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Causal Fridays

As he entered the lab, no one was directly staring at Etherid, but he felt all eyes on him. 

No doubt because of the neon orange Hawaiian shirt and optic green shorts he was sporting. As a new hire in his first week, he’d gotten an email yesterday from HR with the subject line: Causal Friday tomorrow - all you need to know.

Etherid had smirked at the misspelling, and, figuring he knew enough about dressing casually after doing his post-doc in Particle Phenomenology at Princeton, he hadn’t bothered to read the email. Now, he really wished he had because all his colleagues in the highly classified government particle physics research facility were decked in their white lab coats as they had been every other day.

Embarrassed, he turned quickly to exit the lab and collided with a colleague carrying coffee which launched it towards the main workstation, dousing the back of a colleague who shrieked and twisted abruptly in surprise, sending a long, complicated array of precision instruments domino-collapsing in a clanging cacophony that totally silenced the lab.

Etherid froze, fully expecting that his first Casual Friday would be his last. That after momentarily being stunned, his new colleagues would quickly be hurling condemnation his way.

He didn’t expect applause.

Clapping enthusiastically, everyone in the lab gathered round him, even the colleague who’d been doused by the coffee. Etherid was bewildered and then terrified as the head of the facility, Imhran, approached and clasped his shoulder. “Fine job, Etherid, fine job.”

He couldn’t detect sarcasm in Imhran’s voice, but it must have been meant that way after the colossal mess he’d created. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to. So, so sorry. How can I make amends?”

“Amends?” Imhran’s broad brow crinkled in confusion. “You’ve just provided us with outstanding data. One of the best Causal Fridays we’ve had in years.”

“I don’t understand. I caused a serious disruption.” Etherid pointed to the ruined array and then gestured between his outrageous shirt and shorts and his colleagues’ staid white lab coats. “I bolted because my Casual Friday outfit makes me look ridiculous next to all of you.”

  Imhran snorted. “Indeed. Your attire is more gaudy article than God particle, but I think I understand your confusion. And I blame it on HR. They somehow still believe busy people read emails closely. I’m thinking you likely misread “Causal Friday” as “Casual Friday”.


“Yes. Causal. We are, after all, particle physicists, and nothing is more important to this lab than understanding causality. Because of that we are very close to isolating the quantum origin of gravity, space, and time. We’ve made astounding progress with the phenomenon of superposition wherein particles maintain all possible realities simultaneously. Causal Fridays are all about proof of that concept. And you’ve been most helpful.”

“Helpful?” Etherid stammered.”But I disrupted the entire lab and its equipment. I caused chaos today.”

“Did you now?” Imhran mused. “Let’s test that hypothesis. That’s what Causal Fridays are all about.” From his lab coat, he pulled a crystalline device and spoke into it. “Initiate CF protocol 2B-or-not-2B.”

Etherid felt a strange vertigo. A weightlessness then a sharp tug. 

As he entered the lab, no one was directly staring at Etherid, but he felt all eyes on him. 

Then, there was a crash at the main workstation as an experimental array dominoed down, a startled colleague twisted away knocking the coffee from another colleague who then collided with Etherid in his neon-orange Hawaiian shirt and optic-green shorts. 

“Wait! This isn’t right,” Etherid protested. “It’s all backwards. This isn’t how it happened. I did it. I was the cause.” 

Uncannily, Imhran was at his side again holding the crystalline device. “You see, Ethrid, in this lab, we deeply respect causality, but we know better than to casually believe in it. Happy Friday.”

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