Friday, March 27, 2009


In Which We Sweat It Out...

Well, that's the problem with realizing you're not going to be offered a job you're interviewing for while you're still in the middle of interviewing for it. The problem? Rampant, virulent apathy sets in. I'm enough of a pro that I think I could have put on a brave face and given it my all, but I was already given to understand--in some strange and overwhelming psychic way--that the search committee had decided for themselves that I was not job-offering material. Had perhaps NEVER been job-offering material. Had perhaps only been a token Other Candidate they felt compelled to bring in, just so they could say they had cast their net wide.

How else to explain the almost casually indifferent way they were treating me, making me eat dinner in the airport food court (and paying for it out of my own pocket, did I mention that?), trying to put me up in a hotel where the electricity had gone out, forgetting to let me (or anyone else) in on that fact, or on the fact that they had put me up in another hotel? Or could it just be that the committee was the most colossal assemblage of fuck-ups this side of my own extended family? In which case, actually, you'd have thought I was a shoo-in.

But no, whatever the reason, it was clear they didn't want me, and so the apathy set in pretty badly by Wednesday night, when I was back at my hotel. Indeed, I think it's fair to say the apathy has not gone completely away even at this late date. Honestly, I can’t think of any other reason why it's taken me so long to muster the will to write this final installment.

My body evidently felt the same way, too. Felt that things were so godawful and that tomorrow--the day of my so-called research presentation (which the search committee had insisted I make, despite my telling them I had no research agenda, having been working in the field for the past two decades)--was going to be even worse. Thus it was, I think, that my body decided to make things just a little more interesting.

Which is why I awoke at about 5:30 the next morning with severe chills and what turned out to be a 103-degree fever.

It was the flu, of course, and it was so bad that when I turned on the news that morning, the first thing I saw was an item from the local broadcast station telling me that all area elementary schools had actually canceled classes because too many kids were coming down with this flu. And it was hitting people with the speed of a bullet train. One moment they were fine, the next they were sprawled sideways across a bench or large piece of furniture, sweating profusely into the fabric and complaining of the bed-spins.

I can't honestly tell you if I do well with fevers or not, because in the event it's all pretty much a blur. On the one hand, I'm generally aware of how sick I am and, if the circumstances demand it, I can often pull my shit together for brief intervals--usually no more than a few hours--before collapsing in a moist, gibbering heap. I would consider that an argument in favor of "good." On the other hand, if I get a fever that goes anywhere above 102, I start hallucinating, and that can be bad. Not just bad, but potentially embarrassing. The last time I had a fever like this, I was at Disneyworld with my family and I was holding conversations with multi-colored giraffes. Given the venue at the time, I pretty much fit right in. But what was I going to do if I started seeing giraffes in the middle of this research presentation, which I was going to be delivering in about three hours? The entire faculty would be there. Granted, one of my last lucid thoughts the night before had been the realization that, honest and for true, I didn't have a prayer of getting a job offer, and after the way I'd been treated, I wasn't even sure I wanted an offer. Some sixth sense just seemed to tell me that I wasn't going to be able to play nice with these people if I had to deal with them on a professional basis every day.

And yet, I seemed to understand that I was already on a path here and I owed it to myself, if to no one else, to see it through.

So I threw on some clothes and staggered off across a busy road to a nearby convenience store, where I paid an extortionate amount for a small bottle of Tylenol--at the price per pill they charged me, I think I could have bought some crystal meth for cheaper. I swallowed half the bottle in one great gulp, figuring my liver would just have to deal with it, then staggered back to the hotel, stopping only once--in the middle of the busy street, of course--to notice that all the cars and all the people in them were beginning to glow. I often see haloes when I have a high fever. Well, I thought, at least that should make my interview more interesting.

By the time my ride came for me, I was dressed and packed and checked out, although it must be said I was checked out in more ways than one.

"Are you all right?" my ride asked. She was another member of the search committee, actually a very nice woman who taught graphics at the school and was a little younger than I. I had spent a lot of time with her yesterday and this morning could only hope my proximity to her the day before hadn't dosed her with the bug as well. But she looked okay to me now. In fact, she had a lovely purple aura around her.

"Pretty good," I finally answered her, in a cracking voice (high fevers for some reason always take my voice back to around puberty, and suddenly I'm Peter Brady, singing "Time to Change.")

Well, evidently I didn't look fine. In fact, it turned out that, despite (or perhaps because of) having ingested about five grams of Tylenol, I was sweating profusely and no doubt my eyes were dilated so wildly that my upper face must have been all eyebrows and pupils.

