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.



Dame Eleanor Hull said...

OMG. Do you know anyone who has access to the back-of-the-desk stuff, who could buzz you in and let you find your own documents? Or does that lead to foreign arrest on top of every other problem?

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Holy shit. I'm so sorry. What terrible timing. 😕

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Well, right now I'm treating it as an inconvenience. There's no one to get things for me, but even if there were, it would mean violating the strike, and I don't want to do that. Fortunately for me, I have two months here, and enough in other places to keep me occupied for the first of those months. After that... well, who knows? It'll make a great story when the book is published, in any case.

undine said...

No! "inconvenience" is too mild a term. I hope that the strike is settled soon.