Recently, I saw a friend’s production of A Christmas Carol. It’s been many years since I last saw the play (and then only the Muppet version!), and a theme jumped out at me that I hadn’t noticed as a child: It’s about work/life balance! Don’t you see it??? No? My boyfriend didn’t either, so I guess I need to prove it. Below, I present “An Academic Christmas Carol.” The original dialog was often so appropriate that I’ve left a lot of it the way it originally appeared (in the now-standard Ferrians and Chapman adaptation), instead changing the context around it to be about academia and open science.
Note: This post is broken into seven parts that will appear throughout this week. Enjoy!
It was the day before Christmas and snow was gently falling in the quad outside of the science building. Inside, various non-denominational wintertime decorations hung near the faculty offices. But the door marked “Dr. Ebenezer Scrooge and Dr. Jacob Marley” maintained its plain wooden exterior. Jacob Marley had been emeritus for nearly seven years, but his name remained on the sign. Inside, Professor Ebenezer Scrooge was editing a manuscript written by his student, Bob Cratchit.
“Cratchit!” shouted Professor Scrooge, “What are you doing?!”
“I’m adding documentation to our code targeted at new users….”
“So they can steal our ideas and take all of the credit for themselves?!”
“No professor, sorry professor, I just… I thought we’d be able to understand the problem more quickly with more people working on it…” mumbled Cratchit.
“Humbug! As if that’s our goal.” Scrooge seemed on the verge of a tirade, but was interrupted by the entrance of his junior colleague, Fred Hollowell.
“Happy holidays, Ebenezer!” Fred called cheerfully.
“Bah, humbug,” scoffed Scrooge. “What reason have you to be happy? You have few enough publications – at this rate you’ll never get tenure.”
“What reason have you to be dismal? You have enough publications for the both of us!” replied Fred with a laugh. Cratchit momentarily joined in this laughter until he was silenced with a glare from Scrooge. “Come on Ebenezer,” Fred continued, “why don’t you come have dinner at my place tomorrow? You can finally meet Janet!”
“I’ll see myself in Hell first. Tomorrow is a day just like any other. A day to get work done. Just because you choose to waste the precious minutes of your life on meaningless frivolities and that woman, hardly obligates me to do so as well. I warned you that marriage was career suicide. Good afternoon.” Scrooge went back to his editing with a scowl and a flurry of red ink, ignoring the rest of Fred’s festive rejoinders. So too did he ignore the behests of Professors Howell and Jeeves to come help at an outreach event at the local elementary school.
At last, the clock tolled 6 and Cratchit began gathering his coat and laptop. Scrooge always held Cratchit in mild contempt for leaving so early every day, but the ombudsman had stepped in the last time he complained. “I suppose you’ll be wanting the day off tomorrow. Be here all the earlier the next day!”
Bob Cratchit stepped out into the gentle snow to find his youngest son waiting for him, leaning gently on his crutch. “Tim! You came all the way here just to walk home with me? Come! Let’s bring home a lovely Christmas dinner for the others.”