Monday, September 4
I knocked on Angel's door, but there was no answer. I knocked again. Nothing. But I just saw her walk in, and unless she escaped out the window-- I went to my office and rang her phone. Busy. Maybe that explains it. Thirty minutes later the phone was still busy, so I returned to the door and banged vigorously. "ANGEL open the door!" The door opened. "Oh, I didn't know it was you!"

The Angel puts her home phone number on her syllabus and gives her cell phone number to every member of the faculty and staff at the university. She is warm, friendly, open, and accessible. Everyone loves her, and everyone thinks she is their best friend. That's why right now she's hiding in the dark listening to the knocking and the ringing. She can't make it stop, and she can't possibly do all the things people want her to do. It's not humanly possible.

The Cowardly Angel is not a gendered identity, either (though the hiding-in-the-dark strategy might be). The first person I met like this was a powerful male figure in my discipline. College deans and university presidents are often like this, politicians, too. Still, I never really understood the phenomenon until the day I stood outside Angel's door and discovered that she had the ability to sit there in the dark and listen to the knocking.

Disclaimer: Although I do think that all those people have some breaking point or way of dealing with the bottom line, I think their strategies vary, and this hiding in the dark is not the strategy of a famous person. Those people are behind door #3.

6 comments:

Sulphur Siren said...

Ok...I admit that I don't get it. Maybe the Angel is available MOST of the time. Maybe the Angel would love to be there for everyone all the time but that isn't possible.

So...maybe...just maybe...to get that paper reviewed or written or to make that grant deadline or to read that thesis or just quell that mounting migraine...Angel sits in the dark with the phone off the hook and ignores the knocking at the door...exactly like a good professor should.

Cowardice or common sense? Perhaps that idea of working at home isn't so crazy after all.

(I admit to doing this just to be able to actually eat my lunch!!)

Anonymous said...

I see what you're saying, Sulphur, but perhaps Sienna's point is that C.A. gets the benefits of seeming like such a giving person when s/he can't come through with that at all. I guess it depends on what the resulting reputation is. Eventaully it could be that C.A. is a flake. But perhaps the point is that said truth never really comes out widely.

Scarlet said...

I'm a believer in not answering the door if I don't feel like answering the door. And I'm plucky.

Sienna said...

Sulphur Siren, You're right. The "cowardly" term may be unfortunate. (See below.) Anon, Although I don’t think Angel *is* a flake, she might be in an over-commit-and-then-flake-out cycle.

Scarlet, Plucky nails it. One of the reasons I’m fascinated by this "ability" is that I can't do it. As a small child, I could never resist my mother’s command to unlock my bedroom door, so by the time I was seven, I had stopped bothering to run away at all. Why couldn’t I keep that door locked? (My parents had a strict non-violence policy.) I thought of my childhood bedroom when I learned Angel's secret. Is she stronger than I am, or is she insane?

I'm trying to cultivate a less angelic persona, so I won't have to hide from it (since I'm not plucky enough to hide).

Michelle said...

There was a time when one was considered "not at home to visitors" and when one's secretary kept people from coming by when it was a bad time. Choosing when to open your door doesn't mean you aren't available and accessible, it means you aren't available every moment of every day.

If someone knocked, then called, then called, then knocked, I would feel stalked.

Sienna said...

I agree, Michele. And I think you bring up one of the changes in our profession (feminization, probably) that contributes both to office hiding and to the need to work at home. But the point is, as you say, that people stalk her because she seems to tell them that they can have unfettered access to her. "Here's my cell number. Call me anytime." She'll change her number three months later to get out from under THAT.

I'd like to salvage Sienna's reputation re stalking, but I guess I'll err on the side of anonymity.