Day 48: Tiptoe through the tigers

I was twenty minutes late for the “Time Management for Faculty Members Luncheon.”

It wasn’t my fault. You see, the lunch began at 12 and I taught until 12:15. Using what it turns out are extremely poor time management skills, I had arranged beforehand with my co-teacher that I would lecture until 12, leaving him the final 15 minutes to go over the essay assignment with the class. That way, since I had calculated that it would take me approximately 8 minutes to walk over to the faculty center from the room in which I lecture, I wouldn’t be more than 10 minutes late. And, as my co-teacher observed, they always spend the first 10 minutes of these things bringing out the salads and bread rolls so, really, it was extremely efficient on my part to skip the first ten minutes.

I was confident that I would finish on time because the second half of the lecture was on Oliver Goldsmith’s poem, “The Deserted Village,” a poem, which, I learned this week (I had never read it before this week), I actively dislike. I was sure that I didn’t have more than twenty minutes worth of stuff to say about it. But, as sometimes happens, I found that my dislike of the poem actually seemed to inspire me. I found myself talking at some length about agricultural enclosure. And a lot of other things that only took up one line in my notes took a longer-than-anticipated time to explain. For example, when I used the word “pastoral” and got a lot of blank stares (and it wasn’t just my accent) I went down a pastoral rabbit-hole (sheep-hole?) about shepherds and swains and wolves in sheep’s clothing and what a pastoral elegy is and how an elegy differs from a eulogy.

I also read out loud this part about how all the poor dispossessed swains have to go to ghastly America where everything is TERRIFYING, just because I thought it was really funny:

“Far different there from all that charm’d before,

The various terrors of that horrid shore;

Those blazing suns that dart a downward ray,

And fiercely shed intolerable day;

Those matted woods where birds forget to sing,

But silent bats in drowsy clusters cling;

Those poisonous fields with rank luxuriance crowned,

Where the dark scorpion gathers death around;

Where at each step the stranger fears to wake

The rattling terrors of the vengeful snake;

Where crouching tigers wait their hapless prey, [1]

And savage men, more murderous still than they;

While oft in whirls the mad tornado flies,

Mingling the ravaged landscape with the skies.

Far different these from every former scene,

The cooling brook, the grassy vested green,

The breezy covert of the warbling grove,

That only shelter’d thefts of harmless love.”

The point is, I didn’t leave the lecture room until 12:10. I arrived at the faculty center in a sweat. Walking hastily towards the meeting room, I encountered a group of ladies sitting behind a table covered with name-tags. I started looking for my name. One woman regarded me suspiciously.

“This is for the time-management luncheon. Are you here for that?”

“Yes,” I replied breathlessly, “I know I’m late. This is precisely why I need to be there.”

The woman chuckled. “She just began,” she said.

I opened the closed door as quietly as I could and peeked in. I have been to quite a few of these luncheons sponsored by my institution’s faculty development program, and this was by far the most packed event I’ve ever attended. This was not surprising. The full title of the presentation was “Time Management for Faculty Members: How to Manage Your Time so You can Publish Prolifically AND have a Life Beyond the Ivory Tower.” It felt to me that it would be hubris not to attend a talk with that title. If there ever was a title to appeal to those who favor both … and over either/or, this was it. If this were a fairytale, it would have been called Time Management for Heroines: How to Marry the Prince so You Can Achieve Upward Mobility AND Have a Life Beyond the Castle Tower.

The secret to discovering my prolifically-publishing-tower-busting true self awaited me, and it was to be divulged over dry chicken breast and a medley of vegetables, if only I could make it to the one empty seat in the middle of the room!

The door was at the front of the room next to the podium. The speaker, standing at the podium, had evidently just launched into a PowerPoint presentation. Everyone else had finished their salads and was turned towards the speaker, listening attentively. I was, evidently, the last person to arrive, a fact that, honestly, made me question the integrity of everybody else in that room. How could it possibly be the case that the 100 or so other attendees of a time-management seminar had managed to get there on time? What a bunch of fakers.

Although it was my plan to sneak into the room and settle into my seat unobtrusively, it was one of those situations in which my entrance into the room was so obvious that the speaker actually paused during her presentation, looked over to me and said, brightly, “Welcome, welcome!” so that everyone in the room could be sure to witness my grand entrance. For some reason, I instinctively did an elaborate mime of tiptoeing over to the one empty seat, a mime that was redundant both because I had already disrupted the proceedings and because the floor was carpeted, rendering tiptoeing completely unnecessary.

I finally slipped into my seat and spent the next ten minutes trying to figure out how to attach my name tag to my jacket.

Good Lord.

What, you may ask, did I learn, ultimately, at this hotly-anticipated luncheon?

I’d tell you, really I would, but unfortunately I’ve run out of time.

Notes

[1] This note is for my American readers only: firstly, OH MY GOD, WHY DID NO-ONE TELL ME ABOUT THE TIGERS??? Secondly, what else are you hiding from me?

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