Wednesday, April 4, 2007

What the photo fails to capture is the abject fear and desperation in the air.

The Eastern APA—the December conference where most of the hot job market action goes down—is legendarily stressful for job market candidates. But a special kind of APA hell is the smokers. Smokers are nightly cocktail parties held in the conference hotel’s ballroom. (Apparently they used to be really smoky, back in the day. You know. Back when people used to smoke. We’re nothing if not creative with our naming, we philosophers.)

The purpose of the smokers is to give job candidates an opportunity to mingle, in a more informal setting, with people from the departments that are looking to hire them. But the thing is, most philosophers don’t do informal so well. We’re perfectly capable of ripping each other new assholes in formal situations, like when we’re commenting on each other’s work and whatnot. But we're not so good with the mundane chitchat. Especially not when the stakes are so high.

I had to be all surreptitious in taking this photo, so there’s not much in it that’s recognizable. But you can sort of make out the suits and nametags. And the complete lack of women. Imagine, if you will, a room full of thousands of socially retarded academics, sipping warm shitty beer, and trying their very hardest to make small-talk. “Awkward” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

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