Sunday, June 22, 2008

and perhaps this is precisely why you don't have a job?

While proctoring an exam the other day, I was randomly paired with another proctor I had never met before. Seeing as how we were there to proctor an exam, I didn't expect a lot of chit-chat. I brought some paperwork to do. Glad I did, because otherwise etiquette would have forced me to continue this conversation.

Other Person (OP): So, are you a...MA student?
Me: No, PhD, lit.
OP: Oh, I'm sorry.
Me: [tight-lipped half-smile of politeness]
OP: I got my lit PhD here.
Me: [tight-lipped half-smile of politeness]
OP: What's your field?
Me: 19th century American, textual studies, digital scholarship.
OP: Oh, I'm sorry.
Me: [tight-lipped not-so-much a smile anymore, wondering how long I can hold on to being polite]
OP: You won't get a job.
Me: [and...I'm done] I'm not really worried about that. [Note: I'm not. Not because I think I'm awesome, but because a) I'm well aware of the vagaries of academe, b) I'm not going to be on the market for three more years, c) I am progressing as appropriate under the guidance of my committee and everything else is out of my hands so why worry?]
OP: [doesn't have a response] You should switch to rhet/comp or something British. I was 20th century American.
Me: I do a fair amount of interdisciplinary work with rhet/comp, and I am decidedly an Americanist. I'm fine with my choices.
OP: [switches over to talking about the students coming to take the exam] So, typically I reiterate the instructions a few times because these kids, they're just not very bright. You'll see that when you read them later. And then you'll get to teach them! Poor you.
Me: They're typical freshmen. I don't expect them to excel at things they haven't learned yet. And I like teaching composition. [so basically, shut the fuck up.]
Time passes. Students are taking their exam. I am looking at some comments on papers from my adviser, A. Other person looks over at the paper.

OP: Are those your comments? They're hard to read.
Me: No, these are my adviser's comments on some stuff I'm working on. [Also thinking, "Won't you shut up? Students are taking an exam!"]
OP: Who's your adviser?
Me: [tells her]
OP: Oh, have you sucked up to her dog yet? [My adviser happens to have a very wee doggie that is always around.]
Me: [And this is where I decided I was done with this person. Don't disrespect my adviser or insinuate....anything shitty.] Uh, no. I don't have any reason to suck up, nor would I. My work speaks for itself, and she's good with it. And so am I.

And that was pretty much that. I left out a part where I mentioned I had a career, and what in, and she was all "Oh, I'm sorry about that" too. Basically, in 15 minutes the woman showed me all the reasons she would be a terrible colleague: disrespectful toward chosen fields of study, other scholars, and students. There's not much left. I am not surprised in the least that she didn't get a job.

[I am guilty of the whole "what, British? bleh!"-type comments, but only to people I know, who know I'm not serious, and are usually followed by some deprecating remarks about my own choices. I claim there's a difference.]

[I am also guilty of having been this person, many years ago, in my other field...although I had a job, it didn't keep me from being a jerk to other people.]