Waterhouse: A very short fictional play in two acts
By John Joseph Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.)
To help us entertain ourselves after a Sunday lunch at 36 Daintree Place, River Hills, Brisbane, Australia on 13 July, 2008, I wrote a very short play - of about 5-10 minutes. After the lunch we all took part in one way or another
PROLOGUE: When I was at Macquarie university doing my Ph.D. in the late '60s, I was rather puzzled that the Head of the School was Ian K. Waterhouse. How did such an undistinguished man get such a senior job? He had few publications and didn't seem to do anything much.
I think I saw the explanation when I heard that he was the son of old Charlie Waterhouse, Head of Chemistry at the University of Sydney but better known as Sydney's leading expert on Camellias. I don't know what it is about Camellias but they do seem to be a highly esteemed shrub. Their flowers smell nice, I guess. Former Australian PM Malcolm Fraser is an expert on them too. So Charlie Waterhouse was a most important member of the Sydney community -- far more esteemed than if had been just another Head of a university Department. Almost like Royalty, really.
So what follows is my imaginary reconstruction of how Ikky Waterhouse got his job.
Old Charlie is on the phone to Prof. Bill Bloggs, who is on the selection committee that is hiring people for the then-new Macquarie university.
CHARLIE: "Bill, How are you. Charlie here. Charlie Waterhouse"
BLOGGS: "Ah! Charlie! Good to hear from you"
CHARLIE: "Bill. Last time I spoke to you, you were thinking of putting in a few Camellias. How did you go with that?"
BLOGGS: "Well, I tried putting in just one to see how it would go but it doesn't seem to be doing very well".
CHARLIE: "Well, You've got clayey soil out there so that does make it more difficult"
BLOGGS: "Yes. I was wondering about that".
CHARLIE: "Tell you what. I've just come across some new stuff called "XYZ Camellia food". It's said to be very good for counteracting clayey soil. Try that. It might be just what you need. You can get it from K-Mart".
BLOGGS: "Why thanks Charlie. That's sounds a good tip"
CHARLIE: "By the way, I hear you are on the selection committee for Macquarie?"
BLOGGS: "Yes. They dragged me in"
CHARLIE: "Well, my son Ian has put in for the Behavioral Sciences job so while I'm talking to you, can I give you a bit of background on him in case anybody asks you about him?"
BLOGGS: "Sure, Charlie"
CHARLIE: "Well, he hasn't got many publications yet but he's very keen, has a lot of things on the go, been on a few committees. And he knows how things are run at universities. Not the sort to rock the boat. That's it basically."
BLOGGS: "Why, thanks, Charlie. It's good to know something about the people you are dealing with"
CHARLIE: "Don't mention it. And let me know how that XYZ stuff goes"
Rings off and Bill Bloggs puts the phone down feeling very privileged to have had none other than Charlie Waterhouse help him with his Camellias.
The meeting of the selection committee
CHAIR: "Well, we've got a few appointments to look at today. You should have the list in front of you. First up is Behavioural Sciences. Anybody know anything about any of the applicants there?"
Silence as they all look at the list. Then:
BLOGGS: "That Ian Waterhouse on the list is old Charlie Waterhouse's son."
CHAIR: "Charlie from Sydney?"
Silence as people think about that.
BLOGGS: "I was talking to Charlie about my Camellias the other day and he said that Ian hasn't got a lot of publications yet but he is very keen, has a lot of stuff underway, been on a few committees and is not the sort to rock the boat"
Everyone is very impressed that Bloggs has chats with Charlie Waterhouse. Definitely a person to be taken seriously.
CHAIR: "Well. That's good to know. Who else have we got? There's a Bill Smith from Edith Cowan university in Western Australia. Got a few publications. Anybody know him at all?"
CHAIR: "Edith Cowan is a new university too. I think -- being new ourself -- we need someone from a more established place to give us a bit of heft"
Silence and a few nods.
CHAIR: "And there's a bloke from Harvard on the list. Why the devil would he be applying to us? Sounds a bit fishy. Anybody know anything about him?"
CHAIR: "Anyway, Yanks are very pushy. He'd probably be wanting us to do everything the American way all the time. Not the sort for a quiet life"
Silence and a few nods.
CHAIR: "Any feeling so far? Any thoughts about any of the applicants?"
JONES: "That Waterhouse boy sounds a safe bet"
CHAIR: "Yes. What does everybody think?"
Silence and a few nods.
CHAIR: "So is that the feeling of the meeting? Ian Waterhouse for Behavioural Sciences? Any objections?"
A few nods and mumbles.
CHAIR: "Well. That was an easy one. Ian Waterhouse gets Behavioural Sciences. Let's move on to the next appointment"
When I wrote the above skit, I assumed that Ian Waterhouse had long ago shuffled off this mortal coil. I have however subsequently been informed that he is not only still alive (presumably in his 90s) but has in fact recently been seen nationwide on TV! Guess what he was doing on TV? Showing off his father's Camellias! I clearly got the Camellia bit right. I hope however that the timing of the skit shows that I meant neither of the Professors Waterhouse any ill. If I had I would have written the skit long ago. I retired from academe in 1983 so would have suffered no career risks in doing so. -- JR
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