The Gate Crasher: Carnival of Chromosomes

The Gate Crasher goes to a Scientist's Fasching Party

Have you ever talked up a girl dressed as a fluorescent protein? Nor had I, until I crashed the Fasching Party at the Research Institute for Molecular Pathology at the Vienna Biocenter in the 3rd District.

My friend and I arrive at the Institute around 8 p.m., and are let through the security door to the lift up to the Masquerade of the Mad Scientists. Gunning the G-Force, my stomach turns over. Who are these people? Dr. Octopus behind the bar? Dr. Strangelove selling tickets to Fukushima? Dr. Evil holding the world to ransom for one meeeeelion dollars? Oh no, wait, these are a bunch of academics… The lift doors open.

Turns out, it’s Dr. Emmet Brown and Back to the Future – bland, barren and very 1950s. The party is set in a fairly small space, where some 50-odd people are standing around, dancing lazily, and helping themselves to drinks at the corner bar. A soundsystem and DJ at the other end are churning out a standard selection of cheese and student disco classics; next to it are trolleys with hotdogs and chilli. The food seems more popular than the alcohol, at least to begin with.

Most people are mingling and chatting in casuals, but a few have come in costume. There’s a crew of Ghostbusters chasing a girl dressed as Slimer, and a few guys wandering around with silver masks and diaphanous capes, possible leftovers from the Life Ball. Zorro’s here as well, with a feisty-looking senorita. A Mexican with sombrero and moustache stands solemnly by the bar, and a pirate with a Danish accent is talking about buried treasure.

At first glance, it might be any other college party… but slowly I start seeing subtle differences. There’s a guy wandering around with a tail and a t-shirt with the slogan “Born to be a GMO” (Genetically Modified Organism), and a Bearded Lady with a profusion of chest hair and a disturbing tumescence in her groin. “I was the only female group leader here for six years,” she chuckles at me. “And look what’s happened!”

Smokers are heading up some stairs next to the lift to have a cigarette. A balcony runs parallel to a corridor connecting the institute to another building next door, but it’s too cold and the door has been shut. So they stand around the corridor puffing and shivering a little. The cold air makes the smoke sit heavily, like climbing directly inside Peter O’Toole’s lung.

“How’s your project going?” someone asks their neighbour. “Oh, not bad. Had some pretty good data recently,” comes the reply. Geek small talk, you gotta love it. I finish my cigarette and head back to the party before someone asks me about my project.

I arrive just in time to see a Smurf jump on the bar. “It’s time for the costume prizes!” she shrieks. Sherlock Holmes collects the gong for best individual costume; his Doctor Watson looks upset. The Ghostbusters get the best group, and the fluorescent proteins win the “Best Scientific Costume” award. The Bearded Lady, unsurprisingly and to huge popular acclamation, walks away with “Most Provocative Costume”.

Judging completed, the music starts up again and the booze begins to flow a bit more freely. That might just be because of the girl pouring drinks behind the bar in fetish gear and a lab coat.

As the drunkenness increases, movements on the dancefloor get wilder. Kick Ass, the super hero, almost decapitates me with a cardboard bar (“Sorry!”), while the Hit Girl he’s dancing with is twirling what looks like an actual wooden martial arts practice sword. I decide it’s time to beat a tactical retreat.

Later I hear that there’s been damage to the men’s toilets on the 3rd floor – let’s just hope it wasn’t Slimer trying to escape!

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