Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Loomings and a Post-Mortem

The new quarter begins on Friday--don't ask, quarter system and the administration is trying to make up for class time lost to holidays--and I'm simply not ready for it. I know, I know, I said that the start of classes would be a good thing, and it will--but I'd like One More Week, please. No? Fine. It's just that I'm still tired--it's incredibly self-indulgently feeble of me to say so, but I still haven't recovered from Washington. Which was an interesting experience, now that I'm in some state to talk about it. Some of you will have been to the Modern Language Association convention and will know what I'm talking about; some won't, and you're the only ones who need to read this. (Did I say "need"? My, but I'm arrogant.) Thing is, all the interviews are held in suites spread out through 2 or 3 hotels. (One hotel was a 12 dollar cabride away from the others, which meant I had to fork over about 36 bucks a day just to make it to where I needed to be, which doesn't sound like much except I'm, you know, perpetually broke.) So all the interviewees--all those fresh-faced, newly-minted Ph.D.s gather in the huge, huge lobbies of these hotels, waiting (they're usually at least a couple hours early--nerves, you see) to be summoned to a 30+ minute gauntlet of interrogation which may determine The Rest Of Their Lives. They are, to put it one way, stressed. To put it another, it's like walking into the waiting area for Room 101 from 1984. Everybody's jumpy--there's no place to sit, and I mean no place, the whole lobby is a seething mass of misery, so people wander, forlorn, looking for some quiet corner to curl up in and weep, or else open up their folder/dossier (everyone carries one) and review for the fourteen billionth time their letters of application (what did I claim to be able to do?) and just...pulse with agonized anticipation. Not a happy place. Come to think of it, perhaps the Hell for academics is this: a perpetual MLA convention, with the promise of release from perdition if one aces the interview, but the clock doesn't move, and the elevators are too full to get on, and the house phones don't work so you can't call up to find which room you're suppose to be at, and you've lost your dossier, and this is forever...Yeah, that's good. I like that.

Personally, I simply wasn't as miserable as I thought I'd be. The sight I've just described knocked me out of my own head a bit, and I realized that I really, really didn't want to be one of those people. So instead, I stalked a seat, found one, and sat with my coffee and a copy of Gaiman's Neverwhere, and just relaxed and enjoyed the read, realizing that, hey, I know my stuff, and if I don't, a few minutes of cramming is not going to supply this deficiency. And as a result, I was, I think, more at ease than virtually everyone else. (Which, by the way, should tell you how bad it was--if I walk into a very crowded, very large room, and I'm the most relaxed person there...you know you're in a horrible, horrible place.)

But it was still quite draining. I may have been confident that I could jump through the interlocutorial hoops, and so I could, but I still had to do the jumping. And travel always wigs me out. And so I'm still a bit tired, and not really ready to realign my formidable intellect (irony alert) to the business of teaching just now. Yet I must. So. Off to do reading and lesson plans and whatnot. Fun and frivolity, commented Eeyore, as he cropped another thistle.


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