Every once in a while (or more than that) we all need time with friends to treat ourselves, laugh out loud and feel alive. It is an easy trap, in my profession especially, to invest all of our personal hopes and energy into making our science work. Unfortunately, extensive effort and time put into experiments at the lab rarely lead to exciting new data or Nobel prize-winning results. Most of the time, things do not work as expected and, so, we tweak the set-up a bit and then repeat. And repeat. Suffice it to say, this is an exhausting and frustrating cycle.
A colleague of mine had run this course one too many times last week and needed a pick-me-up. On Friday evening we left the lab while the sun was still high in the sky and set off for cocktails, conversation and people watching. Passing through the plaza in front of the Montparnasse train station, we got caught up in the daily outdoor market, usually long shut down by the time we make it home. Although not large, the market featured both foodstuffs (breads, cakes, dried fruits) and clothing (coats, dresses, shoes). We immediately gravitated towards the shoes. Twenty minutes later and only a few euros lighter we both walked away with something(s) new and a spring in our step. Our focus shifted to the winter coats and then to a small retail outlet nearby. In a little over an hour we had put aside the lab doldrums and were now walking around Paris like we owned it – laughing happily – each with several bags in tow. Retail therapy is not all bad (yes, I now own cowboy boots).
After our impromptu spree we settled down for our apertif – pastis for me and a Mojito for her. Snacking on olives (already having eaten at a work-associated reception in the late afternoon), we enjoyed the remainder of our evening watching the characters of the city pass us by, creating stories for each as we let our minds wander away from the work at hand and truly relax.