"Oh my, you've got this flu. It's really going around," she said, as she more or less poured me into her car. "My kids have it and this morning my husband woke up with it."

Oh, well, gee, I wonder how I got it then? I thought to myself--at least I hope I thought to myself. Then there was a jump cut in my memory.

When I came to next, I was walking down a hallway in the communications building--no idea where my luggage had gone, or the 20-pound messenger bag I'd been toting on my shoulder for the past 36 hours. I didn't care about the suitcase, but I did need that bag, as it contained my laptop and a folder full of copies of my resume and several positive student evaluations from classes I had taught as an adjunct. I had hoped to hand these out at my research presentation as a way of making my point that, while I may not have vast research experience and have only been pottering around the last 20 years writing books and magazine articles and things, I had at least made an effort to get some academic experience under my belt.

And then I rounded the corner and found myself in a conference room full of scowling academicians with assorted auras, most of them wavy and pinkish, reminding me of nothing so much as a baby with conjunctivitis. I sat down, noting then that my messenger bag had somehow preceded me into the room, then remembered that I had already been in here, but had postponed the beginning of my presentation to lurch off to the bathroom to mop my brow. And possibly to throw up.

Well, all I can say is, I don't recommend giving a presentation to a room full of college professors when you have a raging fever and no control over what is coming out of your mouth. Unless, of course, you're pretty certain you're not going to get the job, at least. I honestly don't recall what I said--I'm pretty sure at one point I referred to my 20 years in the industry as "real" work, compared to academic publishing, which I suppose is not the most diplomatic thing to say.

Ah, but what the hell? If I was sure of anything at this point--aside from the certainty that I was really sick--it was that I had absolutely no hope of changing anyone's mind about offering me this job. So perhaps it's just as well that I have no real recollection of what I said.

And before I knew it, I was out of there. My next clear memory is of running through the Cincinnati airport, wondering if I was even supposed to be there. I only knew I was in Cincinnati because I remembered it as being the airport where you can spend time riding every moving conveyance--an escalator, a tram, and even a bus--except, it seemed, an airplane. And then, after another blank interval, I found myself fumbling with a key, trying to open the door to my car in the airport parking garage, until it dawned on me that I was trying to get into someone else's car.

Then I drove home in a quite unexpected state of perfect lucidity, which lasted long enough for me to get through the door, tip the contents of my bag into the laundry room, take a long, hot shower, have a lavish vomiting spell in my own bathroom (and to wonder idly when exactly it was I'd managed to have a meal of red beans and rice). Then I fell into bed and slept for the next 18 hours.

When I awoke late the next day, I felt a bit ragged around the edges, a bit shaky still, but my fever had broken, never to return. Neither did my memory of my last day interviewing for the job, alas. Just the same, it came as no surprise later that afternoon to get an e-mail (and I just knew that, after the hospitality I'd experienced, these were not the kind of folks who would actually call me up and tell me anything themselves) announcing that the school was going to extend their search for their new professor. Wow. So not even could they not bring themselves to call and speak to me, they couldn't even properly reject me, opting instead to leave me dangling. Except, of course, that I refused to dangle. I could read rejection between the lines. I had been told more than once that they had planned to make a decision--and an offer--within 24 hours. So my performance--and I have to admit that here I DID wonder what I might have said during the final stage of my interview--had served only to tell them that they needed to keep looking.

Which was just as well, Her Lovely Self and I decided, after I recovered a little bit more over the weekend and related to her everything I could remember about my two-day interview. To her everlasting credit, my wife was disgusted on my behalf, and wondered aloud whether I should continue to subject myself to academic interviews, if this was how I was going to be treated. I was so touched by her show of solidarity that I actually agreed with her.

Until another college called me almost exactly a week later and asked if I could come and talk to them about their open faculty position.

Which, incidentally, is where I've been between writing parts two and three of this post. I apologize for the delay and wish I could tell you anything about the latest interview. I can tell you that I was treated infinitely better than the first school, but I seem to have become a little superstitious about these things, and I don't want to fill you in on any details until I get word--yea or nay--from these folks.

In the mean time, I'm just going to try to work on some personal projects. I have a book proposal that I am patently NOT making any progress on, for one thing, and the Éclair has decided that potty training is something she's interested in, and God knows if I'm qualified for anything these days, it's dealing with pantloads of shit. In fact, she just appeared by my side, and announced her desire to visit the bathroom, although judging from the conspicuous load in her little overalls, I think it's safe to say that her timing is a mite off.

But at least she's giving it the old college try.

And so am I.

