CCCC 2011 Elevator Conversations

Stories about elevators at CCCC each year are legion. This year, finding the right bank of elevators at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis meant walking in circles to find the elevators that actually went to the floor you wanted to get to, and then circling again to get out. And, of course, getting from the 31st floor to the 30th floor meant riding the elevator all the way down to the lobby, and again walking the elevator circle (reminiscent somehow of Danté?) to find the bank that went to the 30th floor, and, well, you can take it from there!

But standing in line for elevators that don’t go to the right floor is only part of the CCCCs elevator saga. Eavesdropping on conversations on elevators is as edifying a part of the conference experience as are the conference presentations themselves—sometimes more.

I still remember the TV newscasts broadcast in the elevators at the 2001 CCCC in New York, as the US invaded Afghanistan, while many CCCC attendees were participating in peace rallies in the streets of the city. Watching snippets of war between floors was frighteningly surreal.

This year there was no TV news in the elevators. But the conversations in the elevators were still interesting in their own way.

Conversation #1

Person 1: “You’re from Australia? We should hold the CCCC there one year! You guys speak English and everything.”

Person 2: “They don’t have to speak English to host the conference in a country.”

Person 1: “That’s true. That’s where we’re needed most.”

This exchange bothered me on so many levels. Of course, the idea that “we” are needed to teach English to non-English speakers seems to imply that everyone “needs” to know English (as well as that what we are about is teaching the language, which at CCCC is not really a truism). Secondly, the idea that the only people involved in college-level “composition and communication” issues are those who speak English is exceedingly problematic.

Conversation #2

CCCC Person to Marriott Staff Person: “I bet you’ll be glad when you don’t have to put up with all these wild English teachers, huh?”

Marriott Staff Person: “Oh, no, you guys are tame. You ought to see the people who come for the comic book convention!”

Me: (to myself: Hmmm, some of them are us, too: like my colleague, Michael Pemberton!)


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