Monday, November 13, 2006

Research Trip: Day 1

Dateline -- Teenie Airport, Zenith, 4:45 A.M. I decided to fly out of Teenie Airport instead of Regional, because Teenie is quite near my house and Regional is about a forty-five minute drive. Regional is very reliable: always one of the last to close when weather hits the northeast, and Teenie, in my experience, is notoriously unreliable. The last time I booked out of Teenie, my return flight was a horrendous mess, and I ended up re-booking into Regional in the middle of the night and getting home about 4 a.m.

Today is no exception: I arrived at Teenie for a 5:30 flight, and it has been delayed until 6:45 because of crew rest. This means the crew got in very late last night (there was a lot of rain) and their union says they need a minimum amount of sleep in order to function. This is why assistant professors should also be in a union. On the other hand, one wants to ask the airline: surely there is a spare crew, maybe based at Regional, who you could bring in? But no: the airlines are going down the drain faster than the Iraq war and George W. Bush, and they wouldn’t dream of paying a spare crew to be around in case they were needed the day after an obviously rainy and windy evening. Instead, it is a planeload of passengers who will pay, by missing meetings they were supposed to attend, or having gotten up at 4:00 when they could have gotten up at 5:00. This, sports fans, is the state of capitalism after six years of Republican rule.

And of course, there is no coffee, and the overhead lights are so bright that no one but the student from nearby Oligarch University can sleep, and he’s curled up on the floor with his hoodie pulled down over his face.

I don’t even want to think about the microbial status of that floor.

On the plus side, there is time to blog. I am also looking ahead to a fun week of research, not to mention several interesting events I have scheduled in advance -- people to see, places to go. I am giving a talk on my new book, which gives my research budget enough relief for me to rent a car while I’m down there and make the whole trip more relaxed (try taking a taxi in the South, ok?) And I am having dinner with two colleagues, one of whom I have known since I was a wee thing, and the other of whom I don’t know at all, but who seems interesting and smart. She also directs the women’s studies program at the university I am visiting and has A Budget – for example, should I want to give a talk at Dixie University in the future, which would, of course, require an invitation.

Have I mentioned that I am in one of those periods where I am trying to buff my career and accumulate some invitations -- er, I mean, tangible accomplishments? I go through this periodically, and in the last several years, during which I experienced Unfortunate Events at Zenith, it was all about having the option to leave (which almost, by the way, worked – or at least, it resulted in some interest from a big research university that helped give Zenith the incentive to resolve things.) Now I’m not so sure about the leaving thing: at present, it may be about having the option to stay without being so annoyed all the time. Last week I pitched a small book on the ERA, which I am now sure I can get a contract and a decent advance for if I can pull myself together to write the proposal in the next couple weeks. I strongly urged a dear friend to invite me to her university for a talk, which I have never done before, but have decided to start doing because I have invited about a dozen friends to Zenith who have never reciprocated, and I think it is time to call in my chips. She capitulated gracefully, as she is a very good friend. My next move will be to call one of my former undergraduate advisees, now an associate professor of history, and strong arm her into “inviting” me. It's all in a day's work.

No goal or achievement is too minor for to be part of my progrma of self promotion and will to accomplishment. The director of the archive I am visiting said to me brightly over the phone that she hoped I was applying for a grant to come back, as it is clear I have about a month of work to do there, and this week will only scratch the surface. Could we talk while I was down? Love it, I replied brightly; Let’s have lunch! (Translate: Wouldn’t you like to take me to lunch?)

You know I forget this for months, even years, at a time, but about a quarter century ago, when I was an undergraduate at Oligarch, my best friend (now a full professor at a fancy private university) said to me, You know Radical, the way the world works is this: Those who get, get more. And while I don’t exactly approve of this, I have to look around me at the world of higher education and agree, so for the next months I am going to behave as though this were true and see what happens.

Evening addendum: my program is working without me even having to try! My rental car was upgraded for free to a large purple truck by the rental agent, on his own initiative! Do you think he could tell I'm a lesbian?


Anonymous said...

About a quarter century ago, when I was an undergraduate at Oligarch, my best friend (now a full professor at a fancy private university) said to me, You know Radical, the way the world works is this: Those who get, get more.

So disgusting, and yet so true. And it's funny, but I had a friend who said the same thing to me when we were both undergrads and trying to figure out (as public school kids and Westerners at our own or possibly even the same Oligarch U) what "grad school" was, and what on earth it meant to go or get into one. And she said, "Well, what my TA said is that a lot of it is based on where you went to college. Like, people who went to OU are probably going to get into grad schools like OU."

We sat there for a long time, contemplating this in silence. But damned if it hasn't turned out to be true. However, since it IS true, there's no sense in not playing the hand ya got. I wish you the best with yours.

(Incidentally, if it IS the same OU, I know from Teenie. I know from the pre-"expansion" Teenie. And I wouldn't wish that place on anyone!)

Anonymous said...

It's funny, as a grad of Flagship State University (no OU, to be sure) and now Assistant Prof, I am just starting to get a taste of all of this. Sadly, I'm too idealistic to take fullest advantage of it, but damn, being able to even think about an advance contract on one of the, like, six books I'd like to write is a comforting thought. Wanna trade CVs?