Monday, November 07, 2005

Hi ho, hi ho

Pursuant to a previous post in which I related how I was offered RA work over an alcoholic beverage, I have recently found myself the beneficiary of yet another offer of employment in a similar insalubrious environment. After taking up the project I was first asked to work on, I was issued with the various cards, computer accounts and passwords that are standard issue for employees in the contemporary university. As part of this process I was also added to a number of email circulation lists which issue information about parked vehicles whose headlights have been left on in the rain and invitations to faculty-wide seminars and events. I read one such email inviting me to the launch of a new website created by graduating students as part of a final year project designed to give them ‘real-world’ experience. Since my current association with the university where I’m a research assistant is only through that work, I debated about whether I would go. I also received an invitation to the event at my home address, which didn’t fully entice me either. Then, after a meeting about the second project I was asked to work on, Aspro asked me if I was going to the launch.

Generally, I’m quite good at being apathetic about going to large social gatherings. I wouldn’t describe myself as anti-social, but I prefer my social contact to involve no more that four people at any one time. I am less comfortable in night clubs and at parties meeting strangers while trying to appear interesting, than I am huddled around a table whose capacity is stretched by a quartet having coffee, eating dinner, or playing a board game. Making conversations with people I don’t know makes me tired; it’s no reflection on those people, I think it’s some kind of stress reaction (seriously.) But even I know that three invitations to the same event cannot be ignored.

I had plenty of work to follow up on after the meeting. I began to research all manner of interesting things about master-planned communities, which occupied me until the launch began (who knew that the first commandment of the master-planner was ‘Thou Shalt Include A Golf Course’?) I tidied the desk, in case the person I share that office with ever comes in, and wandered over to the building across the way and into a cavernous space where large screens were mounted onto the walls, displaying images projected from the computers placed around the room for people to browse the pre-launch website. After a frantic survey of the crowd, I saw two people I knew and immediately headed in their direction. I got a drink from the bar and joined their conversation.

People moved and topics shifted until I found myself half-listening to A., one of the original people I had sought out when I first arrived; he was having one of those high-powered-let’s-do-a-project-together conversations with a Professor, who is one of the people I am working with on the Golf Course Project. This Professor makes me laugh out loud with his blatant attempts to entice me to do my PhD at his institution. Even when I said to the Professor that I’d have to change my topic if I made the move, he insisted I wouldn’t and proposed a couple of likely supervisors. I’ve told him that he’s very good at dangling bait. A friend who did make the shift to the Professor’s institution warned me in a half-amused way that I should watch out for his attempts to poach students by offering them employment.

Suddenly, I was jolted into listening properly to A and the Professor. I realised that they were talking to me about being an RA on the project under discussion. This offer completely undermines my attempt, the last time this happened, to discourage the inference that employment comes to those who imbibe alcohol at social functions. Perhaps it’s not so much about the beer, but the ability to accept that if you receive more than one invitation to any occasion, even if your social ineptness induces twinges of narcolepsy, you should not resist the call. No. Not if you want gainful employment.

No comments: