Friday, January 16, 2009

"The Regulars." Mid-Career Mike LiveBlogs From a Campus in Reamed Ass County.

8:02 AM: Efficient Ella from Human Resources picks me up at the Reamed Ass Inn for breakfast. She tells me there are three choices: Denny's, where I've already had coffee and toast at 6 am; McDonald's, which is on the way; or the college cafeteria. I stare at her for a second and pick Mickey D's. I can see the arches as I get into the car. Ella has a Michael Buble CD playing at arena volume.

8:06 AM: We're through the drive thru and headed to Reamed Ass College. Michael Buble starts into "Me and Mrs. Jones." I eat my #8 with orange juice and Ella sings along. It's about nine degrees outside, snow is falling, and Ella has her left tires on the dotted line of Reamed Ass's Main Street.

8:17 AM: Ella drops me in front of a dour building with directions to a labyrinthine staircase that will take me to the 3rd floor to meet with the search committee chair, Dr. Timmy. (Two weeks ago I had a very nice phone interview with Drs. Timmy, Tommy, and Sandi with an "i.")

8:28 AM: I'm sitting in a student desk outside Dr. Timmy's office when I see what looks like a middle school student in a suit approaching me. "You must be Mike," the tiny voice says. "I'm Dr. Timmy." (Oh, I've made up names for these folks, but Timmy is an effective corollary for his own.)

8:45 AM: Dr. Timmy and I are in a classroom when Drs. Tommy and Sandi with an "i" walk in. They look like kids you'd see on a new Disney channel show, or the road company of a regional theater performance of High School Musical.

9:30 AM: I've finished the get acquainted chat with the kids, now I get to teach a class.

9:40 AM: No students have arrived at this optional event, but Timmy, Tommy, and Sandi with an "i" are joined by Dr. Scotty, another middle schooler who is wearing Cons, jeans, a wool pullover with deer on it, and a rakish scarf around his neck. Scotty and Tommy give each other a low five.

10:20 AM: I've finished teaching a class to the search committee kids. I swear that Dr. Timmy's feet don't even reach the floor while he's sitting in his desk. They all seem happy with what I've done. They fill in some of their own strategies on my topic, and there seems to be no rush to go anywhere else.

10:45 AM: I finally say, "Do I have to meet the Dean?" Sandi with an "i" jumps up, checks her watch and motions for me to follow. I'm carrying a briefcase, a winter coat, and a hat, and I ask: "Are we going outside? Should I put this stuff on?" Sandi with an "i" says, "Well you can, but the Dean's office is just across the quad." She squints at me like I'm crazy, and we race down the stairs and out into the snow with Sandi with an "i" just wearing her big-girl skirt and blouse.

11:05 AM: I'm alone now, sitting outside the Dean Ezekiel's office. A skeleton of a man, clearly 900 years old, comes out, grins at me with about 21 teeth, and waves me in. His office smells like death and oatmeal. We sit and he spends the next 75 minutes telling me about the college, about his time as a boy in Reamed Ass County, a pony that he won a blue ribbon with at the Reamed Ass County fair in 1816 (okay, I made that date up), his wife Esther, the new cafeteria, the person who left the job I'm applying for (and his wife and his kids), a FedEx box that he's been waiting for with some lampshades in it, and how hard it was to get his bookshelves just the way he likes them. It's 94 degrees in the office and I'm sweating when he finally asks me what brings me to Reamed Ass College. I talk a bit about my desire to relocate to a small college and then the door opens. Dr. Timmy has come for me. "Thanks, boss," Timmy says to Dean Ezekiel, and out we go.

12:45 PM: Timmy takes me to the new cafeteria. We get submarine sandwiches and sit among a group of students who don't seem to know Timmy. He calls them all "Sport" and "Missy." One of the "Missys" looks perturbed, grabs her salad and moves two tables over. Timmy asks me some leftover questions from the morning and then tells me that Ella will come and fetch me from the cafeteria when she's done her own lunch. He polishes off his sandwich, extends his hand to me, and leaves me there.

1:30 PM: Ella walks me downstairs to the human resources where Rolf comes in and gives me an entirely inappropriate 45 minute introduction to the health plans and retirement benefits. These are detailed far beyond what I need at this point. It's a canned presentation for new faculty, people who've already signed up. I sit through it all quietly because Rolf never breathes. He stands over me in a tiny seminar room and peels forms and papers off of a stack for me to review. He smiles at the end, tells me Sandi with an "i" will come and get me in a moment. I wait 30 minutes.

2:50 PM: Sandi with an "i" breaks the news that because of the snow and the weather dinner is off. "You can have some nice room service," she says. "Our treat." She's leading me back outside while I wrestle with my hat and coat. Ella is outside the building waiting, her car running. Sandi with an "i" opens the door and lets me in. She holds the door open, shakes my hand and says, "Any other questions?" I can't think of any, so we shake again, she winks at Ella, and the door closes. Ella slides out of the parking lot headed back to the Reamed Ass Inn. Michael Buble is roaring now, "So call me, unpredictable, tell me I'm impractical, rainbows, I'm inclined to pursue." Snow is falling like we're in a globe, but Ella murders us through the narrow campus streets to the main drag. We are hugging the center line and she turns Buble down for a second. "Fun, huh? Did you learn what you needed about us?" And I nod.

4:15 PM: No room service. I'm at the Denny's having a patty melt. It's fucking great!