Thursday, March 3, 2011

Do Not Disturb...or I Will GET You

Recently, the brilliant Theresa Milstein, who writes the blog Substitute Teacher's Saga, wrote a post about the role that writing plays in her life and how sometimes life gets in the way of her writing. And yet she still manages to get a lot of writing done, so that I envy her. I think a lot of people could relate to that post in particular, especially me.

As a teacher and as a graduate student, I do a lot of my work at home. In addition to teaching classes, holding office hours, and attending lectures, workshops and department meetings, I also have to spend a lot of time grading papers, making lesson plans, doing research, and working on my dissertation. I also work for a website that allows me to complete my projects from my own laptop. Not to mention I also have to make time for my fiction writing, but I actually prefer to do that at coffeehouses because the coffee and chocolate somehow make me feel creative. Or maybe it just makes me hyper and that makes me think I'm being creative...

I don't like working in the library for too long, because apparently it's no longer considered a quiet place to work, at least not according to a lot of the students who go there. To a lot of them, the library is the place where you go to talk with your friends at the top of your voice and ignore the people who glare at you until it feels like their eyeballs are going to fall out. Or it's the place where you do anything BUT study and hog the computers so you can update your Facebook pages or play computer games or watch Youtube videos for hours because it's not like anyone else needs those computers to do RESEARCH....but I digress.

I do have my own workspace at the schools where I teach, but I typically have to share an office with several other people. At one school where I used to teach, I didn't even get my own desk because there were so many more instructors than desks available; we had to sign up to use the desks for a couple hours at a time. And it's hard to work in shared offices, because sometimes the other instructors are just as loud as the students; if they're not meeting with students to discuss assignments, they'll talk about their teaching, what happened on last night's episode of American Idol, where they're going to go to eat, etc., until I want to stand up on my desk and yell, "Would you please keep it down!" But I don't, because one of my students might walk in at that moment and then they might tweet about it or something and then I'll be known as the teacher who throws tantrums and pulls her hair out in front of her colleagues.

So I generally prefer to work at home, even though my neighbors don't make it any easier for me to work either. But at least I don't have to be in the same room with them, because then I just might attack them for leaving their garbage bags in the elevator or getting drunk outside my apartment window at two A.M. again. (You might say that I have anger issues. I would reply that everyone ELSE has issues, and that's why I get angry.)

A lot of people think it's great to work at home, because then they can work in their pajamas and set their own schedule. But I don't like to work in my pajamas, because what if there's a fire and I have to run out in the street in my pajamas and then everyone will laugh and say, "Why are you wearing such a long nightgown with all those ruffles and teddy bears on it?" And even if there wasn't a fire, I'd still just get sleepy in my pajamas and doze off at my desk; then I'll wake up and start berating myself for not working, and then I'll feel bad for not being disciplined, and then I'll start wondering if I really do have issues, and...

Since I don't have a typical 9-5 job, and since I work at home, some people seem to think that my schedule is more flexible. That would be why they think I should be able to spend time with them whenever it's convenient for them, or why they call at all hours of the day, interrupting me when I'm working. They think that since my boss isn't there to supervise what I'm doing that I can set my own schedule and do whatever I want. But even if I am working independently a lot of the time, it's still work. And I still have deadlines, especially when it comes to grading papers. I often get e-mails from anxious students saying stuff like, "Have you finished grading my paper yet? I turned it in hours ago and I should think that you'd be done grading it by now!"

That's why I hate answering the phone, because it keeps me from getting my work done. I've tried telling the person on the other end of the line that I'm busy and will have to call him or her back, but more often than not the person will keep talking (or texting). I've tried not answering the phone at all when I'm working and just letting the machine take my messages, but then the people calling will say stuff like, "Why didn't you pick up your phone? I know you were home when I called so why didn't you want to talk to me?"

It's something that's happened again and again for years, no matter how many times I try to explain to people that it's nothing personal; I'm just busy working. After all, I wouldn't bother them when they're working; it's not like I would walk into their offices or wherever they work and expect them to drop everything and talk to me. But because I'm at home some people think that I have more time to socialize. And I don't.

How do you deal with it when people interrupt you when you're trying to work?


  1. Do you really wear a nightgown with teddy bears and ruffles?

  2. Hi mmarinaa,
    Actually it has puppies on it. But I figured teddy bears made it sound more sophisticated.

  3. I work in an office, not at home, but that's a whole other set of issues and politics. Sigh.

    But WORD on the library. There's a library near my office, and sometimes I like to go there on my lunch break and write. Problem is, my lunch break coincides with the onslaught of public school kids who have just gotten out for the day, and are playing computer games and talking really loudly. I feel so bad for the poor librarians who have to deal with them five days a week.

    I know I could take my lunch break at a different time, but I like my routine. And for some reason I don't mind noise at Barnes & Noble and Starbucks, but those damn kids really bother me. Now git off my lawn! :)

  4. Hi No Way Cupid,
    I don't mind noise at bookstores or coffeehouses either, because somehow the coffee and chocolate make it more bearable. :) But on the other hand, people at coffeehouses are usually quieter because they're just reading or working on their laptops. But there is this group of people at one coffeehouse I used to like going to who are really loud and obnoxious and the problem is that they go to that coffeehouse on a regular basis, for hours at a time. That's why I say I "used to go" there.