Agreeing to accompany a scientist to lunch out at a restaurant, or any meal for that matter, is just not a very smart idea. Everyone knows that scientists have poor social skills to begin with and then all they want to talk about is their work.
I was reminded of these unassailable facts a month or so ago at a business function when, in a weak moment, I agreed to accompany three food safety scientists out for a meal. Can you even imagine what food scientists talk about when they’re not “on duty?” That’s the problem – they are never not on duty! E. Coli this, and salmonella that! And those are just discussions about that night’s appetizers. There’s norovirus outbreaks to be discussed over the main course, plus debates over dessert concerning the hidden filth in kitchen cutting boards and the fine art of sanitary hand-washing techniques. I sat there in silence, wishing I hadn’t ordered anything that is, you know, edible. And I’m hoping my poker face doesn’t scream out to my colleagues, “I confess, I leave the butter out on the counter! Guilty as charged!” Of course my grandmother never put her butter away either and she and my grandfather lived well in to their nineties. But you can’t use those kind of true-to-life arguments with food scientists. They just give you that “You nutcase!” scowl. You can’t win. So it’s better to just stare downwards at your cream of broccoli soup and wonder if swimming E. Coli are actually visible to the naked eye. A fun lot these food safety folks, to be sure.
But don’t think about going to lunch with a marine biologist either. I had a business partner once who was a fisheries biologist by training and just as you were biting into your haddock fillet he would share with you the life cycle of parasites in supposedly clean ocean fish. It’s certainly kept me away from most sushi these many years.
Basically, it might be best all around if scientists just ate every meal by themselves, sitting at their lab benches, reading the latest copy of “Science People” magazine and leave this socialization stuff to dynamic and vivacious folks – like accountants.