Although I wish I could say I slept like a rock the first night away by myself, my night was still plagued by the same routine I had long forged since my son was born. I awoke several times in the night, pawing in the darkness for the baby monitor which was 350 miles away. I stared in the foreign room, looking for the alarm clock to find that it was 1:00 a.m., then 4:00, sighing that I was alone, missing my boys who were forging ahead without me.
The 6:00 a.m. wake up call came and I drug myself reluctantly from my soft nest, dreading the anxiety-provoking day ahead. As a socially phobic and general awkward saurus, I need a certain amount of psyching up in order to thrust myself into new situations like so many suicidal ocean fish flopping up on deck. It was far too early for xanax however, but couldn’t muster the continental breakfast scene. If I must be forced to engage strangers at this hour, there needs to be bacon and eggs. Cold bagels are not enough enticement.
I set myself up in the empty auditorium, readied to absorb the 4,000 conference attendees that would soon inundate it. Choosing a seat in large venues is important. If you take the end of a row, you’ll constantly have to deal with people climbing over you for the precious open seats in the middle. If you take a seat in the middle, god forbid you need to go to the bathroom, because then you have to lumber over the people on either side, which creates a whole new set of issues. I recommend choosing a seat in the horizontal aisle rows, where you can get up and move freely. Although, people are likely to sit next to you, but they are normally late comers and keep their mouths shut.
The conference I attended has the tendency to invite local colleges’ a cappella groups to perform in the empty times before the day’s speakers. This group was a well-meaning, but terrible ensemble. There’s a time and a place for beatboxing, and it went out of style with Run DMC. I’d like to encourage anyone in one of these groups to read this and take note. It’s not quirky or cute when anyone does it anymore. I’m sure your moms must think so, but no one else does. Frankly, there isn’t enough sarcastic eye-rolling to convey this, but I wish there was.
Finally, the keynote speaker began his talk, which was a moving tale of how the modern drowning protocol came to be, as told with the remarkable recovery of a three year old girl in rural Austria who is now alive and well courtesy of this amazing process. The things about the talk that moved me were these: first, there was not a single new machine or drug used to save her or anyone else using this process that followed, only the combination of existing technology and amazing teamwork from the least empowered team member, the telephone operator at the hospital. The second was that if even one person on that team failed to wash their hands or sterilize the equipment, this girl would have potentially been lost. It shows the importance of working together and doing one’s part. I cried at the end, when the speaker told us how the little girl lives a normal, healthy life, and but for the scar on her chest where they opened her up to save her, no one would have known she had been once declared brain dead.
The rest of the days talks weren’t nearly as impressive. Most of the breakout sessions delve into the nitty gritty of our work, which is where most institutions differ so vastly. I imagine it’s like everyone who’s Christian agreeing that Jesus is awesome, but no one can agree on how that should play out in their daily lives. I was actually shouted down in a session for suggesting a remediation to another person who had an issue we had a solution for. Never in my life had I been spoken to so rudely by strangers, and that’s saying a lot. I decided to change direction for the rest of the breakout sessions I had scheduled, because unfortunately, these asshats would be at most of them. The awkward saurus is certainly not a glutton for punishment, and can tell where she is not welcome.
The evening was unfortunately also spoken for, by way of forced obligation by my boss. It wasn’t an event that I wanted to attend, thrown by some vendor, but it was “strongly encouraged” that I go. This meant that if I blew it off, which by the god of Xanax, I really wanted to, I’d certainly hear about it later. So, again, sucking it up and forcing myself to find the courage, I found my way to the carefully staged ballroom, where the theme of the party was some kind of old Hollywood. Paid actors dressed as Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Charlie Chaplin worked the crowd, while I was being hassled by faux paparazzi.
Fortunately, there was free beer, but the food was nearly inaccessible due to the crazy lines and ridiculous assholes who can’t bypass a free meal for anything. Before the night was over, I was stuck with a colleague whom I loathe, who decided to tell me in great detail how she thinks my boss and his assistant are having an affair. In that moment, I was glad I hadn’t fought through the line to get food, as it would have risen like so much resurrected savior at the very thought of these two bison humping just two doors down from my office.
Soon, my husband’s impeccable timing brought my cell phone hilarious text messages, quoting the movie Step Brothers. I was doing my best to conceal my giggling as we watched the night’s honoree accept her award. I should have waiting until after the montage of her service in Iraq and Afghanistan, because while everyone else is tearing up over her work to help those with lost limbs and scarred skin, I’m literally shaking while trying not to laugh, reading about Derek being punched in the face.
After the awards were given, I was able to make a break for it. Returning to my hotel room, a buzz running strong, and empty stomach making me consider pizza delivery. I called my husband who was thankfully still awake, and gave him the run down of my day. Then I curled up on the bed and drifted off to sleep, never getting that dinner I should have.