A Quirky Academic Meets a Normal Academic: And Hilarity Ensues

A Quirky Academic Meets a Normal Academic: And Hilarity Ensues

Academia is one of the few places that accommodate quirky people. Which is why I’m there. Annoyingly, academia also includes perfectly normal people. Which is where the clash between the normal and the quirky happens. Guess on which side I am. (If you hazarded “normal”, I forgive you because you must be new here.) As a junior academic at the mercy of senior colleagues, I have it tough. But I fight like an angry grumpy cat.

The other day I received a mail from Professor Pfeiffer, one of the angry old men who guarantee my doctoral study programme. At face value, he asked me to submit my individual study plan signed by me and my supervisor. In between the lines, he was blaming me for not having delivered the document yet and was craving my blood. There ensued an exchange of passive-aggressive mails between Professor Pfeiffer and my supervisor, all of which I received in copy.

Doctor Jefferson, my supervisor, wrote along these lines: Dear Pfeiffer, Mara was the first to come have her documents signed in September. Will you kindly fix the mess you notoriously have in your darn papers? Xoxo, Emma. On which Professor Pfeiffer wrote laconically: What you say may or may not be the case. But I got no papers from her. Pff. When I discovered that the paperwork I was required to procure now was different from the paperwork I had already handed in, I thought it fit to visit Professor Pfeiffer in person to avert a looming feud.

My Scottish blue pencil
My Scottish blue pencil

Except I’m not a people’s person. So in the process of solving one problem, I created a bunch of new ones. I should have known better. I cornered the professor in his office while chancing to wear skinny jeans, furry heels and red lipstick. (My outfit, not the professor’s.) It was clear from my looks that I was meaning business. (Irony intended.) I knocked on his door, and undecided whether I heard come in or not, I proceeded to let myself in using the key left in the door from the outside.

Has no one stolen your keys yet? I said by the way of greeting as my head emerged in the office, the body tentatively remaining outside in case I was not invited. Uh, er, nope, the professor managed to respond but looked as though he were confronting the spectre of a white rabbit. Actually, what he was facing was an army of black owls, which happened to be the print of the obviously work-appropriate shirt I was wearing. (Sardonic sneer.) Come in, sit down, the professor ventured. I waited for him to offer me something. He didn’t. I should have brought my slivovitz.

I initiated a bit of beating about the berry bush, that is, small talk intended to prove me as the normal member of society which I am not. I talked weather (So, it’s freakin’ freezin’, right, professor?), but for mysterious reasons it didn’t work. Also, I’m kidding. As a respectful student with a reputable language register, I spoke thus: Good morning, Professor Pfeiffer, I’m so sorry to bother you, but I’d like to apologise for any inconvenience caused by my failure to submit my paperwork in time. I will rectify this regrettable situation immediately. Please don’t fire me.

The professor seemed well pleased with the outcome, admitting that the individual study plan was a momentary random idea he got on Friday. I understood that instead of going for beer, like any sane person on Friday does, he sat down to contrive a plan how to engage doctoral students in a regular one-to-one interaction with senior department members. With a benevolent gesture, he waved my questioning stare away and observed, beaming with pride, that his brilliant plan was working because I indeed came to him for a talk.

Sticky notes love
Sticky notes love

Whatever. I concluded that Professor Pfeiffer was simply feeling lonely, so I offered I’d come see him more often. He refused in order to save his face. Not a people’s person but a people’s expert nonetheless, I decided that some Scottish Literature talk was what the professor needed. I asked him an academic question or two to cheer him up. It worked perfectly. The professor started purring like Lil Bub and observed casually, Perhaps Professor Berryman is mistaken to believe that you don’t know what you’re doing. On which I screamed internally, WTF?!?!

Now this hurt. A lot. Professor Berryman is the single person with whom I disagree on everything, and more than everything, yet whose lifetime achievement I deeply respect. I actually started to suspect that he hated me, hated me so much when I saw his sternly disapproving face in the first row of a recent conference where I presented my leftist separatist paper. Professor Berryman, of course, is a strictly right-wing globalist who strangely enough managed to retain his visionary optimism throughout his long life, while I lost mine very promptly in the process of growing up. Heck, professor, but does that necessarily mean I don’t know what I’m doing? I’m crying internally.

