Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mark from Murphysboro Used to Walk Uphill to School Both Ways.

You people do not know what a bad job market is. When I was in grad school, eons ago, at No Winter U, my advisor's other student's picture was featured on the front page of the Chronicle of Higher Education as the poster child of the horrific job market. I applied to well over a hundred jobs. I taped the rejection letters to my office door (letters where written on paper back then). Soon others did this. You'd walk down the bleak corridor and door after door was covered with flapping letters.

But I did get a break. I got an offer for a six week gig at Freezing Cold U. Six weeks! I took it. I rented a basement and did not have car. I walked up an ice covered mountain to get to my cubicle in -20 degree weather. I was to give some lectures on my work. My gracious host announced jovially, "You will sing for your supper!" (He turned out to be a nice guy and I later co-wrote a book with him.)

The next year I took a one year position at Big City U. Get this, my "mentor" was also my landlord! Well, I didn't have to pay rent, but the apartment was filthy beyond belief. I fixed the toilet and the bath tub. I used a crowbar to open the bathroom window. I spent weeks fighting off thousands and thousands of cock roaches. My room was next to the elevator which ran up and down all through the night. My "mentor" told me how he was once visiting Really Famous U. He said: "They wanted to hire me of course. But do you know what would happen if I submitted a paper to be typed by the secretary and some, some post doc had submitted his paper before mine? Why, why, his would get typed first!" He was truly incredulous. "Why would I work at a place like that!?!?" My office turned out to be an open lounge where grad students went to smoke.

The next year I finally got a decent post doc with some stability at Nice U. The department chair came by my little office to say hello. Then he opened the door the to office next to mine. It was huge. He said: "This is for Super Big Shot who we just hired from Country in Crisis. He's the top Abstruse Specialist in the world!" He was beaming. Then he pointed to the floor and added for good measure: "His office has carpeting and yours doesn't." As if I hadn't noticed.

I am full proffie now at Mediocre U. I treat grad students, adjunct faculty and all job candidates with respect. But, let tell you this, if you can't take it get out now.