Blogging SBL: A Funny Story (or, Getting Gottwald to his Session)

A funny story (which, I will confess, is far funnier when you hear me tell it, so reading it may not deliver the same oomph.  You’ve been cautioned!).

On Saturday I planned to attend a paper by Norman Gottwald, a seminal Hebrew Bible scholar.  I very much like his socio-literary approach to the biblical text (see, for instance, his abridged introductory volume, which I review HERE).  His session was on the 41st floor of the hotel, and you had to use a special bank of elevators to get to this floor.  Here’s how high-tech these elevators were, though: you didn’t just push “up” or “down” but actually typed in the number of the floor to which you wanted to go.  The display panel then told you what elevator to take.  We didn’t quite understand this yet.  Apparently neither did Gottwald.

My friend and I got into the elevator, assuming we were heading for the 41st floor.  Next thing we know Norman Gottwald gets into the elevator with us.  Mind you, this is about 3 minutes before his paper is to start.  Well, after a few stops, we get to the 40th floor.  Someone gets off and says he’ll type in “41” for us.  And we wait.  And the elevator does nothing.  We get off and type “41” again.  Nothing.  We then bring a staircase to Gottwald’s attention.  By this time he is already late.  So he takes the staircase.  For those who don’t know, Gottwald is not a young man, but he was hauling up those 2-3 flights of stairs!  It was Gottwald, an older gentleman with us who also wanted to attend his paper, then myself and my colleague pulling up the rear.  Upon entering the staircase (which was the equivalent of what you see in old apartments; it was more of a fire escape than anything) Gottwald was hauling and we were trying to keep up.  Unfortunately, I got stuck behind the older gentleman who was also apparently trying to find the 41st floor.  I made the comment on the way up the stairs, “wow, Gottwald is a mover” and the older gentleman turned around to look at me, clearly exhausted, and exclaimed “he sure is!”  It was a hilarious moment.  But the story doesn’t end there.

We get to the 41st floor and lo and behold what is it?  Nothing more than a narrow stretch of concrete hallway leading to the equivalent of a janitor’s closet!  My friend quickly rushed up one more flight of stairs to check, only to find a locked door.  At this news, Gottwald took off back down the stairs with equal speed as he had coming up.  And we waited.  And waited.  And finally an elevator came that took us to the 41st floor.  He was late for his session, but he was first up so they had not yet started without him.  But it was a hilarious story we enjoyed telling to our friends and colleagues . . . and we’d like to think we helped at least a little in getting Norman Gottwald to his session!

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3 thoughts on “Blogging SBL: A Funny Story (or, Getting Gottwald to his Session)

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