Disinclined to further discussion as I was processing this mortifying piece of news, I suggested to no one in particular that I could ambush Professor Berryman and demand that he reconsider his shockingly low opinion on me. Professor Pfeiffer contemplated my plan and contended that I might prefer to return home to my proofs. I was wondering whether to interpret this paternal advice as something like, Your research sucks, but cheer up, we need your proofreading. To spite Professor Berryman in absentia and demonstrate that my visionary optimism is not dead yet completely, I decided against this discouraging interpretation. We literary scholars have it tough, always interpreting stuff.

56 thoughts on “A Quirky Academic Meets a Normal Academic: And Hilarity Ensues

  1. What a *convergingly* good read! You write well and the characters pop out of the page…as indeed do you and your delicious sense of humour which is dry and cutting and I just love that!

    Can’t wait for more…. 😉

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    1. What a convergingly delicious comment! Thank you for it. It’s encouraging, the more so for coming from you. Next story comes on next Sunday 🙂 By the way, I’ve already submitted the converging paperwork that is the subject of the post, and I wasn’t fired 😉

      Like

        1. I’m obsessively organised to the point of its being a disease, so I could give you my posting calendar which is precise like a Switch watch. But that would rob the element of surprise out of the whole undertaking.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I will just imagine you working at a desk with a candle, desperately trying to meet a deadline, perhaps even using an old typewriter with one of the keys missing….and a dram at your side as you tear out the paper…

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          2. I’d hate to explode your fantasy, but the reality is very different :-O Though I could use an old typewriter and I used to. But paper I don’t tear, that would be very un-green and uneconomic, I hardly ever print anything these days. No more fantasy exploding for today though…

            About deadlines, I got a “lovely” email today from the person who sent me last-minute proofs yesterday. I already did some of the work and he wrote me epigrammatically in response, “I appreciate and approve.” I’m still laughing at this hysterically. Sorry…

            Liked by 1 person

          3. I can understand the laughter (and pain)….but hey, you actually used a typewriter, now I really am impressed so fantasy only partially exploded 😉

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          4. I surely can type on typewriters, I preferred this to learning shorthand. And I do type with all my ten fingers. More fantasy exploding will come tomorrow when I execute what I promised today 😉 Now I’m probably being enigmatic, but you either know or you will know it when you see it.

            Liked by 1 person

          5. In that case, I can rest easy, it’s all in the eye of the beholder, and the words of the beheld are more powerful in this case, than any image…

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          6. Also, I’m incredibly dumb. I thought I can only send pictures via WhatsApp that I take directly via its interface, and now I found that I can apparently send anything I want from the phone’s archives. In which case there was no need to wait for tomorrow, but converge it. Sorry, that was a stupid response to your comment, which is as sweet as I am dumb. That is, a lot.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I do hope the professors don’t read your blog!

    “….instead of going for beer, like any sane person on Friday does, he sat down to contrive a plan how to engage doctoral students in a regular one-to-one interaction with senior department members” — I giggled at this….gotta love academics! 😉

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    1. Thank you for reading! Oh no, I use a pen name for blogging and change the names of everyone concerned too, so I should be safe on this! If I were to reveal myself, then it wouldn’t be half as much fun 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Dear robot,
    This was a converging good piece! You write with eloquence and made me want to read this as a 1000 page novel. It enticed me to to know more about the next developments and I can’t wait for next Sunday!
    Congratulations with the approach and approval from the professor.
    Send the cat to get things sorted with that Prof. Berryman!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear wife,
      step out of the anonymity of your comment, I know it’s you! 😀 I’m delighted like converge that you’d like to read at length about my awkward struggles with the dominant discourse of my phallocentric workplace, alas, I’m neither Tolstoy nor Dostoevsky and I reckon that life’s too short to spend it reading depressive stuff. It’s not like I’m spending my life doing anything else.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, I left out the ending 🙂 The very trivial situation has now been solved, I handed my papers in and I was the first to do so. That’s how boring I am.

