Colleagues. I don't know if many of you have noticed this, but without our colleagues, many of us would be really really screwed. Think about it. What would it be like going to dinner parties, having hallway chats, even waging contentious debates over email, if you knew that no one, not ever, shared the experience of academia with you. It's not that non-academics are not capable of scintillating conversations, or sustained, adult debate, or even (certainly) that all academics ARE capable of such. It's just that it's so nice to have a body of like-minded folks in close reach.
I know that if I were not a member of an academic department, I would either be regarded as very weird, or I would feel very alone, constantly rambling on about cultural constructions of this and performing that while my hosts rolled their eyes and returned to their discussions of taxes or city management or whatever else normal people talk about over dinner.
But really, before I follow that line of argument too far in any given direction, what I like most about colleagues is having really smart people with whom to talk about books, with whom to think about ideas, or whose writing about books and ideas we get to read.
Two instances: when I arrived at my office this morning, I found in my box an offprint of one colleague's really great article on authorship in comics, which I avidly read instead of the article relating to my own research. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
The second...a colleague who is, like me, teaching the gateway-to-the-major course had recently borrowed a play by Sarah Kane that I had not-entirely-seriously recommended to her for the class. She stopped by to see if I had received the returned copy, and then just lingered in the doorway while we talked about the books we were teaching, and why those books were really just pretty much awesome.
That's all. Just a casual 20 minute conversation on how great Angela Carter is, and why Stoppard's Arcadia is so good for teaching...with a colleague. The kind I'd be thrilled to find anywhere in the corporate world, but that I can count on existing in high numbers in a university English department. That's what I like.