An MLA Story

Lee Skallerup Bessette:

It is late December 2007. I am attending my first MLA Conference in Chicago, with the hopes of finding a job. I have a number of promising interviews lined up, and I am filled with hope. 2007 has been a good year for me (completed and defended the dissertation, had my first child, successfully teaching various classes in a relatively well-paying adjunct position), and the number of interviews I have received is the icing on the cake for me. My husband and daughter have accompanied me, in part for moral support, in part because I am still breastfeeding. My department, even though I am an adjunct, is funding a part of my trip. The rest goes on credit cards, on the seemingly reasonable gamble that I will get a job that will allow me to eventually pay off this trip. An investment, a necessity of the nature of the profession.
We stay at a non-conference hotel, using a new site that gives you a reduced rate, but requiring that you pay in advance. We receive word from the site that our stay may be “disrupted” for vague reasons, and it is too late for us to rebook anywhere else, so we keep our plans as they are. Turns out, the “disruption” consists of striking hotel workers who picket the front of the hotel. It is easy to walk quickly past the strikers, head down against the Chicago winter cold and wind. More disruptive is my daughter who is confused by the time change and cold weather, causing me to stay up all night before my day with two job interviews.
While the MLA interviews were not successful, I was offered a tenure-track job that academic job cycle. We packed up and moved across the country, on our own dime, with the hopes of starting my academic career, proving stability for my growing family (I was pregnant again) and the career I had been dreaming of for year. I literally never gave those striking hotel workers another thought.