I hate all group activities of every kind. Therefore, most conference activities are a bit like the 8th level of hell, only with (thank God) a hotel bar.Now, I’m picking on ACSP, but all conferences are the same as far as I can tell.
Of the many sad, boring, and futile group activities at conferences, none is more stultifying than anything that falls into the following categories: speaker dinners, plenaries, keynotes, and other opportunities where the incumbents in a profession use their incumbent/oldie old person status to monopolize the podium. Yep, all of you out there enjoying your rubber chicken meal slathered in indifferent sauces and overcooked side vegetables, all you enjoying the feast of reason and the flow of soul, you put a sock in it and genuflect while we with status talk about ourselves and our few, consecrated cronies in a boring circle jerk of such epic boringness the entire thing is like a cosmological experiment to disprove the possibility that black holes are made of boredom because if they were truly made of boredom, academic conference dinners/plenaries/etc have already generated such infinite densities of boredom that we should have already caused the universe to be so riddled with wormholes that every downtown Marriott would have been sucked somewhere east of Bajor by now.
Thus, the confession:
When I do show up to these things, I spend the entire time during the self-congratulatory blather fighting off the desire to pick up one of those inedible white flour rolls and huck it, in a graceful, yet forceful, arc across the room, to bounce it off some full professor’s little white-guy bald head. Given the incredible prevalence of full professors who are white guys with little bald heads, I don’t even have to do any training for this. The chances are so good even with utter incompetence, right?
I see it over and over in my mind, while I am sitting there…the perfect, slow-motion arc…perhaps it is one of those lop-sided faux brioches, or one of those little tripartite buns that look (and taste) much like pincushions, or maybe one of those split rolls that are shaped like a football that achieves a perfect spiral mid-flight…and then it hits….
SPACK!– crusty bread meets flesh….
off it bounces, hitting the temple of another scholar at an adjoining table, who immediately assumes the original victim threw it…and responds in kind.
Outraged old guys all get up in a fury, and a big, bench-clearing, really sloppy food fight, where every academic slight is avenged between combatants via slices of banana cream pies to the face. (This is obviously fantasy. The anti-obesity people have made it to the boring-fest so that all deserts are now sensible portions of indistinguishable red fruit-blobs that don’t explode upon impact, more’s the pity. They probably stain, at least. That could be ok.)
The more I visualize this, the more I yearn for it all to happen, just like all those power-of-positive-thinking people say, and the more agonizing it is to sit there while prim little butt kisses are rationed out from the podium, and I fear that as I age, and become even less concerned about my status as a pariah in the profession, that my self-control, none-too-reliable under the best of circs, will break and I will be unable to stop myself from launching that first, fateful bun.
It would be glorious.
By publicly admitting these desires, I seek to establish accountability for myself via peer effects. I can never ever do this now, can I? No, I can’t. No.
Alternatively, should one of you other abused, passed-over, dumped-on, silenced, shut-down associate professors out there see my confession as the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to wang a crusty bread product off the middle of an offending full-rank forehead and let Schweitzer catch the blame–well, I’d understand. I wouldn’t judge.