The Unknown Dangers of Assitantships

Slide CarouselImage by JnL via Flickr
Slide carousel.  They worked via a combo of light projection and cursing   
Part of my "treatment" for my depression the past week has been watching Beavis and Butthead, which I haven't seen since it was on air in the mid-90s.  I still find it hilarious - make of that what you will.

One of the episodes ("Figure Drawing" when they wind up in a nude drawing class) reminded me vividly of a sort-of archaeological story, in the same vein as this one.

So, long ago when I was a poor, naive undergraduate (as opposed to a poor, cynical, crippled post-graduate) I wanted to go to an academic conference.  These things cost money.  They're usually in large, expensive hotels, often in large expensive cities.  You have to pay conference fees, membership fees, pay for a room somewhere and get your ass there. 

This particular conference made allowances for us pitiful, undereducated weaklings and had assitantships that would pay most of the expenses.  Yay.  I still wound up driving 300 miles there and back (and on the last day I had food poisoning) but whatever.  This was my very first-ever grown-up conference.

The assitantship meant I had to help run the A/V equipment.  This was long enough ago that nearly everyone was still using 35 mm slides.  I had never so much as touched a slide projector before.  Plus, I was shy and knew exactly 4 people of the hundreds there.  This was when I learned that some ABDs and newly minted PhDs can be ENORMOUS douchecanoes to anyone they remotely perceive as beneath them.  I was still young enough to give a damn and not be all "whateva' have you seen the job market lately?  Hope you have fun with that attitude at McDonald's."
It was totally not my fault that the hotel had craptastic A/V equipment and that they'd apparently had developmentally delayed wombats erect the projector screens.   Or that some dillholes had loaded their slides wrong.   At least I didn't spill any slide carousels. 


This particular conference had a day set aside for presentations geared toward the general public as well as the specialists typically attending the conference.  In one of the huge hotel ballrooms because I guess they thought a whole lot of archaeological enthusiasts have plenty of time mid-week to travel to a downtown urban area with no parking to listen to lectures on topics they may or may not have ever heard of or care about.

At least all the presenters there were older scholars and most of them were remarkably nice.  One of them was presenting on the Turin Papyrus.
At the time, that phrase meant almost nothing to me.  I figured "hey, a papyrus, with writing, cool."  The woman presenting handed me a stack of transparencies (yes, this was a long time ago, shut up) and said she'd just let me know when to switch them out during her lecture.
And I was still like "cool, this will be easy.  Also, no one is yelling at me for things beyond my control.  Awesome!"
So, she gets to lecturing.  And I'm vaguely paying attention to what she's saying, but more listening for the "next slide, please" cue. 
And she asks for the first transparency.  So I slap that bad-boy on the projector like I know I'm its boss.

Go here for better detail.  WARNING:  Adult content NSFW

And look up.

I'm guessing my face looked more like Beavis.
Turns out, the speaker had decided to talk about the Turin Erotic Papyrus (guess why it's called that) for her public lecture.  Heh.

I swear there were at least 40 transparencies.  In excellent detail.  And while I did spend my formative years in Nevada where it's fairly common to see gigantic billboards emblazoned with women in feather bikinis, I was still somewhat unprepared for 40 damn transparencies of ancient pr0n.  Some of it involving bestiality.  That I was responsible for showing to the public. 

I have since sat through not one but several awkward, repetitive ("that's what she said") lectures on the same or a related topic.  While sexuality and eroticism in the ancient world are interesting topics, I will not weep if I never, ever see the Turin Erotic Papyrus or hear some elderly professor mumble his way through a discussion of it ever again.

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