Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Surviving the Annual Meeting

As noted in previous posts, the annual meeting of the AAR-SBL is coming up soon (Nov. 19-22) in Philadelphia. As always, I am beginning to give some thought about how to survive the meeting.

Usually, when I arrive, I am in a gung-ho mood to attend as many papers, have as many discussions, and buy as many books as possible. After about a day or so — by about Sunday afternoon — when I've endured any number of dull recitations and gone around the book exhibit about a dozen times — I start feeling like this: I've gotta get out of here. Please, no more cerebral discussions. No more eggheads. No more tweed coats, natty beards, or ostentatiously brandished credentials. I feel like Dolly Parton, because everyone you meet at the annual meeting looks at your chest (where your name badge is) before they look at your face. That's when I hunger for "real" people wearing jeans and T-shirts and for talk that concerns football, what the kids are up to, trading one-liners from Family Guy or theories about Lost.

Through trial and error, I've discovered that the best way to head off "meeting burnout" — the desire to run back to the real world (I know — a concept that bristles with problems) — is to take a short vacation from the annual meeting in the midst of it. Lately I've taken off one night to go and listen to live music at a local club. If that's not available, I take an entire afternoon (or morning) off, dress in mufti, and walk around the local downtown, window shopping, drinking coffee (or a few Cold Ones), or sitting on a park bench. Most of the time, when I get back to the Land of Brainiacs, I'm tanned, rested, and ready to be smart again.

Is this a common experience, or is it just me? How do you survive the annual meeting?


Anonymous said...

For me, the meeting is a chance to hang around with friends, meet some new scholars, and buy books. I'll attend a few papers here and there but usually not too many. I'll wait for the publication. All in all, it's something I really enjoy not something I have to survive.

SH said...

I often hear my teachers complaining that there are so few scholars of Biblical and Jewish studies here in Israel. I guess this gloomy situation has its advantages too: everybody knows everybody in conferences...

Dr. Joseph Ray Cathey said...


A few items here.
1. Any time you see me I will be very happy to discuss my theories of Lost with you.

2. It is mandated that I take at least "one" day off during the meeting. I usually have my wife with me - no such luck this year with new baby Natalie. We usually go for some nearby tourist type thing. It calms me down - lets me unwind and decompress.

3. Lastly it is good some times just to get room service and watch an afternoon movie.

Look Forward to Seeing You in Philly.


EMC said...

Thanks for your comments. Ken: If you're enjoying the meeting, you're not doing it right. :) Shai: Another good thing about Israeli scholars is that they don't feel the need to dress up for conferences. I hope that trend spreads. Joe: Points well taken. See you there.

Unknown said...

Since I'm the conference newb this year, I don't really have sage wisdom to impart ... although the implication of having to *gasp* dress up for the occasion has taken down the neophite excitement a peg or two. I mean, if I cared for wearing suits, I might still be practicing law ;)

Personally, I'm happy to supply Family Guy quotes and will probably flee the large writ(h)ing mass of humanity at some point, in the interest of maintaining a modicum of personal and relational sanity.

Anonymous said...

It's true. I probably don't do it right. I spend too much time talking with friends and not enough time attending papers.

Targuman said...

I would love to crash your cup of Java with Joe. Sadly, I won't be able to share Lost theories. I DO however have some convictions about Snape's innocence. :-)

See you there!


EMC said...

Pil.: I don't know what the unwritten dress code is for females, but all the men look like they're headed for church. Check with Dr. Thompson. I don't dress up unless I'm presenting or interviewing.

Cb.: Sounds good. I bet you could get a large gathering for the "Harry Potter Consultation" or the "Lost Seminar."

Anonymous said...

I am female. I wear jeans and simple clothes. Therefore I am chiefly invisible at the conferences and---I have a great time.