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Friday, September 2, 2011

More Observations from the Peanut Gallery, Again: Part Deux, Observe Harder! II

Last week the college that I work for had an all-employee mandatory assembly, mandatory meeting, mandatory casual breakfast to kick off the fall semester.  This is where the prez rattles off all the things that he’d like for the university to accomplish this year, and everyone else whispers “yeah right” into their Styrofoam coffee cups.  It’s apparently tradition.

But little did I know that I would be met with another tradition that day, this one dredged from the depths of middle school lore.  After scooping up my requisite bagel and blueberry-ish muffin along with the department’s administrative assistant, we walked into the banquet hall of tables to find one surrounded by faculty members from our department.  But upon moseying up to them our, “Is this seat taken’s?” were met with vacant stares and feigned conversation.  Shunned from the lunch table?  These are the same people intellegent and/ or old enough to have doctorates, right?  Even after we sat alone at the lame kids table, and some other professors from our department joined us, they quickly jumped ship as soon as they spotted their faculty cohorts.  Forest Gump, eat your heart out.

"Can't sit here.  Seat's taken.  I got my PhD at Columbia, where'd you get yours?"

And that’s pretty much the relationship between college faculty and staff, at least at my college.  Be it me, the administrative assistant, the custodian, even the adjunct professors (part time profs); all are met with the same disdain of a 7th grad pecking order.  If you don’t have a higher degree and aren’t at least on the tenure track, get used to eating your fish sticks in the corner of the cafeteria.
And I really want to sit with these guys.  I want to be one of the cool kids.  I want to talk with them, chat their ears off about just how they got to where they are so maybe I can too. Maybe get some great application tips--who knows?  Whatever they've got, I want it.  That--and the health insurance--is a big reason why I took this job in the first place.  But this gap in communication is compounded by another obstacle, also social.

Peppering a little Chompsky into the convo = intellectual 
For example, if I wanted to I could always brush up on my advanced Communication theory—I think I minored in Comm in college, but hey, who didn’t, right?  However outside of class, Noam Chompsky's comm theories are on their conversational radars about as much as the location of the closest Goodwill is.  Even the administrative assistant can occasionally chew the fat with them and she’s a full year younger than me.  The reason is—survey says—she’s married, has two kids, and owns her house.  Ding, ding, ding ding! 

Just about everyone in the department is at least ten years my senior, and usually 20, 30, or 40 years my senior.  That makes having a real conversation tough, but more than that, and for the most part, they all have spouses, kids, mortgages, tax brackets, home equity, social security options, all that jazz, thus, social rocketing them into a totally foreign cultural stratosphere from my own. 

I mean, what can I offer to this morning coffee-maker conversation?  “Hmm, so you decided to move in order to be located within a better school district to accommodate your daughter’s needs, huh?  Hmm, interesting, interesting stuff.  Well, last night two of my roommates came back from the bar and one just missed puking in the fridge, which is good for our home equity, right?"  Is that what home equity means?  For the love of God, what is home equity!  I don’t know!  I just don’t know!

Whoosh!  I'm a professor now!
Somewhere, somehow, at sometime, these profs made a jump from where I am to where they are, which involved more than just additional schooling.  It’s like they vanished into the Field of Dreams cornfield, and reappeared ten years later as different people.  I can’t imagine they were all like this at my age.  Is it wrong to assume that I won’t be like them at their age?

I think what can be taken away from all of this is the following;

  • You better have a kid or know what the hell home equity is if you want to sit with the cool kids at lunch
  • Don’t use Styrofoam, it kills mother earth, and hurts her home equity, right?   Bah!   

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