The next day is one of those days where just the fact that it’s sunny actually makes life worth living. Never mind that you fall getting of the shower because you can’t believe that big blob of goo in the mirror is actually you; never mind that grandma just got run over by a monster truck; never mind that you walked in on your wife with the maid, the maid’s husband, and someone who specializes in hypo-allergenic latex; never mind any of that, because LOOK! I can see my shadow!
We get the kids out the door (they’re actually skipping), then I check e-mail and head down for a workout. Moby gets a break today, though I do find myself listening to “Muskrat Love” three times while I’m lifting weights, which should be worrying for one reason or another. After a nice cool shower, I head to the office, tipping my bowler-hat at everyone and letting my umbrella swing around my elbow as I tap-dance and sing “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” from Jesus Christ Superstar.
In my office the vents pump gloriously cold air as I check my e-mail yet again, smugly satisfied with the fact that most of my friends back home seem to remember who I am, especially if I send a picture that includes Ellen or the kids.
Then a crazy thing happens: the general education staff gets together for a meeting to discuss my agenda for the year. And we have a good meeting. We have a wonderful meeting. Ideas are exchanged. Differences are resolved. People listen when I talk about how we can do quality assurance and assessment that will keep the administration happy, but if we limit ourselves to collecting papers and counting numbers we’re going to be missing an opportunity to be doing something much more comprehensive that will actually please the faculty and—go figure—actually help the students.
And I have the brains to, when a question is asked, actually turn it back to the rest of the group and see what they have to say. See, one of the big challenges of this job is that most of the conversations we’re having, the Fulbrighters have already had on their own campuses—likely more than once. In my case, the impulse to speak, to answer all the questions, to offer fully formed solutions in paragraph form—this impulse is even stronger because back in the States I have a 2 hour commute each day, and had plenty of time to work through scenarios and options and ideas and solutions. I like puzzles. Even more, I like solving puzzles. In short, I think I have all the answers, and when you think you have all the answers it’s hard to keep your mouth shut, particularly if you’re a smart-ass know-it-all pain in the butt to begin with. And being socially insensitive to the needs of others doesn’t help either.
But at this meeting I actually shut up every once in a while. And it takes some time, but we make progress, actually plotting out a course of action for the year.
Afterwards, we go to lunch and they teach me the names of all the food and the difference between “fun” where the “n” stays level, and “fun” where the “n” rises at the very last second. I know this doesn’t sound like much to you, but when it’s the difference between ordering a plate of nice warm noodles and getting beaten by and angry chef with a cutting board and an under-ripe zuchinni, you learn to pay attention to these things.
I can’t remember what happens the rest of the day, but I think it involves the Nobel committee and a MacArthur Grant. You know: the usual.