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ASK THE DOCTOR with Felicity Crumpet

ASK THE DOCTOR

Recognizing that the busy lifestyle of the Adjunct Commuter may preclude regular access to medical, psychological, and career advice, Doctor Felicity Crumpet steps into the void. Doctor Crumpet, whose graduate training was exclusively in the History of Art, has only passing familiarity with human anatomy and is not certified in the Reiki technique, but she knows her way around the highways and byways of Academia.

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Dear Doctor Crumpet,

I’ve been adjunct commuting for three years, and I finally got my first convention interview, for a tenure-track job at a school with a great Philology department! I can’t wait to tell them about my nearly-completed dissertation on Heptanesian mnemonic patterns. But I’m terrified of bedbugs, and wildly squeamish around hotel bedspreads. What should I do if I am asked to sit on the bed during the interview? Yours, Bug-Fobic Filiogist

Dear B.F.F.,

If you’ve packed your Adjunct Emergency Kit (patent pending), you’ll find that it comes with a handy rubber tarp—useful in precisely this type of situation. Simply spread the tarp over the bed and chat away. (The tarp can also be used as shelter during a housing emergency). Committee members will be impressed with not just your discourse, but also your resourcefulness. If you have no tarp, you have two options: enter the room with a can of Hot Shot fumigating spray in your hand, or hop into a pair of rubber waders and stand on the bed. Either way, you are certain to be a memorable interviewee. Bonne chance!

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Dear Doctor Crumpet,

I have three degrees from Ivy League universities, but haven’t worked in academia for ten years due to life events. I have a strong resume, but I just can’t face the thought of commuting again, and I simply don’t have the outfits. In fact, I think I now dress like a student from the 90s. Help! Yours, Boston Sweatpants

Dear B.S.,

Lose the sweatpants! Immediately. And don’t replace them with yoga pants, which will just make your exile look fresher. Then you just need to get back into the groove. Fake it until you make it. Simply buy a selection of new outfits at your local thrift store, and start commuting with the rest of the world. You don’t need much to distinguish yourself from the students, but it is crucial to cross the fashion divide. Mass transit is your friend here—the T can be your rehearsal stage! Downtime between morning and evening rush hour gives you the chance to comfortably test-drive two outfits each day. Keep changing wardrobes until you feel comfortable in your skin and your clothes. Remember: Mom Jeans rarely look ironic after 30. The rest is simple!

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Dear Doctor Crumpet,

I’m an adjunct English professor who lives in Brooklyn and teaches upstate, so I hold office hours via Skype from my ‘home office,’ aka my living room. I have limited childcare resources and often my son watches Thomas the Tank Engine while I meet with students. Am I the Worst Mom Ever, or just the Worst Professor? Yours, Postnatal Guilt

Dear P.G.,

STEM education can never begin to early. And it doesn’t hurt to start another generation on the problems of the carbon footprint. You should certainly not feel any shame in using the stories of an Anglican cleric to keep your child quiet and still during your calls. In fact, the Reverend Wilbert Vere Awdry had similar goals in mind when he wrote the first Thomas story for his bedridden son in the 1943. You are following a long and honorable tradition. And don’t worry about your students—they are probably multitasking on Facebook and Snapchat while they are asking you about the midterm.

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Dear Doctor Crumpet,

I’m commuting from Coeur d’Alene to Spokane, but I am haunted by feelings of inauthenticity. You see, my biography was recently removed from my department’s website by my employer. What should I do? Yours, [Name Beguilingly Deleted]

Dear N.B.D.,

I’m afraid that is a big deal. Have you talked to Human Resources? Is anyone in the department avoiding your gaze??

Sorting out contractual obligations could be the first step toward reclaiming a viable identity. Your job description may indeed require that you perform in front of students 26 times a semester. However, there is an important line between the dramatic duties of Adjunct Commuting and those of true performance art. Please attend to this matter promptly, before you are forced to seek refuge in a Bitterroot Mountain cabin

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