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...

Friday, February 03, 2006

Home Again, Home Again...


I know I have faithful readers who want to know how things went, but I've never appreciated how out-wiping a campus visit is 'til now. My flight into the University town got in very late on Tuesday, my flight out on Thursday left very late indeed, so I got no sleep before the first day (since my body told me it wasn't nearly time to go to bed) and then got an extra half-day of interviews and meetings because they had the time before I had to be at the airport. I met everybody. And I had to be "on" the whole time--to listen enthusiastically and with engagement is, in itself, tiring, and in the middle of a caffeine crash, not the easiest thing to pull off. (I found myself sitting listening to someone talking about something very important and paying close attention while also screaming at my medula oblongata "Don't yawn! Don't yawn! Don't yawn!!!") Anyway--highlights. (And warning: I will not catch all the typos.)

First--getting there is trouble free. No lines at check-in or security, no screaming babies on either flight, transferring at Hub Airport smooth and easy. The guy from the department who picks me up is low-key friendliness itself (which will be a running motif for the visit.) And the hotel is lovely. A real hotel, not a chain. Room much larger than the department could have stuck me in--clean and nicely decorated. Immediately feel ten times better entering said room.

No sleep, though. I watch the State of the Union, and feel depressed that this is the man who is the face and voice of our country.

Next day, get up, dress immaculately, use the in-room coffee maker to its fullest potential. I'm picked up by Head of Search Committee--cheerful, easy conversationalist, attractive--just someone you feel comfortable around. Driven to campus, which (being an old Southern Liberal Arts school) is still very antebellum in some sections--rather cool. More coffee at the department, and somebody's brought in brownies for the staff. Meet with Dean--genteel, ambitious for the school--really devoted to moving it forward, has a plan to do so, made it clear that this was a teaching job first and foremost (good news.) Meet with Head of Dept.--a bit more formal but pleasant and warm nonetheless, re-emphasized the teaching aspect of the job (me taking every opportunity to emphasize that that's what I live for), and that was that. Lunch with potential colleagues (pizza--not bad!--definitely fresh crust, which is always a plus)--talk about myself a bit, tried not to sound insufferable. Think I pulled it off. Next--crunch time--and now I'm post-meal and feeling my coffee buzz beginning to wane--I have to go teach my class. This is my real audition, and I know it...ooooohhh dear...16 Strangers (who are themselves post-lunch) look up at me and wonder just how awful this is going to be. Plus I've got academic worthies--including Head of Committee and Head of Department taking notes in the back row. Oh dear. Oh f*** oh dear, as my father used to say.


I give my handout, ask them if any of them have heard of Montaigne--none of them have. I smile and say that in that case, this will be a treat...(pause)...or the most boring 70 minutes of their lives, let's find out! Good, solid laughs from everyone in the room. I've got them. And now I'm the driver's seat. I talk clearly and emphatically--I pick people at random and have them read from the play--I ask questions and get answers--the lesson plan flows like a dream. More laughs--and a sense of genuine engagement. They're with me. They're writing down a lot of what I'm saying. (One of them falls asleep, I have to admit--but she came in looking as sleep-deprived as I, so I'm not offended or worried.) Academic worthies are grinning and nodding--Head of Department is clearly enjoying herself. It's good--it's very, very good. I get to the end, and talk about the beauty of the end of the play, and I get a little misty. I finish. Pause. And I say, quietly, "Thank you." Immediate, spontaneous and sincere applause. One or two of them come up to shake my hand or thank me on the way out. It really went about as well as it could have--though of course I immediately worry--did I lecture too much? Did I give them too little opportunity to speak for themselves...? I don't know. Head of Department lets me know how much she enjoyed it and vanishes. Head of Committee, as we walk away, comments that she's "going to have to go back and re-read that play!" It seems like a bit of a triumph, probably the highpoint of the visit. Rest of the day is blurry--I've spent all my energy on the class. Tour of campus--my God there's a lot of history there. And the good news is that there's a lot of building going on. Dean wasn't kidding--this place is growing, fast. A good sign. Stop in briefly at the Theater Dept.'s design center, where the woman in charge finds out that I'm an old theater guy who knows about design and directing and whatnot and instantly falls in love with me. (Another highpoint: "I'd really like to get you here so you can help me work on this program." Nice.) Then it's back to the hotel to crash for a couple of hours before dinner with the whole hiring committee. Dinner is nice--Cuban/Caribbean, everything on the menu is "jerked"--but suprisingly non-interviewish. I ask one or two questions, but mostly we all seem to want to make fun of the State of the Union and Bush in general. I find myself very relaxed and cracking jokes. One of my better ones--when the subject of house-ownership is raised--apparently it's quite feasible in this area--I point out that one cannot purchase a house in Southern California unless said "house" is modified by the adjective "crack." Laughs. Anyway--Back to hotel, where I *do* sleep, though poorly. I'm drained, and I kind of dread having to be "on" for most of the next day. Debate whether to hang the breakfast order on my door for next morning--deciding that I'd rather sleep in. Sloth beats gluttony.

