Saturday, September 16, 2017

How to Right the Universe (Blerg City Edition)

In response to yesterday's Researcher's Worst Nightmare, I received a couple of messages along the lines of "What will you do?" My answer, for today at least, was to try to deliberately turn things around by eating cheese and going shopping. But even that turned out not to be as straightforward as one would hope.

I set out on a beautiful Blerg City Saturday to do errands. Local SIM card for phone: check. A couple of cheap spiral notebooks[1] for the archives: check. Then: shoes. Blerg City is awash in nifty-looking shoes that you can walk all day in. Here's what I ended up with:

Basically a high-fashion sneaker.
Universal balance well on its way to being restored, right? Except... that while trying them on, I managed to throw out my back.

That's right: I threw out my back while trying on shoes. The indignities of middle age know no bounds. So now, with a cute pair of shoes, but with no archive and a wonky back, I'm still a bit in the negative column in terms of how things are going thus far.

Fortunately for me, this weekend is also the final weekend of Blerg City's annual booksellers' fair. Dozens of bookstores and publishing houses all with booths in a plaza in the city's old center. So I (slowly, carefully) made my way there. And for slightly more than the price of one of those two shoes, I came away with five small books, and the balance of my own personal universe more or less restored.

Of course, I couldn't be content with just "in balance"; I wanted to end the day on the positive side of the ledger.

Cherry with chocolate flakes, in case you were wondering.

And so I had ice cream for dinner.


[1] I used to buy those moleskin notebooks. They are things of beauty in their simplicity and tactile perfection. But they are also damned expensive and the elastic on the band doesn't hold up. And they don't lie flat. So: practicality wins out over beauty: I buy sturdy spirals in small and medium, save a bundle,and don't feel at all bad about tearing out pages.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Waitress Nightmares for Researchers

I used to have waitress nightmares all the time. Those of you who have waited tables know what I'm talking about. For those of you who haven't: A waitress nightmare is when you turn around and all the tables in your section have not only been seated while you weren't looking, but somehow they've all been sitting there for 20 minutes, and their water is empty, and you've given some of them the wrong meals, and the others have gotten so incredibly fed up waiting that they've gotten up and left just as you were about to get to them, and how could this happen?

I always joked that my waitress anxiety nightmares were worse than any similar ones I had about teaching or comps or whatever. But every profession has one of these. Where you are actually good at your job, but in your dream, everything goes so impossibly sideways that it's ridiculous and you wake up half-sobbing, half relieved that it's not real.

Here's one for academic researchers: you are on a sabbatical or other leave that you hardly ever get, and you get up and get to the archive your FIRST full day there, jet lag be damned, because you know how short and precious your time is. And for once you have made a list and are totally prepared, and you even have a plan of this archive in the morning and that archive in the afternoon and you've done most of your advance work for the first time in ages, and then you get to the archive and sit in the reading room by yourself because the entire staff has gone on strike, indefinitely.

That is some waitress-quality nightmare-ing.

But here's the twist: This time, it's REAL. And I don't get to wake up and shake it off. I get to wrack my brains for what to do, now that I'm here with no access to the materials I planned to consult, and no way to get this time back.