Brief Humor & Check-Ins

Pomposity, Ambulances & Narcissism: A Quaint Tale

It is Spring now in North America–in fits and starts with plenty of storms a blowing from global climate change and the hot air that blows in from D.C. I was at an event yesterday for work, acting as the octopus on roller skates handling 20 statues of pristine crystal, helping efforts behind the scenes. At one point, a “VIP-P” (a very important pompous person) came up to me and began half thanking me and my boss for our help with getting her her first big “thing.” What is this thing you ask? It doesn’t matter. For sake of literary appeasement, let’s call it a ring of power. A shiny thing; a most covetous thing. It is part of my job to help these people get these rings. Except these rings are supposed to help society, not puff up people like poisonous blowfish. But I digress…

They met me, face to face at the event, full of flashing cameras, a spread of food, and tablecloths. (It actually wasn’t that fancy and the carpet was badly in need of a cleaning. Definitely an Emperor’s New Clothes kind of atmosphere…) I helped this VIP-P get their ring, their first ring of their career. But to them, as I listened to their speech of half-thanks, they did all the real work–I just pushed the right buttons, it seemed. (If only it were that easy.) They proceeded to talk to me for about twenty minutes, taking my time from doing other things at the event. But I listened, politely, like a jellyfish suspended in water and shocked by accidentally stinging itself and waiting for the pain to subside. And funnily enough, I understood nothing that came out of this person’s mouth. Ever notice how some people’s e-mail language match how they are in real life? The irony is that the person witnessed this with me: “You’re very polite,” they said to a coworker about me that I half-heard as I worked; I was then ordered to listen to her penetrating observations. “Hey, I’m talking about you!” But ironically, they couldn’t see this in themselves. Like in their e-mails, their vocal mannerisms and speech meandered here, there and everywhere except for the point. After awhile, the conversation ended and I was inundated with other people’s questions: “What’s this food? Ooh, it’s a danish. What’s in this one?” and “I need a booklet and they’re out; can I steal yours like I shamelessly steal your energy and time?” And my personal favorite: “We need a flier made before lunch–we have an hour to do that and solve the energy crisis.”

Pray tell, I never learned that if one is behind a refreshment table, busily working on a last minute request on their bosses’ laptop, that you’re also expected to be a culinary chef. How quaint.

This same VIP-P later went around, complaining to everyone at the event (e.g., my colleagues) that their name wasn’t published in the program booklet. Luckily, they didn’t complain to me (I had been the one who supplied the names). I had reported the names of ring bearers (no wedding puns intended) like we reported all the data–by state fiscal year (July to June). This VIP-P fell outside of that timeframe by two months–her moment of fame would be next year. But no tears came from me–I’m sure she would dress for the occasion next year, as the prima donna she was proving to be. The other ring wearers got little yellow bags with a water bottle, a pen, and maybe a few other thingamajigs–tokens of appreciation and recognition. All of the highest quality plastic, rest assured, and could be cashed in at your nearest bank to avoid taking out a second mortgage on your house.

Later, this woman demanded a said bag of goodies from a coworker of mine. He was still baffled by this encounter as he later retold the story to me. I half hoped a dead spider was in the bottom of the bag he gave her, curled up in a corner, as these had been sitting in storage since last year. Highly desirable, indeed.

Quick side bar: Another VIP-P (emphasis on the pompous part) I worked under at a previous job, I heard, got promoted to a very fluffy chair of power and prestige this past week. Made the news and everything. This was the kind of position that comes with a gray cat you stroke while crowing over your power and musing your next move–you know the one. I overheard my boss talking about the news with a colleague of hers at the event. She summarized this person by (and I’ll use a word that rhymes with the actual word): “Yeah, he’s a real Rick. A real Rick.” As lunchtime neared, I felt I was surrounded by Ricks.

As time passed and technical difficulties made us scrap the flier and table solving the energy crisis, lunch ensued and then the rousing speeches began. Oh, goody. (Later I heard the grand pooh-bah of the place thought he was the key note speaker–apparently their narcissism was so large that they didn’t bother to consider any other option. A slight tussle of power ensued that was fortunately smoothed over.) Just when the speeches were reaching a crescendo, and the pompous lady was being called out in a speech for demanding a public apology, I stood up and walked over to two of my colleagues. They were off to one area, hidden behind a wall and had been lingering there for awhile. My coworker was having a seizure, and a very bad one–one my other coworker assumed was brought up by the flashing camera lights and interference with the speaker systems, among other items I won’t share. I ran and got water, and she managed to take her medicine. I ran again and got ice and more water. An officer came, and soon I was standing outside, flagging an ambulance down to ensure they knew where we were. All the while, twenty feet away, the narcissists dined, flashed even more bulbs, and looked at their rings like Gollum looked at his. “My….precious…”

Plague of the Red Death for $300, Alex?

