How working with mice turned me into a cat
Lately, during random conversations, I just stop talking and stare at the other person.
I thought this developed because I had not interacted with many people during the initial stages of the pandemic. Consequently, I started feeling as though speaking against my will, which I had to do almost all the time, was tiring. So, I would pause involuntarily mid conversation.
As the restrictions gradually lifted and I had to meet people more often, I realised that the real problem was not that I stopped communicating, but it was how my mannerisms of communication have changed.
You see, my current academic interests involve working with mice in a lab, almost all day every day. Strangely enough, interacting with mice has turned me into a cat.
Don't believe me? Allow me to elaborate on my newfound communication habits.
Communicating via facial expressions instead of words
In the lab, people ask me, "Hey, can you please teach me how to use the equipment to your right?" Instead of replying, I look at the person asking and wonder, "Hmm. Do I have to speak less if I help this person, or will helping them only encourage them to ask me for more favours in the future?"
While I process such thoughts, not one word comes out of my mouth. My mask covers 70 percent of my face, so all the person sees are furrowed eyebrows and a piercing gaze as I try to figure out my response in complete silence. If I'm hungry, sometimes I growl while staring angrily, too. Regardless of whether I growl or not, people usually leave on account of being weirded out by my facial expressions. A pretty decent win-win situation.
Staring at things from afar for no reason
In my defence, I do this out of habit. Sometimes, in the lab, I have to observe mice without them realising it, so I observe intently from far away. I also need to check whether lab mates are carrying tasks out properly in my absence sometimes.
The only problem with this being that I have zero stealth. I usually try to get a good look while I myself am in hiding. This means I am basically peeking through gaps in a glass wall, or from behind a table. Strangely enough, even if only my glaring eyes are visible, people tend to spot me pretty easily.
I have basically turned into neighbourhood aunties staring at people with binoculars, except I am a little less obvious. I like to think so, anyway.
Constantly looking disappointed
Thanks to my extremely readable face, any emotions I feel can be read through my facial expressions. Whether it is due to having to deal with incompetent team members, watching people take credit for my ideas, or relating to mice acting like rebels who do not follow the rules of an experiment, my face has been permanently deformed into a perpetual frown.
There is no turning this frown upside down. Except, perhaps, with food.
Do you have any habits you've picked up from a pet/other animal?
Bushra Zaman likes books, art, and only being contacted by email. Find her at [email protected]