Chapter 4

Wageningen University / The Netherlands – January 2012

Joyce Ann McCollum was frustrated. Not just frustrated but downright annoyed. She was an arachnologist, not an entomologist. Okay, strike that, she thought, I am an entomologist, but I’m also an arachnologist.

She’d been hired as an associate professor to help develop an entire arachnology course of study at the University and now they were balking at sending her to gather firsthand evidence of a new arachnid species. Worse yet, they were sending Hoekstra the cockroach expert.

“Dr. Blinkerhof, I’m the resident Arachnologist. I know far more about arachnids than Professor Hoekstra. I’m not saying that he’s not qualified, I’m saying that I’m more qualified.”

Blinkerhof smoothed his desk blotter and leaned back in his chair. He folded his hands, his two index fingers pointing skyward, and stared at her over his gold-framed glasses.

“You may be more qualified, Professor McCollum, but Professor Hoekstra has more experience dealing with the media.”

He saw the look of confusion on her face. “Oh I don’t mean the real media. I’m fully aware of the articles you’ve published in the Journal of Arachnology and National Geographic. That’s why you’re here. I’m talking about CNN, the BBC, the news of the people. Professor Hoekstra has dealt with them before while representing the University.”

“So, we get half-assed science but a great plug for the University.” She realized she was sounding like a snotty American, but this was important.

Blinkerhof held up a placating hand. “He’ll bring back specimens for you to research and he’ll maintain specimen protocol.”

“That’s not the point.” She stood up and leaned over the desk. “Look, Professor, if we were examining a new species of cockroach, I would bow and say Professor Hoekstra’s the man. He’s never been to a site with the emergence of a new arachnid species. He doesn’t know what to look for. I do. And isn’t that what you want here? Isn’t that what this whole University is about, the science of nature?”

Blinkerhof held out a hand indicating that Joyce Ann should sit. She slid back into her chair, wondering if her tirade had cost her the chance.

Smoothing his desk blotter once again, the Professor looked at her. “The University wants someone that can handle the press, that has a record of dealing with them. Professor Hoekstra does.”

“Then let me propose a compromise.”

“I’m listening.”

“You’re sending Professor Hoekstra and five students. One of the students is a fourth year. Bump him, slide everyone but Hoekstra down a notch and put me under him. I can lead the research team and he can deal with the press. I’ll even pay my own way. You get the good science and good press.”

Blinkerhof stared at her for a moment. She could see the wheels turning. After a full minute, he picked up his phone and stabbed the intercom button.

“Aleid, can you let Professor Hoekstra know that I’d like to see him at his earliest convenience?”

Joyce Ann smiled. She was going.

Blinkerhof hung up the phone. “Now what do we tell our unfortunate rookie who will be left here.”

“His name is Sato Hideki, and he already knows. He wanted to be part of the arachnology department and I told him that if he stayed here, he could catalog all the research and help me write the research paper.”

Blinkerhof stared at her, stunned. “You knew I’d let you go?”

“I knew that if you wouldn’t let me be in charge, I’d convince you that I was the best one for the research work, which I am. Something I’ve learned in academic politics is to go into a meeting with several plans and shuffle them when you see which direction the conversation is going.”

Blinkerhof laughed. “That’s pretty good. But what if I’d said no?”

“I’ve got friends at FOX, A.P. and Reuters. I would have pulled my own press card. But if Professor Hoekstra deals with the press, then I can deal with the research.”

“Well played, Miss McCollum. I’m glad you’re not looking to take my job.”

“To be honest, Doctor, I wouldn’t want your job. Hoekstra deals with the press. You get to deal with pushy associate professors. I like spiders.”

“Have fun in Dunkirk, Professor.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *