Since starting the Real Science job in January, I've acquired a white lab coat. It's wonderful - the double-breasted elastic-cuffed sort that has poppers and and wraps round the neck over the shoulder. I think it makes me look The Part - a cross between Richard Chamberlain as Dr Kildare and Gene Wilder as "Dr Fronkensteen". One of the reasons for togging up in the lab is that it encourages you to shuck on a professional (alert, careful, precise) demeanour. So it's not really how I look that matters but how I think I look. Things have come a long way from the coat with buttons that exposed my shirt and tie and failed to protect my nice trousers from the ravages on nitric acid in the 1970s.
This last Thursday, my tallest student came without his own coat and asked if he could borrow one. I knew that there were two ratty 'ladies' coats kept for this purpose behind the door of my shared office; but I also knew that either them would look like a bra on Student Lofty. So I gave him mine (and b'godde he looked terrific - calm, competent, ready for any set task), took a deep breath and put on the other. I don't do mirrors, so I've no idea how I looked but I'm sure, if I had abs, my six-pack would have been obvious and my oxters started to creak.
The following day, I met another lad from the same class in the corridor and lent him my rent-a-coat because he had a class at 9am and I didn't start lab-work until 1pm. St Martin (of Tours) of the cloak is not the same at the patron of public (in the US sense) schools, who is St Martin de Porres but they both seemed relevant at the end of this week. Come whatever, I went out to the shed this afternoon and went through the steamer-trunk of clothes unlikely-to-be-worn-again but too-good-to-throw-out until I found last-century's lab coat. Now I have a spare - and the science can go on.