Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Behind Enemy Lines: At an MLA Hotel

I've made it. I'm now huddled over my laptop after spending WAY too much on wireless (damn hotel) in my hotel room. I have not been hit by lightning. I did not find myself sitting next to my interviewer on a flight where I made tacky jokes and drooled as I slept. (Well, I might have drooled, but the woman sitting next to me said she had nothing to do with MLA.) My arm has not broken off from the weight of the garment bag I insisted on carrying on because I was convinced that the airline would lose it and then I would have to do my interview in a blue velour jumpsuit. (Yes, that actually happened to someone -- during a campus visit! Always carry your suit. You can still look professional with a broken arm, but not in a borrowed blue velour jumpsuit. Not ever. She did not get the job.)

I spent way too much time during my layover looking around at people, trying to guess who was going to MLA and wondering if my interviewers were among them. I saw a woman in Minneapolis who was alone and seemed to be dressed up too much to be just going on a visit. Sure enough, I saw her in the lobby downstairs. So many of them must have been coming to MLA, but not many with garment bags. How do you carry a suit without a garment bag that nearly rips off your arm? (Please tell me!)

But I actually managed to not panic or even worry about the interviews on the way here. Rather than see any academics -- since I probably couldn't pick out any of my favorite scholars in a line-up to save my life -- I saw Peter Dinklage from The Station Agent (a wonderfully quirky film that should be required viewing) eating at Chili's Too and talking on his cell phone. Unlike his pics on IMDB that show him with scruffy hair and a goatee, he had short short hair and was cleanshaven. (Okay, so now I'm less sure it was him.) I also had a traveling casualty: I lost my cool lime and leopard print scarf. So you see, instead of worrying about silly little things like interviews, I was concerned about real-world stuff: movie stars and fashion.

By the way, you can tell who is on the market and who isn't. All those people who are calm and quiet -- the ones who think that being on the market is "exciting" -- they are not us. We're the ones making jokes about how how we're going to ask our interviewers how long they've been vampires. (Some of us know that we are supposed to be "on" even in the shuttle to our hotel, the airport, in the hotel bar, but some of us are too nerve-rattled to care.)

Now I'm going to hide under the hotel bed until it's all over.

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