Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Working on the road

I am fortunate to attend the International Society for Educational Biography conference again this year. It is held in San Antonio and I just flew in this morning to realize some of the benefits of academic work that I harp on, but that are worth mentioning again. The fact that I can do my job from just about anywhere has become a true facet of the work that I absolutely enjoy. At this moment, I am sitting on the balcony of my shared room and looking out over the pool while enjoying the clear blue sky and mid-80s weather. I am barefoot and have on an old ratty Purdue University t-shirt from my undergraduate days, but I am working. I have already viewed student speeches and posted grades. I've tweeted with the students on their final reflections for the course (a mini-assignment), and I've had two conferences with IM on my virtual office hours that have addressed concerns of students. I am now posting grades from the papers I brought with me. I feel content knowing that the walls of academia are incredibly flexible these days. My students are connected, I'm doing my work, and I am able to build my Vita and explore GREAT topics at this conference.

I don't always appreciate working during travel as it can feel like a juggler with too many balls in the air sometimes. But I do LOVE to work on airplanes. It is easy to zone out of the environment and knock out a lot of grading in a relatively short time. I was on the plane and found myself next to Mr. Chatty. You know him, he's that passenger who is boisterous and talkative and wants to know all about your life. He arrives with no book, no mp3, he's ready for a whole flight of conversation. Of course he's also determined. Polite, murmured replies are like green lights encouraging him for more conversation. He began with, "is that an iComputer pad thing?" as he referenced my nook. Politely I responded it was an e-reader. "How many books does it hold? Don't you get tired of the screen? What's wrong with books anyways?" I noticed the person on the other side of Mr. Chatty slam on his earphones and close his eyes...leaving me alone to handle Mr. Chatty. I had my earbuds poised, but he kept on talking.

I gave up. I knew that Mr. Chatty would continue even if I avoided eye contact and hunched over my fold out tray to grade. Why not avoid working on the flight? Rather intrigued, I decided to turn the conversation toward Mr. Chatty. Most of the Mr. Chatty passengers I have experienced are endlessly inquisitive but rarely provide information about themselves (Communication geeks can't help but examine this type of stuff). So I thought he might limit the interrogation if I turned everything back to him. It was very entertaining (okay it was downright FUN to think of artful ways to reply and turn around and question him) and though he was incredibly evasive, I found that Mr. Chatty wasn't just a loud passenger infringing on my work time while flying. He, and perhaps all of the other Mr. Chatty passengers I have crossed in the past, was a nice guy who was just more social than most of the other passengers. In the end, Mr. Chatty -- who was commenting on barbecue responding to my statement,  "No I don't have any experience grilling ribs" with shock in his voice noting "A vegetarian is in Texas...what will you eat? Why are you a vegetarian? Don't you even eat chicken? How long have you been a vegetarian...", was actually a pleasant escape from the file folder of work.
Perhaps I'm on the way to becoming that (often dreaded) person sitting beside you that doesn't seem to hear as you sigh as she produces endless chit-chat seemingly designed so you cannot accomplish your endless amounts of work....and then again, probably not. I'm an mp3, tray down, work from takeoff to landing kind of gal.

Mr. Chatterbox image is from the series of "Mr. Men" books by Roger Hargreaves that many of us read when we were young. 

No comments:

Post a Comment