It happens suddenly, when you least expect it. It is a matter of utmost urgency, and requires the entire lab to drop everything else they’re doing and pull together. No one experiment is more important than this intermittent, yet inevitable event.

I am speaking, of course, of your typical Lab Freezer Emergency. Of course we are all in denial about defrosting. We watch, day in and day out, as the frost mounts and it becomes more and more difficult to pull out drawers and closer doors. Of course we know that we should do some preventative scraping but – aside from perhaps the occasional lazy kick which sends shards of ice flying – we can’t really be bothered.

Until that fateful morning when we arrive in to lab and find that the freezer – almost always the one that contains the most precious samples – is frozen in the door-ajar position.

Battle stations. Down your lattes, ladies and gentlemen, put on your white coats and gloves, and grab your favorite implement of choice – metal spatula, 10 mL plastic pipette, Eppendorf rack. No, not you two: you guys turn loaves into fishes and actually find another freezer that has the space to accommodate all the imperiled boxes for a few hours. No, I don’t care if there’s “no room” – make some. Oh, hey: brainwave. Go flirt with that cute post-doc down the corridor and see if he’s got some space. Chop chop.

It’s cold. It’s hard work. It’s – after a few minutes – getting pretty wet on the floor. We free the stuck drawers, liberate the now moist and floppy cardboard boxes, and bang at the ice in turns until we’re all short of breath. Several dozen rolls of paper towels are mush beneath our feet. We fill trays with hot water to speed up the process. And a few hours later, the freezer is ice-free, patted dry and good to go.

All in a day’s work, ma’am. We should take this on the road.