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  • Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

Dontcha Hate It When...
March 13, 2008 - 8:43pm

You get back from an interview for a job you really, really want, only to realize that you completely misinterpreted a question? And that the answer you gave to the question they meant, rather than the one you heard, almost certainly came off as colossally nuts? And that nobody around the table
bothered to stop you, or to clarify the question, or to provide context, or even to make a facial expression that might alert you that you were doing the equivalent of saying "why yes, I do like to club baby seals in my spare time, thanks for asking"?

Me, too.

It's tough, because certain words have different meanings in different settings, but so few people move between those settings that the 'natives' are often unaware of the language difference. So they think the meaning of the term, or the question in which it's embedded, is utterly transparent. And an answer that depends on a different meaning is prima facie evidence of mental illness, or, at best, a tragically failed attempt at performance art. And you wonder why they're oddly distant as you leave, only to have it hit you in the middle of the subsequent night that you basically told them that you're a douchebag of epochal proportions and proud of it.


Sadly, there are no do-overs. So somewhere in this wide land, there's a perfectly wonderful college with some perfectly wonderful people who spent the better part of an afternoon staring at each other and muttering variations on "what's his problem?" or "did you hear that?" or "aye caramba" or whatever the hell it is they say when someone lays a gigantic egg and doesn't know it. And they're almost certainly congratulating themselves on having dodged a nasty bullet by discovering that beneath this mild-mannered exterior lurks a gleefully cackling cartoonish villain who spends his time thinning the gruel of orphans.

Worse, it's entirely possible that the sustained silence I expect will follow would have happened anyway, but without the bitter taste of self-blame. But there's just no way to know.


Someday I'll chalk it up to experience. But for now, it's just really, really frustrating.


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