Thursday, October 3, 2013

It's not nice to ask The Question

I recently heard someone ask a graduate student that they did not know, "So when are you going to graduate?" The asker was not being purposely unkind, but I felt that it was sort of a rude question. (Ultimately, it belied their lack of experience in academia.) When I was in graduate school, the only person who I did not mind The Question coming from was my very elderly grandparent, who had a much shorter time horizon than all the rest of my interrogators.

I bring this up in the context of my soon-to-be-retired father, who recently relayed to me how much he hates being asked "So when are you going to retire?" from his younger coworkers. I don't doubt that, just like the first case, it's an innocent question; however, I wonder if the asker realizes all the different questions that one is asking:
  • When might you leave this job? 
  • Do you have enough money? (By the time you're 3-5 years to retirement, the lifestyle at which you will be living is pretty much pre-determined, whether you're going to be in your vineyard in Tuscany or your trailer in Flagstaff... or your kids' basement.) 
  • Did you know that you're much older than me?
  • When might you leave this job? 
I confess that I have been guilty of speculating about my older coworkers' retirement schedules sotto voce, but I have not asked. Now, I don't think I will, either. 

17 comments:

  1. "So, when are you due?"

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    Replies
    1. "Hey, are you gonna eat that?"

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    2. "When you leave, can I have your stir bar collection?"

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  2. "How's the job search going"

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  3. From my Dad, while I was in Grad School: "did you meet any girls this year?"

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  4. "Why is it so hard to find a good job? I saw on TV and read some news stories that there's a shortage of scientists."

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  5. "When ya comin' up for tenure review?"

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    Replies
    1. Sorry, tenure review is always on a set timeline unlike the rest of these.

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    2. "How'd they score your last grant?"

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  6. Don't worry, CJ, nowadays Tuscan vineyard are getting more affordable year after year....

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  7. "nowadays Tuscan vineyard are getting more affordable year after year...."

    Not compared to last year. CA real estate went up 20-30%. Some areas of San Franscisco and San Diego are near 2005 prices.

    Farm land may also be at an all time high. People flocked to it when they were looking for a "safe" investment in 2009.

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  8. Mmh... I am sorry for my bad English, I meant to say "vineyard in Tuscany". And their prices is going down, just a little bit compared to ten years ago. I am a chemist, but many friends of mine work in winemaking, so I have a first hand account of how things are going. And, btw, I live in Tuscany.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for adding your expertise, Paolo -- and thanks for reading!

      Cheers, CJ

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    2. I don't think your English is bad. Anonymous probably is not aware that there is no such thing as a Tuscan vineyard for sale in California. Though we do have that Spanish monastery in Miami and a castle in North Carolina that was transported by boat and put back together, I don't think I've heard of a rich American eccentric billionaire transporting bedrock and topsoil from Italy, let alone enough of the things to make them plural.

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  9. @uncle sam
    Perphaps it did not occur to you, but both are right. More than one place can have the same name. There are many vineyards in CA which are called "Tuscan" vineyards. One example is below.
    http://www.tuscanwinevillage.com/

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    Replies
    1. I assume it's similar to buying a scotch distilled in Kentucky. i.e. If they guys in California are not speaking to you in Italian and can't understand any English, and don't have lots of migrant African workers picking grapes, it's not a Tuscan vineyard.

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