"In many disciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career." Marc Bousquet

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Petty Schadenfreude

Just before I arrived on the scene, the Petting Zoo got a freebie they just couldn't pass up: The use of a major public venue to host an event that would normally cost about fifteen grand for use just in the morning. Now, that's pretty sweet, but the catch (of course there's a catch!) is that we could only have it on a certain day. Planning such an event would normally require at least four months. Six would be better. What did we have? Two.

Yes, TWO months to put something together that would normally take SIX. On the plus side, this event is in DC, whereas we expect future events in the series (this is the first) to be held around the country with partnering orgnizations or institutions or even museums. So, we don't need to coordinate those types of logistics. However, the hard part, as far as I can tell from these my first six weeks on the job, is getting Important People to participate.

For better or worse, the public part of the event is coming together reasonably well. Important People like media attention, right? Most of those speakers are confirmed, with the exception of a Republican keynote. We have a Democrat, but it's proving rather ... well ... "difficult" to find a moderate Republican counterpart. That is, someone who would please certain organization higher-ups who think there needs to be more talking with "others" without causing donors to barf up their breakfast.

People are working on this, however, and, well, it ... just isn't really my problem becase -- in this town where who you know counts more than what you now -- I am a nobody and know nobody.

Which is not to say I'm not making efforts to make this event a success anyway. My role is to work on the non-public portion of the event, which is a workshop thingie of sorts, in the afternoon following the public part. It's in the same venue. In a beautiful conference room, in fact, overlooking the Capitol. Lunch will be catered by Fancy Celebrity Chef's Catering Company (leftovers will go to Mama Duck and her gourmet-fed babies who live in a wading pool on the roof, but I digress!).

We're trying to get 20-30 Important People to show up and talk at each other for a couple hours and come up with a sort of public document that everyone signs on behalf of their Fancy Very Important Organizations and which is ultimately presented to the next administration as a set of policy recommendations.

Turns out it's hard to get 20-30 Important People to show up and talk at each other for a whole afternoon when all you're giving them in return is Fancy Celebrity Chef's funburgersandmixedgreens, which they can very well go buy for themselves should they wish to eat such things.

So, the petty schadenfreude ... Yeah, well, so we divied up the list of people we want to invite. I had a handful of possibilities and alternates to pursue. A few academics and a few other types. The academics, surprisingly, have been relatively easy to get in touch with and talk to. We'll have a few of them. The "other types" I volunteered for are in an industry dealt with frequently by Think Tank. I figured I'd at least have an excuse to send an email and do some friendly name dropping.

The result? Total. Cold. Shoulder. As in, no response at all or a blatant blow-off: "Sorry, who-the-fuck are you again and why are you bothering me? No, I'm not available. I'm traveling. Can't rearrange. Now, go fuck yourself."

Not sure how that's going to work out. It kinda reminds of high school, actually. The social dynamics of it, that is. Whatevs.

But, so, the schadenfreude ... Yes, well, turns out it's not just me, Dr. Nobody Who Knows Nobody, that's gotten the ole fuck-off reponse. People Who Know Important People aren't getting their repeated and increasingly desperate voicemails answered, either. Woohoooo!!!??!!!???!

Is it totally perverse of me that I take some pleasure in this? Probably ...

I do, sincerely, want this event to go well. And, the truth is, it probably will go just fine. We have far from exhausted the list of possible participants in this workshop-thingie-do. It just amuses me in a sick-ish way that these people who think they're Special are being ignored, too -- and by people they expected would talk to them.

At least I was expecting to be ignored. Water off a baby duck's back ...

"Quack, quackk! Aren't we teh cutest?"


  1. I'll definitely grant you the "Petty" in your title!

  2. Um, yeah, totally petty and totally the result of insecurity. I'm feeling better today, though, as I've had a few more responses.