January 17, 2006

Potluck Season: Not Nearly as Glamorous as it Sounds

Today, we are given the day off to remember the principles of the good reverend doctor, and to make last minute preparations for Spring semester which starts tomorrow whether we like it or not. For us faculty spouses, today is also a much needed day of rest before the start of our least favorite time of year: Potluck Season. The hiring of a new faculty member is preceded by the bringing to campus of 3-4 potential candidates for each job in close succession. The candidates are put through the ringer with 2-3 day long interviews, during which they must meet with everyone from the undergraduates to the deans, give two seminars to the department, and attend the most important event of all: the potluck. It is here that they get to socialize” with the department members, their children, and their spouses. The schedule goes something like this: the candidate has a full day of meetings, then gives a research seminar from 5-6 pm, which the whole department has to attend. Then all the department members rush out to Wildberries (the local health-food supermarket), buy a dish to take to the potluck, and then head over to the house of the lucky department member that is hosting the potluck. The potluck begins at 6:30, and the faculty spouse has somehow magically whipped up a main course for the 30+ people descending on the house in the 1.5 hours since they have gotten off work (assuming that they got out of there on time). If you’re lucky, everyone doesn’t bring the same thing from Wildberries, so you actually have a full meal, instead of 10 salads. Then there is the socializing, the inevitable beer drinking, the people staying too late, the cleanup, and then trying to get to bed early enough to get to work on time the next morning, because these potlucks are inevitably on weekdays. Repeat this all 8 times within a two month period (4 candidates each for 2 positions being hired), and you get the glory of Potluck Season. I swear, this tradition must be left over from when the good old faculty members’ wives didn’t work and could spend the day cleaning and cooking. There is no time built in to the schedule for the actual faculty member, who is the one who really has a stake in this whole hiring process, to help out the spouse with the potluck. But the kicker is that we have to do this EIGHT TIMES. By the end of potluck season, none of us have anything more to say to each other— all the pleasantries have been played out. And we have no energy left to try to explain what we do and why it’s important to the University to a candidate that is dog tired from the inhumane interview process and really in no mood to socialize. We are sick of eating the same food from Wildberries, and thinking bitter thoughts about those department members that never seem to show up to these supposedly mandatory social events. Brian and I get the privilege of hosting the first potluck this season, on a day that is right in the middle of another season of mine at work: Deadline Season. Which means that I will not be taking any time off to prepare for the potluck (and really, why should I even have to consider doing that?), and I am seriously thinking about just ordering pizza and being done with it. We have started to prepare for this event this weekend, a week and a half in advance, so that we are no too stressed out at the last minute. This all seems a little out of proportion to me.

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