Friday, December 15, 2006

Welcome to the Paradise

My world has always been an absurdist paradise. Lately, it has only become more so, because I am, as they say in the academy, "on the market." I am waxed apples in the grocery. I am shrink-wrapped cheese in the deli at midnight. I am shriveled dried dates in a plastic bin behind the yams on holiday special -- two for a dollar. I am "on the market," a "job candidate," one of many black-suited MLA hopefuls. Do I dare to wear brown? Do I dare to eat a peach?

One fateful Thursday during the last week of November, my officemate said the search committees wouldn't be calling to set up MLA interviews for weeks yet. That afternoon, my office phone rang. A cold call. A warm voice. An interview.

Eureka! I ran up the stairs to tell my advisor, who was chatting with one of my friends after a reading I had missed. My advisor burst into congratulations. But my friend hadn't heard anything yet. I felt bad. The happiness of any minor celebration in the academy -- a grant, a publication -- is mitigated by the fact that somewhere someone hates you for your good fortune, seethes about your dumb luck. Not my friend. Every conversation we have for the next two weeks: have they called? No. NO. My worry for her and her young family mounts. Then finally, yes. Yes. An interview. Relief.

No one tells you about how soon the panic ensues. You find yourself at the keyboard when you should be out drinking, catching up with friends you've lost track of when you were sucked up by writing job letters. You're on their website again. You're reading the strategic plan for the university, their plan to break ground on the new wing of their Recreation Center. You don't teach architecture, but you start looking at the plans. What if they ask you a question about how you see yourself fitting into department's future? Your microwaved dinner beeped a half-hour ago; you're busy performing Boolean searches, hacking into their mainframe, downloading their Aims and Scopes. Reading everything the Chronicle has on the school. You're supposed to be watching a movie with the only friend who can handle you when you're like this. You download articles off JStor of everything your interviewers have published in the last ten years. He slips out the door as you do google searches on their names, all versions of their first names.

Where's an egg timer when you need one? (The American President. My mother says she has no wisdom, that's why she quotes the movies. Wise woman, my mother.)

No comments: