Free cookies, sputum: The A/V Guy can stomach it all |

Free cookies, sputum: The A/V Guy can stomach it all

Barry Smith

“And finally,” the woman at the podium announced, “I’d like to thank Dr. Steven DeCamp for the sputum sample, which proved invaluable in this research project.”

I got a sputum sample too, earlier in the day. In fact, I got two. The first was when, while standing very close to me, a man asked if I was the “PROJECTIONIST.” The invaluable bit of sputum flew from his lips and landed on my right cheek. I didn’t flinch. I’m the A/V Guy, and it’s my job to maintain a professional demeanor, even where sputum is concerned.

The second sample came shortly thereafter, when the same man used (unnecessarily, in my opinion) the word “PERFUNCTORY.” I’m considering having it sent to the lab for a full work up.

Of course, I don’t think that’s the kind of sputum sample the woman at the podium is talking about. Although in all honesty I have no idea what the woman at the podium is talking about.

This isn’t totally unusual, however. During my triumphant career as an A/V Guy I’ve found myself sitting through meetings with accountants, economists, corporate sales weenies, wine tasters, physicians of all sorts and even aeronautical engineers (where my biggest challenge was to abstain from proclaiming, “Hey, it ain’t rocket science”).

More often than not I didn’t fully understand what was being discussed, but at least I had a rudimentary knowledge of the basic subject – accountants are talking about numbers, wine tasters about wine, sales weenies about profits, and so on …

But this meeting of the International Eosinophil Society has me totally in the dark. What is an eosinophil, exactly? Or even approximately? I haven’t a clue. Could be an exercise technique. Could be a European car. After two full days of listening to the discussions and watching the presentations, I’m still not even sure how to pronounce it.

The talk that just finished was entitled: “Eosinophil Activity in Schistosoma Mansoni Infections In Vivo and In Vitro in Relation to Plasma Cytokine Profile Pre- and Post Treatment With Paraziquantel.”

What the …? OK, so it probably isn’t a European car, but still …

Earlier, one of the attendees said to me, “I suppose you must find this quite boring.”

This was a tough political moment for me. I couldn’t answer truthfully, as I could see where some might think it unprofessional to reply, “Let me put it this way – I pray each moment for the sweet hand of death to tighten its grip and remove me from this horrendous place, for even the eternal torments of hell would be preferable to sitting through a talk called ‘Implications of Chromatin Remodeling for Eosinophis Lineage-specific Gene Regulation During Myeloid Development: In Vivo Transcriptional Control of the IL-5R and MBP Genes’ which, according to the schedule, is up next.”

Of course, I also couldn’t convincingly lie:

“Boring? Are you kidding? No way! I can’t wait to learn about the Role of BTK-Associated Molecule, BAM11 in the IL-5 Dependent Signal Transduction Pathway! I hope it’s OK that I’ve invited my friends.”

So instead I said nothing. Which was easy enough, as I was yawning at the time.

They’re a nice enough group of folks, these Esoniphiliacs, obviously very passionate about whatever the hell it is that they do. As for me, the only esoniphil-related passion I’ve experienced thus far was when I was told that I should feel free to help myself to the cookies. Cookies?! Yes! That should help ease the sting of the following talk: “Trefois Factor-2 (TFF2) Is An Allergen Induced Gene Differentially Regulated By Signal-Transducer-And-Activator-Of-Transcription (STAT)6 In Allergic Eosinophilic Airway Inflammation.”

I’m not sure how to feel about my reaction to free cookies. On the one hand, I’m glad that I’m able to derive such joy from the simple things in life. On the other hand, a cookie is the high point of my day – what am I … 5?

Before you answer, I need to point out that I’ve just been offered another sputum sample, this one as a result of someone commenting on my “PROFESSIONAL PERFORMANCE.”

No need to send this sample to the lab. It’s clearly oatmeal raisin.

Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at

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