Have a lovely weekend, all.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

We are all, these days, qualified to deal with pantloads of shit.
OMG! I suppose it's best you don't remember anything. I guess it would be pretty impossible for the current interview to go worse. Hope this one works out for you.

And you know, this whole story was NOT funny (not that it has to be). I just felt sorry for you the whole time :(
Yay for hallucinogenic states! They make unpleasant situations so much easier to deal with.

And I'm glad you've got other options. Hope there were fewer auras this time.
Since you're well versed in this line of education, care to extend the potty training expertise over here? We could really use it.

And of course, I hope the second academic interview turns out to be much more of a success than the first. I shudder to think of what school that could have been. (Please, please, don't let it be one of mine!)
Well, it is a bonus that the folks involved in this second interview at least saw fit to treat you "infinitely better" than did the first group. And if you didn't have a raging fever and the yucky flu then too, that's another good mark in your corner too! Hope it pans out okay for you -and that it also a job you really would want to do as well. Now, about the potty-training thing -any pointers you'd care to offer, feel free as my daughter and I are dealing with not one, but two little ones -a five-year-old who isn't especially keen on "putting poop in the potty" and her three-year-old brother who has yet to have his little fanny introduced to the potty. (Both, by the way, are also autistic.) But, we shall soldier on I suppose and hopefully, some year in the future, our work will meet with success! Just as your interviews will do the same and you're probably praying that will be very soon.
Best wishes in your job search. I hope you get the kind of challenging, fun, and rewarding job a man with your skills and experience deserves, and I'm sorry the experience looking has been so shitty!
I wonder if any of the academics' have a blog so we can read the "and hilarity ensued..." portion of your interview. Of course, it would be better delivered by you and your awesome way to bring a story alive. I've often wondered when going for jobs that I didn't want which side sabotaged the meetings. Good wishes and prayers for your entry into academia (or for unanswered prayers, should something better be on the horizon).
oh man, that sounds miserable! i'm sorry it sucked. clearly i have no psychic ability whatsoever.

i hope this one turns out better!
Man, what a bad interview experience. I had a similarly bad one in Michigan one time but I didn't get sick at least. I'm glad that place didn't give you an offer...they don't deserve you. Also, I'm glad no hospital visits were involved this time, and I'm glad your second interview went better.
Well, I think the first university you went to might have been a fluke. Especially regarding the hotel, etc.

As an AA at the university I worked at, I arranged for faculty to come in for interviews - flight, hotel, food. The faculty would pick the candidate up at the hotel, but it was only 15 minutes away from the very nice hotel in downtown. All meals were paid for by the college. And sure, sometimes the faculty cars weren't too nice, but what are you going to do.

I think your assessment that the 1st college probably wasn't somewhere you'd want to work was right on the mark. Bullet dodged.
I think Heather Meadows' concluding statement "...and I'm sorry the experience looking has been so shitty!" pretty much sums it up in all respects.

Here's hoping for a successful outcome to this next interview.
Had to smile at your talented retelling of the events, but suffered with you for the actual events.
Have faith Grasshopper, "When it is meant to be, it will be." Too bad there is all this inbetween crap.
Oh heavens, i hope it wasn't my university that treated you like that. I don't think so, based on your description, but I have to assume some of that is obfuscation. If it was, please accept my apologies on behalf of the large number of people who would not deliberately waste your time or give you the flu (not that anyone did it deliberately) or expect you to stay in a closed hotel! And now, I hope it WAS my university that treated you infinitely better. :)
Good luck with the potty training. Neither of my girls were ready so quickly, the Eclair is doing well, even if her timing is still a bit off.
Ah, the Cincinnati airport, which is in Kentucky (of course) a fact as bizarre as Cincinnati calling itself the chili capitol of the world.

(See, this is why I like reading you. You get all sorts of synapses to fire off in my head, restoring arcane facts and trivia I have no use for whatsoever. And I thank you.)

Best of luck on the current interviewing process! I look forward to hearing good news, God willing.
I don't want you to get a "real" boring-ass job... can't you just write and we'll all pay for it or somethin???!!!

Cindy in CO
Aw, I feel bad for your illness. My son, Ian, just went through that - he apparently is prone to hallucinations. He had a high fever & only drank half of his dose of Motrin. Next thing I know, he is asking me to remove a man from the hook on our wall, which previously held his Christmas stocking. There was no man on the the wall, but he was terrified.

I brought his fever down & he recovered, but it was an amazing thing to watch his mind create all of these monsters in our very common living space. Poor kid - the things he saw scared him. I have always been afraid of my mind turning on me & saw what happened when his did.

Hope you feel better!
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