My name is Temperance Deassee Brennan. I'm five-five, feisty, and forty-plus. Multidegreed. Overworked. Underpaid.
Slashing lines through that bit of literary inspiration, I penned another opening.
I'm a forensic anthropologist. I know death. Now it stalks me. This is my story.
Merciful God. Jack Webb and Dragnet reincarnate.
I glanced at the clock. Two thirty-five.
Abandoning the incipient autobiography, I began to doodle. Circles inside circles. The clock face. The conference room. The UNCC campus. Charlotte. North Carolina. North America. Earth. The Milky Way.
Around me, my colleagues argued minutiae with all the passion of religious zealots. The current debate concerned wording within a subsection of the departmental self-study. The room was stifling, the topic poke-me-in-the-eye dull. We'd been in session for over two hours, and time was not flying.
I added spiral arms to the outermost of my concentric circles. Began filling spaces with dots. Four hundred billion stars in the galaxy. I wished I could put my chair into hyperdrive to any one of them.
Anthropology is a broad discipline, comprised of linked subspecialties. Physical. Cultural. Archaeological. Linguistic. Our department has the full quartet. Members of each group were feeling a need to have their say.
George Petrella is a linguist who researches myth as a narrative of individual and collective identity. Occasionally he says something I understand.
At the moment, Petrella was objecting to the wording "reducible to" four distinct fields. He was proposing substitution of the phrase "divisible into."
Cheresa Bickham, a Southwestern archaeologist, and Jennifer Roberts, a specialist in cross-cultural belief systems, were holding firm for "reducible to."
Tiring of my galactic pointillism, and not able to reduce or divide my ennui into any matters of interest, I switched to calligraphy.
Temperance. The trait of avoiding excess.
Double order, please. Side of restraint. Hold the ego.
The verbiage flowed on.
At 3:10 a vote was taken. "Divisible into" carried the day.
Evander Doe, department chair for over a decade, was presiding. Though roughly my age, Doe looks like someone out of a Grant Wood painting. Bald. Owlish wire-rims. Pachyderm ears.
Most who know Doe consider him dour. Not me. I've seen the man smile at least two or three times.
Having put "divisible into" behind him, Doe proceeded to the next burning issue. I halted my swirly lettering to listen.
Should the department's mission statement stress historical ties to the humanities and critical theory, or should it emphasize the emerging role of the natural sciences and empirical observation?
My aborted autobiography had been smack on. I would die of boredom before this meeting adjourned.
Sudden mental image. The infamous sensory deprivation experiments of the 1950s. I pictured volunteers wearing opaque goggles and padded hand muffs, lying on cots in white-noise chambers.
I listed their symptoms and compared them to my present state.
Anxiety. Depression. Antisocial behavior. Hallucination.
I crossed out the fourth item. Though stressed and irritable, I wasn't hallucinating. Yet. Not that I'd mind. A vivid vision would have provided diversion.
Don't get me wrong. I've not grown cynical about teaching. I love being a professor. I regret that my interaction with students seems more limited each year.
Why so little classroom time? Back to the subdiscipline thing.
Ever try to see just a doctor? Forget it. Cardiologist. Dermatologist. Endocrinologist. Gastroenterologist....