On awards when you just tried to do your job

I received a very nice award called the Margarita McCoy award. It’s an honor. I am honored, truly, largely because I truly admired Margarita McCoy’s approach to planning. We lost her this year, which makes it all the more poignant.

But now I have to do interviews and I have awards lunches to go to. And I don’t really feel like I deserve any awards particularly. I feel like I did my job.

One reason I was nominated for the award had to do with the research I have done, much of partnered with Virginia Tech’s fantastic Pamela Murray-Tuite, on women and family mobility.

And I am proud of that research.

But you aren’t doing your job in travel behavior research if you aren’t paying attention to differences in how different groups travel. It’s not that I’m so great for knowing this. It’s that a person is a sucky, sucky planner and urbanist if they don’t understand that urban systems work differently for different people. (eg Smartest Boy Urbanists, and why they need to sit down now and then.)

As to promoting the work of young female scholars…well, that is my job, too. It isn’t exemplary that I do that. It’s a problem that other people don’t. I feel like the father who has everybody saying to him “Oh, what a great dad you are!” just because he is out with his kids, something mom does all the damn time with nobody handing her any cookies like ‘What a great mom you are.” I promote and echo the work of young male and female scholars because I am one of the lucky ones who got through the tenure gauntlet and the right thing to do when you get that good fortune is to turn around and shine light all the people coming up that hill. The fact that my many of my male colleagues fail to do that for young women is a problem…it isn’t that I am doing something remarkable.

No, I don’t have to do it. But that’s the result of a screwed-up culture, not a sign of my fabulous character.

My feelings about lunches, keynotes, and all that sort of ghastly business are well-known:

It’s a good thing to go, to promote my program, to say thank you to kind people giving the award, and to be a decent member of society.

It’s just that I am not a decent member of society. I’M NOT.

The whole time I am at any social gathering at conferences, I am wishing, wishing, wishing desperately for alcohol, and there isn’t any, just iced tea. Who can make small talk on iced tea? And when you are an awardee, you have to look like you are a worthy person, and it’s hard to look like a worthy person when all you want out of life is to go back to your room and order 11 cheeseburgers and six bottles of wine from room service. (That can get dodgy, too, because it’s hard to explain all that when you go to the door and the room service person sees it’s just you in your Powerpuff Girls jammies. STOP JUDGING ME.)

I am supposed to say a few words. I can’t say words. Not in front of people. I can present research and I can teach. That’s it. That’s all I got.

All I have ever really done–and I do not feel all that good at it–is to try help people get where they are want to go. That’s my job. And I feel like I screw it up plenty.