What I left out of the description of my whirlwind interview day was the slightly unreal feeling the persisted over the day, as here and there language cropped in that was more in line with "if you accept the job" as opposed to "if we offer you the job". The faculty interviews were all so laid-back, more conversations than interrogations, that I couldn't quite get a handle on what was going on. There were no mentions of other people interviewing, the difficulty of the decision the department was going to make, or even any real questions that made me wonder if they would hire me. I wasn't sure what to expect at an interview, but it certainly wasn't information phrased as "You would be responsible for teaching...", or "Most likely you would be in that office...". It was incredibly unnerving.
This came to a head when the senior faculty member gave me a tour around town before dropping me off at my hotel. His comments were peppered with suggestions about local agencies he could connect me with for research, the best places to live, and included the offer to give me the name of a good real estate agent. Perhaps the jet lag and the long day contributed, but I was feeling quite disoriented by the time we turned to my hotel. I hadn't found a way to ask the chair, or anyone else, when they thought they would make a decision, and I was starting to seriously regret not trying harder to broach the subject. I was trying to get my tired brain to come up with a brilliant way to ask, when matters were taken care of for me.
Here's the deal, he said as we neared my hotel. I've talked with everyone in the department, and they all liked you. Your job talk was great, we can tell you're a wonderful teacher. We have interviewed some other people, and we think you'll fit in fine. Don't be surprised if you get an email in the next few days offering you the job. We're eager to have someone hired, so we'll probably ask for your decision in a week or so. I'm letting you know this now so you have a little time to think about it.
This was too much for my tired, jet-lagged brain. It would be inappropriate to thrill with excitement, it would be inappropriate to give much of a hint about how enthusiastic I would be before seeing the financial terms of the offer...but what would be inappropriate? I'm not sure I contributed much beyond "Ok", some random assurance that I don't linger over my decisions, and a generic nice-to-have-met-you as I exited the car.
I also had no idea what I was supposed to tell people about how my interview went. I'm too paranoid and too cautious to make much of a possibility. I'm too much of a scientist desiring facts and definite data to rely on hearsay. After all, they couldn't have gotten the Provost's opinion, and I had no idea what he thought of me or how much his opinion would weigh, or someone could change their mind or raise doubts at the next department meeting. I was ecstatic, but reserved about sharing it.
On the phone with my father, telling him how my interview went, I kept that final parting statement to myself until he explicitly asked when I was supposed to hear their decision. Stretched out on my huge hotel bed, trying to figure out how I could be so exhausted and so unable to sleep, I decided to keep that potential decision a secret from everyone else, even my advisor; I would simply say that the interview went incredibly well, that I liked the college, that I thought I would hear back soon. It was all very true, and the suggestion of an offer was just too much, too soon, for me to deal with my own reaction, let alone anyone else's.