Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Rip Van Winkle Effect

I did everything I could to avoid becoming Associate Chair of my department upon my return to the States from my Fulbright year in Japan, but had to settle for a one-semester gig in the end. If the position didn't give me +10 in boringness and -8 in cleverness, I'd write a witty riff on the above title to convey what a year leave does to my competence at and motivation for departmental service, but I think you get the picture.

In case, you don't, here's a random list of actual Rip Van Winkle moments in the English department office:

  • "Why isn't this computer connecting to the internet? Ah, great, someone from AIT can come Friday afternoon to fix it--wonderful!" [Fast forward to Sunday morning, the first chance I have to get into the office that weekend.] "What?! How can this key not be working? Am I cursed?" [Result: plan to get to the office bright and early Monday morning, but don't actually make it in until the late afternoon.]
  • "How could I have forgotten both my user ID and password for the key portal into everything I do as a teacher, advisor, and mentor?!" [Result: a series of increasingly-desperate calls to the Help Desk.]
  • "Where is that damn page on the department's contributions to general education? I could have sworn it was easier to find in the old site design!" [Result: cranky email to department listserv, fortunately blocked by the listserv program, which no longer recognizes my address.]
  • "I used to be able to use this program to update my home page and course web sites. Why can't I download the upgrade? What the heck do I use instead?!" [Result: More pestering of the Help Desk, followed by a call to the University Web Coordinator, who had fielded a similar panicked question from Fukuoka when the university changed its web security protocols on me. Turns out the correct program had been on my Mac's control strip all along; nobody ever told me that was pretty much the same secure FTP program that I had downloaded for my Japanese PC laptop. Live and learn.]
  • "Yeah, it does sound like that course ought to count for that requirement. I wonder why it doesn't. Just what is our procedure for appealing transfer credit assignations these days? And what's the latest articulation agreement with that particular community college?" [Result: Sent the student to the new chair, to whom he would have eventually had to talk, anyway.]
  • "I have a vague idea of what our policy on college credits for AP English scores used to be. I wonder what it is now? Time to send another student to the chair!"
  • "Yeah, I think you'd better give me extra advisees, so that the new hires don't have to deal with more than 10 advisees their first semester on the job. And how about giving the other extras to a, b, c, and d? What?!--a and b are on leave?! Oh no!"
  • "Well, I'm really going to have to talk to my wife before I agree to [that particular potential service commitment I shouldn't blog about]. She's starting a MLS program and all, so we have to see how this semester works out before I decide."
  • "I'm sorry I didn't run for any union positions this election cycle. By the time the forms got to me in Japan, I had missed the key deadlines."

And this is just in my first two weeks back in the time zone and first week in the office.

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