I owe you all some tales from the Chicago APA, don't I? Unfortunately, I can't seem to figure out a way to tell you about most of the best anecdotes without jeopardizing my hard-won pseudonymity, so I fear the tales you're gonna get will be a little disappointing. But here goes.
One thing worth mentioning is how much more fun the Central is than the Eastern. Fun? Seriously? Well, maybe "fun" is stretching it a little bit. But things are definitely a lot more relaxed. This is, in large part, a function of hiring. Or, to be more precise, the lack thereof. As we've mentioned, the Eastern is where most of the hiring goes on for tenure-track jobs. The Central, by comparison, is primarily where the hiring for one-year jobs goes down. But it's really kind of peripheral. Most people are actually there to do philosophy. There are a lot more talks given than at the Eastern, and the quality of the work is widely regarded to be a lot higher. (The third APA conference, the Pacific, is supposed to have the best work of all. Very little hiring goes on at the Pacific. It strikes me that these things are not unrelated, but I couldn't articulate to you exactly why this is.)
While you can still catch the odd whiff of abject desperation at the Central, from the poor saps who are looking for one-year scraps to tide them over 'til they hit the Eastern next year (like, um, ME), it's not like every young academic you see looks as if they're about to barf, pass out, or go postal. It's really more of an opportunity to hear some talks, kiss some asses, and get boozy with old friends from other schools who you haven't seen in a while. The commenter at one of the 9am sessions I went to informed us that he hadn't gone to bed until 6:30. I'm pretty sure he was still drunk. The dude didn't really come across as the sort of guy who regularly pulls all-night binges. But despite being totally fucking haggard, he seemed really happy about it. It was really cute.
It's summer camp for nerds, really. It's the sort of thing that makes me look forward to having a career in this damn discipline. I just have to get a job first.