Next morning. More coffee. Pack up--check out. Nice woman--every time I'm given a ride by someone, it's a new person from the department, so there isn't a single moment when I'm not having to give my David Copperfield-esque biography. I find myself telling the same self-deprecating jokes to everyone--I hope they don't compare conversational notes too closely. I'm taken on a tour of the locality by a gentleman who could, quite clearly, sit down and dictate a seven-volume history of the region without consulting a single secondary source--he know everything about this place. Much of it is fascinating, and the rest is informative. There are some lovely areas--you can hit "scenic countryside" if you drive more than 15 minutes in any area. I am told, and by no means for the first time, that this is a conservative city, both religiously and politically, but that the university maintains an island of diversity and open-mindedness, so it's never unbearable. Back to campus to get picked up for lunch. Lunch is very good--Louisiana cuisine--I go with a first-rate po'boy. Good conversation, too--for the first time, I'm the topic of discussion, and the two women I'm with love (if they weren't just being effusively polite--which is, come to think of it, a possibility) what I have to say. Back to campus, where I'm unexpectedly interviewed by the head of the Composition section of the program. Goes OK, I think--my answers to some of her questions are, it turns out, the answers that she herself gives to her students, so that's a good sign. Much comparison of the student populations at this school and my own--I make the case that my experience in teaching Comp. would segue nicely into teaching there. Don't know how successful I am, but I try. Brief tour of the library afterwards. Then back to sit in the office of one of the committtee members--very much my age and my type, though he's married with two kids and seems properly distracted and wryly stressed about this. Really nice guy--get the sense that if I'm there, he'll be a friend. Also run into a guy who used to teach at my current school, several decades ago. We chat about the place, what's changed (a lot), what hasn't (very little), and about the area and Southern California and it's a good chat to have had. And then taken to airport by one last guy--the only guy who dishes a little dirt to me while I'm there. Moment of worry--flights have been f***ed up due to weather. But I'm there early enough to get a different flight to Major Hub, and the connection is ontime. So, back as smoothly as I came.

I'm feeling very anti-climactic about it all. It went well, and everybody was nice, but there's also the sense of how real and possibly permanent this could all be. Which is a lot to think about when you're a tired as I am. (Abdme complained of similar symptoms after her campus visit--I'm with you there, sister.) And of course, ha ha!, I have to get cracking on a huge stack of grading that came in while I was away and needs to be done yesterday...So. There. More than you wanted to know. Going to nap now. Then grade. Then nap again. Repeat.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome back. Glad to hear that your visit went so well. Any idea on when you might hear back from them?

11:30 AM  
Blogger ArticulateDad said...

Thanks for the update. Now... [breath] ... [sigh] ... you have to let it go. The ball is in their court.

Your first campus visit sounds a lot like mine last year. I know they liked me, because three of my references said they called for another hour of questions AFTER the interview (they had already called each before my visit).

But, I waited and waited. As it turned out, they had made an offer, which I didn't know at the time (to a friend of mine, no less) and were waiting to work out the details and get the contracts signed, which took about two months of not hearing anything definite!

I don't wish that upon you. But it is perhaps wisest to expect delays. Then you can be pleasantly surprised. Good luck in landing the post.

2:14 PM  
Blogger La Lecturess said...

It sounds fabulous, truly fabulous. Congratulations! Take at least a day off, if you can, from the grading.

4:27 PM  
Blogger post-doc said...

Yay for you! I expected you to do well, but this sounds truly fantastic. I'm so pleased for you!!

I loved your comment on my last post - it was perfection, so thank you. I've read it twice already and look forward to going back to it again. :)

5:18 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Excellent. Very excellent. -J

9:37 AM  
Blogger phd me said...

Fantastic! Sounds like things went well but, more importantly, sounds like you enjoyed the people, the place, the general atmosphere. And naturally you wooed them with your teaching. Very happy to hear such good news!

1:47 PM  

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