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  4. Ooooh how exciting we are both writing Sunday pieces though they couldn’t be more chalk and cheese. Furry shoes? You know I felt quite stressed reading all of that in a good way if that makes sense and my head hurt with equal humor invading it but then I am not an academic so maybe the reason for such an eclectic mix of emotions. The comments however I can get to grips with and remind me slightly of mills and boon without the sex and knowing your age and preference for reading material I would imagine that to go totally over your head kitty x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Are you writing Sunday stories now regularly? Awesome if so! Oh my dear, I now feel guilty for making you stressed! It was no way meant to be threatening or anything, just a very trivial everyday moment that I somewhat exaggerated for the purpose of blogging fun 😉

      I googled Mills and Boon. Well, I certainly read nothing like that. Not any more, the last I did I was possibly twelve. I read a few and then it started to be all the same boring stuff. What’s going totally over my kitty head? Am I in danger I didn’t realise, like getting addicted to blogging? I guess it might be too late for me 😮

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 🙂 Yes, this is my second Sunday now on The Darkness, so I will be writing my creative horror piece and you willl be writing your intellectual piece lol,

        Oh no I was also in no way threatened, far from it, but you see even though my mother tongue is English you use words I have never heard of and well it makes me feel terribly ashamed that someone whose first language is not English writes and knows more about my language than me, plus you see I don’t envisage myself as an intellectual, so it is a little like a different language anyway, I might need a dictionary for next weeks piece 🙂 It is a learning experience, but reading it late at night when tired probably not the most sensible thing to do 😛

        Now I really hope you were not reading anything like MIlls and Boon at 12 years old because this is most definitely an adult book, yes not the most well written but most definitely for children, now I am a bit concerned….grins..but it could explain the naughtiness!!!

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        1. Awe, what a sweet comment 🙂 It’s perfect that we’ll be exchanging stories on Sunday! *happy dance* I’ve read perhaps too much Victorian literature and literary criticism, hence my language is probably unnatural and somewhat dated. I wouldn’t wonder if I sometimes don’t make sense because of it! I didn’t read Mills and Boon, but I read what I think is its equivalent in my country. It was awfully romantic. Some sex too, but boring. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

          1. lol reading sex at 12? i was reading nursing books and horror stories…just goes to show..haha…

            I think of myself as an old fashioned writer, or so I have been told, but I think your literary vocabluary is larger than mine, so I should thankyou because I shall get a dictionary ready for next Sunday and learn a few more words..hehe…

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          2. I was an advanced reader 😉 Yes, old fashioned writer you are, my dear, your horror stories read a bit like Mary Shelley and nineteenth-century Gothic fiction. That’s a compliment 🙂 Also, you’re making me blush!

            Liked by 1 person

          3. I just ‘think’ I finished setting up my post for the challenge tomorrow, OMG so nervous, it took me ages to work out the Inlinkz, i seriously hope it works and won’t be a total flop xx

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  5. The imagery in this enthralling and thrillingly caustic little tale was SUPERB. TOO funny- especially imagining your crotchety little Prof sheathed in skinnies, furry heels (that I assume are leopard print for some reason) and flaming red lipstick! By the way, that is the most notorious passive-aggressive writing that I’ve ever seen!

    What an adventure academia must be!

    Brilliant writing. I was absolutely captivated. Smiling cheers,

    AJ

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    1. Academia is boring and my life is boring, but I’m exaggerating it to epic proportions. I didn’t realise I was being passive-aggressive (in a passive-aggressive tone). It was refreshing to see = talk to you again!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. HAHA. You weren’t being passive aggressive, har har. I was referring to those e-mail excerpts between your profs. WHOA.

        Your exaggeration is extremely entertaining 😉 Well-done!

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        1. Ah, get it now. Yes, the exchange of my senior colleagues was obviously passive-aggressive, but I loved it that my supervisor stood up for me. ❤ And thanks for your compliment! *blushing*

          Liked by 1 person

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