I was sitting on the floor outside one of the meeting rooms at a rather silly academic conference—as one does, you know: it makes one ‘memorable’.1 It was the morning of, I think, the third day, about fifteen minutes before the first round of papers was to begin.2 As I was sitting on the floor, however, I must have seemed less terrifying than is my custom, because a perfectly ordinary young person (who had been loitering forlorn with a laptop) addressed me.
‘Greek or Roman?’ he asked. When he noticed my inclination to gape at (without answering) this question, he added: ‘which do you do?’
Hittite, I thought, but ‘Greek,’ quoth I. Expectant, he waited. ‘Hellenistic,’ I continued. Crestfallen, he sighed.
‘Uh, I hate to ask, but could you find Thebes on a map?’ here he motioned to his laptop, where a slightly incomplete map for his PowerPoint presentation glared in green, blue, and yellow glory. ‘I need Mycenaean, but…’
The mind boggled.
Good Heavens, sir!3 Do I look like a historical geographer?4 I suppressed my indignation and my sudden desire to study early Republican coinage. ‘I think I could point in you in the right general direction,’ I ventured. Virtuously, I did not point to Delphi or the place where three roads meet. He was only about five minutes late for giving his paper (which I did not, however, attend).
- Only to be done when not
prostituting oneselfon the job market.
- An acquaintance of mine was giving a paper—hence my presence.
- The actual wording of my thought was: Good Heavens, man! Note the alteration of the vocative. Admittedly, the sort of person who would use the phrase ‘Good Heavens’ is probably not the sort who would address his or her interrogator as ‘man’ at every opportunity, but as I hope to avoid unintentional confusion, I made the change. In the spirit of accuracy, I have added this note. Make of it what you will.
- …or, worse still, an archeologist?