Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Can You Feel the Excitement? A Somber Reply to Our Recent Call for Posts.

I'm in my fourth year of a tenure track spot in the humanities in a large state school in a dull flyover state. I ended up here because I couldn't get a job at the kind of school I graduated from (top 20 R1). I resent this place even though it's been kind enough to me. My grad school buddies all did better than I did, and I've stopped keeping in touch with them. One of them went right to Princeton. He's dead to me now.

My colleagues are okay. I have a guy across the hall who fancies himself my mentor, but really he's just a happy drunk who loves everyone when he has a snoot-ful, which is pretty much every Thursday afternoon through Monday morning. The woman next to me thinks I'm a child and treats me like one. She tells me if I've parked the wrong way in the faculty lot, or if I miss my office hours by 90 seconds or more. I once was afraid of her, of what she'd do to me, but then I realized she's powerless. She tells me about the newer faculty, too, what's wrong with them. But really, I don't see many of my colleagues except for the idiotic meetings where I mostly just snooze and think about changing my backhand to something with more topspin.

My students are dull and dumb, half loaded on diet pills and Mountain Dew. They hate my classes and me, and I hate them back with white hot passion. They are dumber than I can even explain, but there are usually a handful of them who are interesting enough to get me through a semester.

My office stinks like old man, and I'm not one. I like to think the person before me must have died in here, but I've never heard the tale. I have a lot of empty shelves because I hate working here. I have an office set up at home, and it would never occur to me to come to school to grade or work or write. I come here to teach and then to use the bathroom between classes. My office is a place where I can close the door occasionally and wonder why I didn't take my dad up on buying into his paper company. Oh, and I meet students in here sometimes, but the smell is so bad I prefer not to.

I don't have a name plate on my office door, and I don't post office hours. I keep them, and I tell my students, but it's not public info, so there you go.

I eat at the cafeteria every once in a while. It's a big enough school that I usually don't see anyone I know.

It sounds a little desperate and depressing, but it's just a job, you know? I have a rich life at home, a partner, 2 cats, a car, some hobbies, a big bottle of beer every now and then. We love the outdoors so do a lot of that. And they pay me exactly $55,750 for a job that I'm good enough at not to get fired from.

I still love my own work, and write a lot when I'm not in class. I published two peer-reviewed articles in the past year, and have a book that will probably eventually land at some university press. It will get me to tenure, and then beyond that, who knows?

Right at this minute a student is lurking in the hallway. The semester is new enough that he probably doesn't know if he can just walk in, call my name, or maybe try knocking. I could look at him and offer a hearty howdy. But in 5 more minutes my office hour is up, and there's some nice pastrami at home I'd like to get after.