On Campus


What do you know but in early February I get a letter from the smokers saying they wanted to invite me for that precious on campus interview.  That was big time in the job search because it meant SPEAKINGyou had made a cut that meant you were one of three.  So I called the department, got a secretary, and arranged a time a couple weeks down the line for the interview.  Thank goodness, usually—but not all of the time—the campus would pay for your plane fare.  These guys were paying and they paid for the motel too.

I was to fly in, go to the motel via taxi, sleep, and then I was told the spot where I was supposed to stand where somebody would pick me up and take me to the campus.  Then I would spend the whole damn day being interviewed.  The itinerary read something like.  brief meeting with President of University (largely ceremonial); extended interview with Dean (a very important part of the whole process); interview with chair of the department; lunch in the cafeteria with assorted faculty (meaning whoever was around); and then the goddamn talk.

 I hated the goddamn talk part.  When I first started interviewing, people actually read a paper, something they had written, to a tired assed bunch of faculty who seemed to loathe your very presence.  But later on, they started asking for talks rather than paper readings.  I would worked myself into a lather over these talks, like the fate of the whole interview depended on it, which maybe it did, since the people you talked to would be the people who voted, though there would be a lot of corridor lobbying before the vote by interested parties, if there were any.  And for a position like the head of composition there might not be any.

The talk part had gotten worse since I had started having anxiety attacks when I had to speak publically.  This was part of my psychotherapy.  Before I started that, I had not particularly liked public speaking but I hadn’t had any anxiety attacks.  But if psychotherapy works, it does so by making you worse for a long time before you start getting better.  If you sit around thinking and talking about your emotions that has a way of bringing them right up to the surface.

The first time I had a public speaking anxiety attack (as opposed to an every day, walking around, run-of-the-mill, for no obvious reason anxiety attack, which I also had though less predictably) was when I gave a “talk” at one of those damn conventions.  I hated those damn talks and those damn conventions, but you did them to get brownie points to make sure, in my case, that I got hired again and to “net-work” which I didn’t do.  So I was giving this talk when I began to sweat profusely.  My shirt was visibly saturated hung on me from the weight on the sweat.  I had to stop before I was done because I thought my head was going to explode.

So I had to worry not just about the talk and what it should be about but also about whether I would have an anxiety attack, and sweat all over the place, and crumble up like a wet rag or maybe just pee myself.

(to be continued)