?  Yes.  Did I have a strong sense of purpose?  You betcha.  I walked from bench to fridge to centrifuge to incubator, snapping tubes and pipetting liquids with fluid and effortless motion.  I was doing science like nobody’s business.  In other words, I own this shit.


Not this week.  On Tuesday, I crashed onto the couch in the common room.  Usually I feel too guilty to sleep at work, but the late afternoon, post-lunch languor overwhelmed my sense of discipline.  And since we’ve installed a new coffee machine the in the lounge, I was able to snooze in a nice, cozy aroma of “Costa Rican Roast.”  Thankfully, I didn’t drool like I sometimes do when I accidentally push my mouth open—another reason why I try to avoid public napping.  I would never live it down if my coworkers caught me in a puddle of my own drool.  It’s just not ladylike.

I promised myself no more napping for the rest of the week, but Wednesday morning found me sleeping on my desk until I lost feeling in my arms.  Maybe it had to do with the crummy weather, or maybe it’s that time of month (if you know what I mean), but work has been unbearably joyless.  


And you know what really does not help with bottled up frustration?  Whiny kids.  Rainy day, packed shuttle.  A father and his four year old sat down next to me at the back of the bus.  The kid is throwing a tantrum because he wants to sit closer to the front—for what reason, I have no idea.  One of the passengers chuckles.  But 10 minutes later, he ain’t chucklin’ no more.  “Cute kid” has reached obnoxious decibels with his crying.  Pouting and scrunching his face as if he were in agony, he whines, “I don’t want to sit at the back.”  Then he dissolves into tears.  Unbelievable.  Sir, kindly allow me to smack your kid if you won’t. 

Twenty years later, that kid is going to have major issues.  I imagined him getting rejected by a girl—“B-b-but I want to go out with you!”  He’s going to be one of those guys who can’t admit he’s an ass.  Lose his job?  Probably mumble something about his boss being a prick and how he didn’t like his job anyway.  I am sure of this. 

I digress, but I talk about this because these are the kind of thoughts I have when I’m in a sour mood. 


Thursday evening, as I’m riding home on the train, I decided that what I needed—and what my coworkers needed—is a morale booster.  I bought a bar of milk chocolate, cream cheese, and milk and hit the kitchen.  For three hours, I forgot about the papers that I have yet to read and just focused on mixing, beating, and stirring.  I always did enjoy the process of baking than the end product itself.  It’s warming to the heart to see the batter come together or to pull out a fresh, fragrant cake with a perfectly golden top.  After a week of fruitless labor, I think I really needed this cake. 

And judging by my coworker’s reactions, I think they needed this cake too. 




This is the first cake I’ve made from scratch and it turned out better than I expected.  Usually, I try not to use recipes that calls for more than a 1/2 cup of butter, but I made an exception here.  By far, this is the most indulgent thing I’ve made.  But oh so delicious.  The cake was dense and flavorful, but the frosting itself was even better.  I’m so glad that it survived the commute to work, even though I couldn’t find anything big enough to hold the cake.  I resorted to carrying it in a bowl with saran wrap sealing the top. 

On Friday, after cake time, I was finishing the last bit of my experiment.  For a moment I sat there with the salty smell of broth (for brewing bacteria) and the whirring of centrifuges in the background, and felt proud to be there.  Wouldn’t trade it for anything else. 

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Chocolate Shavings from Tell Love & Chocolate