First, trivia. When the Queen offers you a knighthood, you can't refuse. I take it this is because by the time the Queen has anything to do with it, you're already kneeling on the little red cushion with the gold tassels. Anyway, so the story goes, this means that knighthoods come your way couched in the fantastically handy subjunctive conditionals so beloved of philosophers, to wit:
If HM The Queen were to offer you a knighthood, would you be so good as to accept?If so, bring on the red cushion. If not, everyone backs away with dignity and good grace. Or something. Philosophers, on the other hand, do not love subjunctive conditionals because they allow everyone to save face. Heaven forfend. It is because they are devious little bastards. The philosophers, I mean. Well, the conditionals too, for that matter. You'll notice, dear reader, that nothing about our little knighthood sentence says that anyone is going to offer you a knighthood. It's as airily hypothetical as your post-prandial port-soaked musings about what you'd do with a billion pounds.
'Course, you might argue, there's some happy-looking implication in there. I mean, why ask? But on the other hand, you can just see the other kid in the playground yelling "I never said I'd give you a lemon sherbert! I just asked whether you wanted one!" Philosophers are highly sensitive to playground bully mentality.
So much for the preliminaries, and on with my story. A couple of weeks back, on Thursday, March 2, I was blearily fumbling the pod into the coffeemaker when the clink! of the mailslot in the front door sounded. MMmmmm, I love the smell of rejection letters in the morning. This morning's effort was particularly crunchy granola, exhorting me to "not be discouraged by this news" and also (god bless their charred, blackened hearts) that I should not interpret it "as a reflection on my work".
I used it as a coaster for my coffee.
With a totally pathetic effort to straighten the slump in my beaten shoulders, I wandered off to the office and pulled up my email. The usual dreck fashioned from a combination of spam and useless calls-for-papers for confererences on topics like The Eucharist and Eating Disorders. And ... one whose subject line contained the name of another job I was up for. And not just any one, the one I really wanted.
Well, shit. They'd have called if I got it. Shit.
Right at that moment, I wasn't in the mood to be two-for-two. The odor of napalm was pungent enough, thankyewverymuch. So I graded some student papers, and I polished my fingernails, and I stuck sticky notes into books at relevant-looking pages as a surrogate for actually reading them. I whistled nonchalantly to myself. I considered whether my bank statements needed filing.
To hell with it. Click.
Inside, dear readers, was the subjunctive conditional of the century.
At a recent meeting of the [selection committee] it was agreed to recommend to the [board] that you be [given a very cool job]. If the [board] agrees to this proposal would you be willing to accept?
I stared at it like a spaniel mesmerised by a piece of kibble balanced on its nose. I started from the beginning and read it over again. And then again, more carefully. My god! Did someone just give me a job?
I sat very still. That is important if you don't want the piece of kibble to fall off your snout. I replied to the secretary who'd fashioned World's Greatest Conditional, appropriately conditional-flavouredly. Actuality peeped around the corner tantalisingly. The slightest of slight conditions waited. A mere formality, everyone assured me.
Uh huh. Don't talk to me about modality. I've just spent the last eight weeks establishing the sense in which water might not have been H2O, and you think I'll find possibilities about committees compelling? Talk to the hand.
So godstrewth, I have done nothing but balance the kibble for nearly three weeks. I have not done the happy dance. I have walked carefully, slept carefully, I have stared at it with my big baleful brown eyes. I have known its madly delicious aroma.
And yesterday, wonder of wonders, I got to flip it high into the air and snap! Actual kibble. A real job. It's still dawning on me. And apparently, my metaphors will need a long time to untangle themselves.