(From Eve Tushnet [start here and scroll up] and Terry Teachout, among others.)
- Given scholarly lectures on four different ancient authors at four different British universities in one week: Lucretius at Leeds, Tacitus at Durham, Pseudo-Aeschylus (Prometheus Bound) at University College, London, and Propertius at Oxford, all the usual 50-minute academic length except the first, which was shorter, to fit in with the format of the Leeds Latin Seminar. I spent over ten years on the academic job market, with one (1) on-campus interview to show for it, and even this didn’t help.
- Told a tenured professor and colleague to his face that he’s a fucking liar and asshole. (He was and is, and had just proven it, not for the first time, in person and in detail.) And no, I was unsuccessful in my job-hunt long before that.
- Had my pay docked for coming back to the Mayflower office with two fewer wheels on my truck than it had when I left. It was rolling along quite nicely with twelve, but should have had fourteen. The ones that fell off were on the right side of the rear axle of an empty flatbed trailer, so I couldn’t even see them from the driver’s seat unless I was turning right. (I probably should have noticed that the trailer bed was tilting a bit to the right.) I worked 65 hours that week, and the $100 taken out of my pay (half-price since the wheels and tires were old) left me with less than $15 in take-home pay, which wasn’t much even thirty years ago. The idiot who changed the inside tire the day before and obviously forgot to tighten the lugnuts got off unscathed, and (I’m pretty sure) wasn’t even told what he’d done. He worked for a tire company and I worked for Mayflower, so it was easier just to take all the money out of my check and not bother him or his boss about it.
- Contributed 230 wasps to the collection of the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, all carefully labeled with date and place of capture. Most were collected in the Great Dismal Swamp while I was in high school. (I found butterfly-hunting too unsporting, if not downright cruel, and my reflexes were too slow for dragonflies.) They were grateful enough to give me the backstairs tour of the building, which made my biology teacher (I was in college by then) a bit envious: he didn’t get his until long after his Ph.D.
- Read Aristotle on the Prime Mover and operated a Prime Mover™ in the same year. This was during a strike at Mayflower, when my brother ‘Steevil’ and I worked a few weeks at one of its competitors, mostly in the warehouse. The company was too cheap to provide us with hammers, but previous employees had left behind a convenient hand-sized chipped rock very much like a stone axe, which we used to hammer the clips onto the storage pallets (the 3-D kind). So I’ve used a Prime Mover and a stone axe on the same job.
- Read every line of Ovid’s surviving verse in Latin (over 1,000 pages) without ever getting around to reading his surviving prose (less than one page). Maybe I’ll do that later tonight.
- Helped fill a garbage truck so full of moving company trash that it wouldn’t come out. It was a beautiful spring day, there wasn’t a lot else to do, and the driver was a part-time preacher who liked to talk and was good at it, so we just kept stuffing in more trash as we listened to him talk. (We also tested the crushing apparatus with 2 x 4s, cinder blocks, and small appliances and found that it could handle anything we gave it.) With a garbage truck, you can always squeeze in a little bit more, and there’s no clear dividng line betwen not-full and full. When we got to the dump, we opened the back door and lifted the container part (the body) to the usual 45° angle, but the trash just stuck there. Pulling on the dangling bits didn’t help, which is probably a good thing, since the whole mass might easily have come down on our heads and buried us. It took over an hour of jerking the truck forward with the body fully uptilted — not recommended in the driver’s manual — before the trash finally shook loose and slid out.
- Been asked by my boss at a computer company to help his strikingly beautiful 16-year old daughter with her homework, when the book I’d brought to read on my lunch-hour that day happened to be Lolita. (I’d just finished Pnin.) Fortunately I managed to keep it hidden. He wasn’t a very literary guy, but I imagine that’s one 20th century novel he knew something about.
- Spent the night as guest of the captain on a Navy landing ship anchored in Chesapeake Bay. I think it was an LPH: it was the mother ship for smaller landing craft, with a huge gate on the stern, an inside well for the baby landing craft, and a helicopter deck above the well. I took along three friends, fellow freshmen, plus a senior invited as a courtesy since he was planning to join the Navy after graduation. I wouldn’t have asked him if I’d known he was going to wear his cape and sword. Fortunately it was getting dark by the time we got to the dock to board the open boat that would take us out to the ship. A storm came up and we all got thoroughly soaked on the way, had to jump for the shipside ladder, and then spent the night in the bunks that would have been full of Marines in wartime. We only saw the captain (an old family friend) for a few minutes when we arrived, since he wasn’t expecting us and was busy getting the mayor and other honored guests back to shore. The junior ensign had to lend us all pants while ours were in the laundry. When we left in the morning, we got a lot of funny looks from the hundreds of Midshipmen who were just arriving to see what a real ship is like — at least the guy with the cape and sword did, though the rest of us were dressed like early-70s college students, which didn’t help. It was a beautiful spring day, and we had one of the landing boats all to ourselves.
- Made a living for ten years as a computer programmer, without ever taking a single course on the subject, not even a one-day seminar.
Probably some of my readers have done that, so here’s a bonus entry:
- Visited a client’s site to see why the computer we’d sold them wasn’t working, and found that the only problem was that it was not plugged in. You probably thought that was an urban legend.
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