For a break from my rambling story continuity: last Thursday I took my first planned Personal Day since February, this time for my first actual job interview in over two years.
I have, even before the catastrophic day, been sending out job applications and the Thursday before I got an e-mail for one I'd applied to back in January asking if I was still interested and if so could I come in Wednesday afternoon for an interview? This struck me --- and still does --- as very late to be interviewing people for a position starting Fall semester 2009, and I couldn't find the original listing to say exactly what I was interviewing for. I e-mailed yes, and tried calling several times Friday and got nothing, leaving me vague about what time of day I should be up there, or whether it was just an interview, or whether there should be a teaching demonstration.
I finally made contact on Monday, learning that they didn't want a teaching demonstration, to my relief because I couldn't find any notes that were remotely usable and wasn't looking forward to writing something in two days. On their offer of times --- Wednesday afternoon, Thursday afternoon, or Thursday late afternoon by which they meant 4 pm --- I picked Thursday afternoon, giving me time to get the personal day and brace myself for interviewing. The possible job was, happily, teaching, although it was at a community college so I had to spend the two days filling out their fussy and hyperparticular form which asks all the stuff that was in the CV I sent them seven months ago. (Well, not exactly identical: their form wanted the names of three references from the United States, which eliminated all my really knowledgeable references and sent me scrambling for people to fill the gap. Mercifully they did not ask for letters of recommendation, but the onus of demanding one is bad enough.) Worse, it was a Microsoft Word document, so I could either fill it out by hand --- shaky, given my handwriting which is neat but tiny --- or on the computer --- requiring I use one of my parent's laptops. My father's is cranky in many little ways; my mother's is astoundingly slow, to the point I don't know how she ever does anything on it because there isn't enough time to wait for it.
Getting there took mass transit, from my view, since the job's in New York City --- well, in Brooklyn --- and I really didn't want to drive all the way up there. My father didn't approve of this; I think he doesn't quite realize that, in fact, I don't like driving and would rather take mass transit. I could get up there with a bus ride to the Port Authority, striding to Bryant Park, and taking the subway, which had the one slight disadvantage that it takes about 400 hours to complete. Also and after getting off the subway I had to take another bus for a short hop to campus and I started out walking the wrong way because New York City subways do not map their surrounding areas as well as Singapore does.
Also the campus was built in the 1960s so that it is gloriously ugly, achieving a certain grandeur in its bad design, but all the campus maps have been torn off, so that I was at a loss to find the particular building I needed. But I found my way and got to the mathematics office at 2:35, a touch late for my 2:30 appointment but not humiliatingly so. There the secretary told me that my appointment was for Wednesday and I had missed it.
I pointed out that I had scheduled for Thursday, and she said she'd e-mailed me saying Wednesday, and provided the e-mail to prove it. The e-mail did say Wednesday, yes, but I was paying attention to what we had agreed to over the phone --- not with her, she said --- and had just taken the meeting location from it. I reiterated my point about Thursday, slightly louder, and she suggested that if I gave her a few minutes she would see if the Search Committee might work something out. A few minutes later, she reported that if I came back in about an hour they'd try to see me. This plan seemed better than mine; I could always hold a one-man sit-in in the office until they saw me later, anyway.
My plan was to sit in the lounge downstairs and read, but the campus was, as noted, built in the mid-60s so while there were wonderfully open balcony views of the lounge decorated in Hazard Orange with 2001 Remnant chairs, there was no way to actually walk downstairs. I had to take the elevator down one flight. I did get a soda from the vending machine and after I finished it noticed there were ``NO FOOD OR DRINKS'' signs every twenty feet across the lounge. Again, I had to take the elevator up one flight of stairs, except that since the `up' button didn't seem to register I actually went down to the ground floor and then back up again.
I got back on time, simultaneously to a woman who was also interviewing for the same position and who got to go in ahead of me. I waited a bit anxiously, and another woman came in who started small talk. She was also interviewing for the same position, and wondered how long I'd been waiting, and I was once again left stuck for the honest answer: for a couple minutes? Since 2:30? Since, in their view, 2:30 the previous day? I went with 2:30 and briefly panicked her until I got all that explained.
Although she had the 4:00 appointment, the committee took me next. I was by this time expecting that since they set my appointment to a day ahead of what I took it to be, that this would be just long enough to shake me off so they could get back to the real remaining candidates. Still, I brought copies of my books, in hardcover, to show off, and things got off on a weird direction when one of them mentioned noticing on my CV the bit about being a finalist for the Robert Benchley Society contest. He, too, is a Benchley fan, and regrets the loss of wit in modern life. So we got to talking about my humor-writing and the question, did I have anything else published? I could think of no way to answer that efficiently so settled for, ``I haven't been able to publish anywhere I'd get paid for, no''.
So we talked --- and really talked, more than interviewed --- for about a half-hour about things like how I got to Singapore, and what my past experience as an adjunct professor was like because if hired I'd see a lot of that level course, and was I aware this could interfere with my research program, and so on. I actually came out of it feeling pretty good about my prospects, although that might just be relief at the break in my long interview-less streak, too.
They didn't say just when they'd announce, but I imagine it can't be too far in the future since they were interviewing for people to start Fall 2009. Their classes are almost all one hour per day, four days a week, which has its upsides --- classes start to lose their attention span after about an hour, and everybody gets Friday off --- and its downsides --- you have to teach the same classes Monday through Thursday and nobody gets any other days off --- and there's a fairly high teaching load, but the class levels suggest there'd be very little prep work involved (though that's surely lost to grading and tutoring). The classrooms don't seem to have computers or overhead projectors, so I can do the chalk talks I prefer. The campus is, however, an unspeakably awful commute from my parents' house --- it'd take care of all reading list issues I might ever have, but would also leave as much as six hours of the day spent on bus or subway --- but the pay the first few years is not quite enough to make renting somewhere near financially comfortable --- although there may be developments on that front too.
Oh, yes, on my way back from the interview I was stopped by a person who hoped I could direct her to (some other building), and I had to confess that I was just there for a job interview and barely knew where the place I'd interviewed was. Apparently, even though I spend most of my days wandering in a vague, unfocused haze with an expression that I think of as communicating the idea ``I didn't hear the question, but if you ask again I'll still not hear it'', I convey an impression to people that I know where things are. It may have been the new shirt and slacks.
But it would be back to teaching, on a college campus, and I would really like to get there again.
Trivia: The Black Tom explosion off Jersey City on 30 July 1916 blew out the windows of the New York Public Library on 42nd street, as well as every pane in the building housing J P Morgan & Co. Source: The Detonators: The Secret Plot to Destroy America and an Epic Hunt for Justice, Chad Millman.
Currently Reading: The Wonderful Writing Machine, Bruce Bliven, Jr. It had never occurred to me that not only would there be in the days when typewriters were new speed-typing competitions, but that they would be popular or at least novel enough to pack Madison Square Garden (an old one, from when it was still near Madison Square). It makes text-messaging contests a little more credible by virtue of antiquity. This is a fun book, by the way, but you'll probably need a university library to find since it dates to the mid-50s.