I should have been having an identity crisis last week. It felt like everyone I talked to was shocked to discover that I could find my way in out of the rain. Examples:
I was at a dinner for 100 people, acting as hostess, moving from table to table to be sure everyone was having a good time. One guest commented that she didn’t know how I was able to do everything I did and still have time to read. Then she went on to say that she kept seeing me on the internet talking about some book I was reading. My comment was that, if I was talking about a book, it was probably one I was writing. “You’re writing a book? Wow!” she said. And then we continued to have an increasingly uncomfortable exchange about whether I hoped to publish, and then more shock that I was already published, followed by a question about how many books I’d written, and even more shock when I said 7 or 8. “Why didn’t I know that?” she asked. Beats me!
I was having dinner with some important visiting members of Lions, and the gentleman was regaling the table with stories of his students when he taught a class as an adjunct at the University of Memphis many years ago. I matched his story with a similar one that had happened to me while I was on the faculty at Rhodes College. His wife looked at me in surprise. “You taught a class, too?” she asked. I gingerly acknowledged that I was a tenured faculty member, and she shook her head in disbelief. “I never knew that,” she said.
This past Saturday I was setting up a room for another banquet and adjusting the slide show that would run in the background during our social hour. One of the caterers came up behind me to watch as I changed the computer settings. “Wow! You did that just like you knew what you were doing,” he commented. “I’d be afraid to touch somebody else’s computer for fear of messing it up.” Sigh! “I do know what I’m doing, and it’s my computer.” “Oh. How about that!”
I walked over to where one of my committee members was setting up a display table. “Who does your powerpoints for you,” she asked. “Uh, I do them myself.” “Huh! Well, maybe if I had a better computer, I’d be able to do that, too.”
And then that night at the second dinner, I ran into the older brother of one of my college students and asked how he was doing. He immediately gave me a long lecture on how well the brother was doing, followed by an increasingly bizarre conversation: “How do you know my brother?” “He was one of my students.” “Where?” “At Rhodes.” “Oh. You worked there? So did my mom. What did you do?” “I was in the history department.” “OH, I knew all the great professors in that department - - -(naming names). What did you do?” “I taught medieval history.” “You were a professor? I’ve known your husband for years, but I never knew he had a wife who did something.”
Maybe I should wear a sign around my neck!