With his head gently resting against the keys of the keyboard, Joe began to run through all the same things he had already pondered on to aid his escape. Joe considered that he might fit through the air vents if he stripped off and covered himself in oil. He was pretty certain he would absolutely be able to make it through. Although he discounted this idea because, on the off chance that he did get stuck, when he was found in the morning he’d be naked, covered in oil and wedged in a wall, which he might struggle to live down. This was probably a good thing – if Joe had actually thought about it a bit then he’d have realised that the vents don’t work like in movies and have some nasty 90 degree turns that he wasn’t going to make it round without a hinge about half way down his spine.
Smashing the window was another possible option. Joe did work-out at the gym and he was pretty sure he could heft a lab chair hard enough to break the glass. Although this was at least partially questionable, because when Joe told people he went to the gym what he meant was that he went to the intro session 5 months ago and had been paying membership ever since without actually going. Regardless, Joe discounted this idea because he was pretty sure that his supervisor would take a pretty dim view of him demolishing one of the walls of the lab just because he was locked in it. In fact he was pretty certain that if the situation arose his supervisor would expect Joe to take a bullet in place of the cleanroom.
The computer bleeped angrily at having Joe’s forehead pressed against the keys for too long, so Joe sat up and glared at it threateningly. The computer sat impassively because it’s a computer and really has no opinion on any of this. In fact, the whole situation was quite a way beyond the computer’s grasp and it was really not that bothered by any of it. Although it was starting to feel that it liked making the beepy error noise.
Joe got up and went over to the glass wall and looked out for any sign of possible external help. The lab was one of many labs on this floor and the glass wall looked directly out into the corridor. Opposite the lab was a featureless wall which looked pretty much identical to the cleanroom’s own walls, with the additional accessory of a selection of art like false colour pictures of some unnamed thing. No one had ever commented on the fact that these photos were clearly taken with equipment that the department didn’t actually own. But as a science based department it was required that pretty false colour images be put on the walls to make sure everyone knew that sciencey things happened here.
Unfortunately, other than the mail order art there wasn’t anyone in sight, no moving shadows, not even any lights. Pressing his face to the glass Joe tried to get a better angle to see down the corridor. This didn’t help a great deal, but it did leave a nice Joe print on the otherwise quite clean glass. With nothing else to particularly do Joe banged on the glass and shouted “hey!”. Well okay, he sort of half shouted; the corridor was so quiet Joe felt oddly silly shouting and so only half shouted half whispered it so not to disturb people. Even Joe’s tired and panicked brain realised, though, that trying to both attract attention and not disturb people is impressively stupid. He took a breath and this time did it with a bit more enthusiasm. “HEEELP!”
He pressed an ear to the window listening for any reply. There was nothing – all Joe could hear was the hum of power supplies and a far off beeping of a piece of equipment in need of some form of human input. No tell-tale squeaking of shoes on the impossibly loud plastic/rubber flooring that science buildings are all made out of, or any opening and and closing doors. Joe shouted again, and again listened to the surprisingly noisy silence that followed it. He banged on the glass partly in frustration but also in the hope that that would attract more attention. He instantly regretted it as he’d not taken his ear off the glass first and the sound resonated directly into his ear with a *BONNNNG*.
He sat down on the floor with his back to the glass, held his ear and looked defeated. The lab had no windows to wave to the outside world there was no way to attract anyone’s attention unless they happened to walk along the corridor. The technician’s workshop off on one side of the lab would be empty now and the lab on the other side wasn’t currently in use, and Joe didn’t have anything to bang the ceiling with to try and see if there was anyone upstairs. Besides, the cleanroom had a false ceiling so banging on it was mostly likely going to just cover him in bits of ceiling. But downstairs were the student offices!
Joe got up and stamped on the floor. It felt amazingly solid but maybe there was a chance that something might get through to below. Directly underneath this floor was a large open plan student office – one of those ones where everyone gets a small desk with a 30 cm high carpet partition which offers absolutely zero privacy or noise reduction. Joe stamped again as hard as he could and pressed he ear to the glass again to try and listen for the tell-tale opening of the door to the stairs. Nothing. Joe started jumping with both his feet as hard as possible, over and over again, desperately trying to make as much noise as a 73 kg student can manage. If anyone did happen to look through the glass at that moment, the very last thing they would have done is to let this clearly mad researcher out.
Eventually an out of breath Joe stopped jumping and pressed his ear back to the glass and tried to listen over the rasping of his breath. Nothing. Joe again slumped down and sat on the floor and thought how could there be no one in the student office. There is always someone down there with some impossible deadline. Joe wasn’t wrong either, there were people in the office downstairs working, and what’s more they could have heard the banging from the floor above. Open offices are great for space conscious building planners but terrible for actual productivity unless you can either work with a constant barrage of office sounds or buy yourself a good pair of noise cancelling headphones. Most students opted for option two, including the 3 students in the office below who were perfectly placed to help Joe but still had no idea he was there. Joe’s bad luck was keeping up it’s fantastic consistency.
Leaning on the glass wall, Joe tried to think about when security were likely to check on the labs and might wander around and find him. Although now he thought about it he wasn’t sure they actually checked every lab. If he was working past six o’clock he was meant to tell them he was still here so they can be sure to check up on him. Something he might have possibly forgotten to do. At best, security were probably just going to shine their special security flash lights down the corridor and not actually walk far enough to see him. So unless Joe was actually banging or shouting at the moment they happened to be on his floor he’d remain undiscovered till tomorrow. Joe wasn’t sure which he wanted to try – it was really a choice between either loosing his voice or giving himself a heart attack from jumping on the floor.
But, he realised, there was a 3rd option. Joe got up and dragged the lab chair over to the door and sat on it. He moved it a few times and tried out a few comfortable positions that he thought he could put up with for a while. Once was comfy he reached up to the light switch and flicked it on and off and couple of times with a *click-click*. It wasn’t exactly fun and he was probably going to end up with hand cramp but if he flicked it on off a couple of times a minute then anyone passing the corridor was bound to see it and would hopefully come investigate. Despite what you see in movies, flickering lights are actually not a common sign of science experiments and should make someone curious as to why there was an impromptu light show going on. And this required much less shouting or sweating, which, as he’d probably have to keep it going for a while, was a good thing. Joe settled in for what would probably be a boring hour or so while he waited to catch someone’s attention. Besides, compared to hours of pipetting this was going to be a breeze *click-POP*
Joe sat in the darkness flicking the switch back and forth. Eventually he stopped and sat in the dark feeling stupid. Apparently these were the kinds of lights that you could blow if you turned them on and off a lot, who would have guessed? Well not Joe obviously.