Locked out, memorably

A little while ago my old friend J, an American, went to an international linguistics congress. From a message to me yesterday (edited to conceal identities), about an encounter J had with a European colleague, G, there:

(Note: not an accurate depiction of my Staunton Court condo, or of J or G.)

On the last day I went to a session with a paper given by G. It was one of those perfect twenty-minute papers, and I enjoyed it greatly. Afterwards I went up to G, whom I didn’t know, simply to tell him how much I had liked his paper. I introduced myself. He looked at my nametag and said, “Did you live on Staunton Court?” I said yes, and he told me that he had lived there a few years after I did. We talked for a moment or two about what a remarkable place it is for a linguist to stay. He then told me that once he had locked himself out and that you had had to come let him back in. He was mortified that he had had to inconvenience you in this way. You told him, “Don’t worry about it. J did the same thing.” Whether he was forever grateful to me for having mitigated the embarrassment that he had brought down upon himself or whether it was his chance to meet a soulmate, a fellow member of the Society of People Whose Carelessness Locks Them Out of the Apartment on Staunton Court (I think it was more the former than the latter), he was genuinely delighted to meet me at long last. If people who have never met me view me favorably, I’d like it to be because of something I’ve written or some good that I’ve done. Here, locking myself out of an apartment got me enshrined in G’s personal hall of fame. Go figure.

The Staunton Ct. condo, which I acquired in 1998, served as my off-campus office and my professional library until a few years ago, but also as a rental apartment (with kitchen, dining room, small office, parking, and access to my gigantic library) for visiting linguistics faculty, linguistics students, other academics, and friends. Quite a few people passed through over the years. More recently, Kim Darnell and her daughter Maggie have been living there, and helping to empty out the place and slowly transform it into an ordinary living space, one that eventually my daughter can move into. But I have warm memories of those who lived there over the years, including both J and G.

Before that, back in Columbus OH, we had a guest room in the basement (eventually three guest rooms, two in the basement and one on the second floor), where (from 1969 through 1998) visiting linguists could be put up for short periods of time, eventually where friends (many, but not all of them, linguists) could rent living space for longer periods of time, sharing the larger house with me and Jacques. An enormous number of people in the linguistics and electronic lgbt communities (as well as other friends and family) passed through the Beaumont Rd. house over the years. One feature of life there, both before and after Ann Daingerfield Zwicky’s death, was communal meals, which for a period from 1969 (48 years ago!) through 1973 Ann and I kept track of in a notebook, excerpts from which I will soon post.

Further on the memory train, spurred by this (annually updated) posting from John McIntyre on the 5th:

Today I begin my 31st year as an editor at The Baltimore Sun, and my 23rd teaching editing at Loyola College Maryland. This morning my students will get a version of the warning below…

(The warning tells the students that the course will require them to abandon many of their firmly held naive beliefs about language and writing and will in any case be grueling hard work, but if they hope to find work as editors, that’s what’s necessary. A fair number of those who see John’s warning conclude that he’s an imperious asshole — but he’s a drill sergeant with a very short time to get his charges in order, so what should he do instead?)

Here are my comparable numbers: this year I begin my 53rd year as a linguistics professor: I started at UIUC (the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) 52 years ago, at The Ohio State University 48 years ago, and at The Leland Stanford Junior University (named for Leland B. Stanford Jr.) 32 years ago. I haven’t taught classes for some years now, but I hang on — Ray: “Write if you get work…” Bob: “And hang by your thumbs” —  as an Adjunct Professor here (and as a DUPE, a Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, at OSU).

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