As the new academic year ramps up, academics in the ol' Blog-O-Sphere have seen a bit of chatter about, well, chatter; that is, about the difficulty of doing research work in your office because people just won't leave you the hell alone. Belle at Scattered and Random tells about how the hallway chatter drove her to seek out a closet-cum-carrel in the library. Another Damned Medievalist espouses the joys of departmental social life, but points out that the flip side of pleasant sociability is the inability to get anything done in one's office. And even I have recently waxed poetic about the potential in having an office away from the hustle and bustle of instructional activity.
But after about a week in my new office home, I find I have a confession and an apology to make: I am a chatterbox.
I am that person who stops by and says "Wanna go grab a coffee?" while you are just getting into your midmorning work groove. I am the one who raps on your half open door, then steps inside to shoot the breeze for anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. I am the one who comes by, out of the blue, book or article (or student essay, when I'm teaching) in hand, saying " Am I the only one who wants to poke my own eyes out when I read this?" I like to think I'm pretty good at picking up nonverbal "go away" signals, and try not to overstay my welcome, but the fact is that I am the reason that you are not getting anything done. Sadly, I'm also the reason that I'm not getting anything done.
I'd like to think that, at this point, this is the product of a time of the semester when new people are coming in, and you just want to meet them and establish a social base. But, for your sake and my own, I now realize that I'm going to have to monitor this kind of interaction, or I'm going to find myself facing a wasted year, and a lot of firmly shut office doors.