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MLA Convention Blog

Lost Luggage, but Plenty of Chairs

My luggage arrived in San Francisco seventeen hours after I did. It finally reached me late yesterday afternoon, but I feared I’d be wearing the same black outfit the entire convention (as opposed to the three different black outfits—hey, I live in New York). My travel difficulties are minor compared to what I’m hearing from those who were diverted in the Chicago area or delayed coming from other points east and north. This aspect of the convention is so troubling, and I’m sorry for the difficulties attendees endure. It’s bad enough to have to surrender your shoes, jacket, watch, loose change, suit coat (are you still dressed?) at the security checkpoint, but travel troubles that keep people from attending their sessions, being at interviews, or just plain getting to the convention are simply horrible. For those reading this blog from afar, wishing you were here, please know that we wish we could Glinda you on over here with three clicks.

Yesterday’s sun was a welcome respite from those weather troubles elsewhere. The convention staff and I met with hotel teams at the Fairmont, the Marriott, and the Hilton. They told us they are grateful to be working between Christmas and New Year’s and they are eager to make your experience the best it can be. It always makes me a bit nervous when everything seems to be in such good order, yet I’ve learned to trust the planning we’ve done (this is my seventh convention as an MLA staff member). And have those hotel staff contact numbers handy!

The convention still hasn’t started. I’m about to meet with the MLA officers to go over media issues. We are expecting reporters from higher education publications and also general news outlets, most of them local to San Francisco. We’ll talk about “what’s hot” at the convention from a media standpoint. I’m guessing at this point that the sessions on “The Way We Teach Now” will attract media attention, as will Mo Yan’s participation, the sessions on (controversial) professional topics, and the work on digital humanities. There are a lot of “smart session titles” this year. I hope members of the media notice those!

There are plenty of chairs at the convention, and I don’t mean the ones used for interviews (well, perhaps I do, if you’ll allow the metonymy and instrumentality of my word choice!). At noon I’ll head up to the meetings at the Fairmont to which all chairs of departments of English and languages other than English have been invited. Traditionally we meet with chairs of PhD-granting departments, but this year we invited chairs from all institutional types. The issues the chairs want to discuss will be best addressed within a larger framework. I’ll report on the meeting in my next post later in the day.

Meantime, as my colleagues on staff and I say to one another: drink lots of water, remember to eat, don’t forget the lip balm, and try to get out of the hotels several times a day—but remember to take off your badge! Tourist alert, tourist alert.
 
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