I’d like to propose a new strategy for smokers: instead of waiting for other people to "become free", join pre-existing conversations. We academics aren't always the most social bunch, but it’s possible to learn how to do this gracefully (though it’s probably good to start practicing at conferences and social events before the APA). This year, at one point I was having a lengthy and enjoyable conversation with someone who interviewed me. Another candidate sat down on the other side of the interviewer, apparently waiting for me to get up and leave. But I didn’t want to abandon a great conversation with a senior figure in my top-choice department. So instead I included the other candidate with generous eye contact and tried to invite him non-verbally to join the conversation. Unfortunately, he didn’t take the bait and eventually got up and left. I wish he would have stayed, because “the other guy” is not just my competition for this particular job. Whoever he is, he’s probably going to be a colleague in my sub-field for the rest of my life, and maybe next time on the market he’ll be interviewing me or vice-versa. I wish I could have met him.
This is something I discovered last year. People interviewing for the same jobs I'm interviewing for are probably mostly people who work on stuff I think is pretty interesting. They're probably people I want to know. I probably want to be friendly with them, and I probably want to work with them in some way or another. It's sort of annoying that the APA--that is, a philosophy conference--isn't really conducive to making those connections in a comfortable way.