Needless to say, after the event, I was one drained introvert. But don’t worry, the commute home wasn’t filled with a torrential downpour, making it hard to see, whilst on country roads lined with deep ditches on either side. What would make you think that? Thankfully I made it home in one piece.

That is my tale. Some facts are obscured or omitted to hide the innocent (or not so innocent) parties involved. Happy writing and stay away from the VIP-P blowfish. They come in all shapes and sizes and strike when you least expect them to. However, you do have one advantage: if they blow up in front of you–just let them. Eventually they will swell up so big, they will float far, far away…

Brief Humor & Check-Ins, Introversion/INTJ

Introvert Humor Story Time: How to Survive a Work Conference (Bring Popcorn)

Awhile back, I attended a work conference in the D.C. area. It was massive. Around 1400+ people attended. I kept repeating this fact to others, muffled behind my mask, in amazement. I probably sounded like an overtired Muppet. That many people–in one hotel mostly–during a pandemic! What insanity, especially when Zoom and Skype are actual things. Someone responded: “Usually it’s more like 2500 people.” I fainted into the hotel fountain outside. The ducks did laps around me, quacking up at my misery.

I arrived early on a Saturday to check in and sign-up for an all-day Sunday class (which I managed to get the last spot). The actual conference started on Monday. Oh my–the whiners abounded in my class. I was transported back to elementary school: “Can we finish early? Can we get out early if we cut our lunch break back?” I felt sorry for the teachers. Apparently these fellow, young professionals had a bad case of Neverland syndrome–they never grew up.

By Monday, I felt my shoulders beginning to sag. I was getting massively tired. Imagine–1400 people with colorful lanyards milling around you, all talking at once, cheerful and hyped up on free coffee. To them, this was all a magical slumber party. To me, the hotel was a maze of escalators, elevators and hallways complete with a mission on how to find a decently priced meal in a city that charged $17 for a thrown together tuna sandwich in the hotel café. My wallet cried, I cried.

My introvert battery was beeping and giving off warning alarms by now. On Monday morning, after I managed to scavenge a meager breakfast amongst the hoards, I headed into a session and couldn’t find a seat. I felt my brain lock up, as I scanned the smallish room crammed with people, many unmasked. Part of my brain said: “Get out–these people are fools” while the responsible part of my brain said “Stand in the back–you’re here for work.”

This is where I learned it’s okay to skip some sessions at work conferences, especially if the people are crammed into the rooms like sardines. After I managed to catch an elevator (remember, the hotel was fully booked) I stayed in my room for awhile, giving my batteries time to recharge. I decided to head back down for lunch, wanting to take advantage of the free food. Oh–big mistake.

Have you ever seen the film The Shining, the version that Mr. King hates? There’s a scene near the climax of the film where Jack walks into the ballroom and goes to his bartender. The room was usually empty except for the two of them, and it was a twisted, respite spot for Jack who was a recovering alcoholic. Near the climax, Jack unexpectedly finds the room filled with people, front to back–seated at tables, couches, etc. Lots of energy, lots of people (or in his case, ghosts). The hotel was coming alive and it meant everyone harm.

I walked into the ballroom at my hotel for lunch and felt like I had stepped into that scene in The Shining. Hundreds of tables, five people to a table, stretching out as far as the eye could see in both directions. I hugged the wall like a rat and slinked my way out of there, faster than little Danny Torrance on his three wheeler.

These work conferences are interesting things to experience. Allow me to share some tips that I figured out along the way that helped me survive. I’ll be brief:

Forget Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). These work conferences sometimes have after hour events where there is even more socializing in the evenings. Go back to your hotel room (if you want to) and recharge instead. And if you do attend these optional events? Feel free to dine and dash, or make an early escape.

Find fellow introverts. On Tuesday (Day 4, counting Saturday) I had recharged up enough to try The Shining ballroom again for lunch. I scanned the crowd and found a woman my age sitting at the edges of the massive room at an otherwise empty table and joined her. Another woman joined us shortly afterwards. Within five minutes of talking to each other, we all said we were introverts. A man joined us later (a coworker of the first person) and we had a lovely lunch talking about vintage movies, how tired we were of the conference, and other funny reflections on life and our jobs. I was very grateful to these people.

-Don’t compare yourself to others/mindread. I made this mistake–I thought everyone was having a swell time and I was the only one dragging around like a zombie extra in Resident Evil. Nay, nay. We all had, to one degree or another, our professional masks on. But as the conference went on–I saw the stressors start to crack the mask. Some people were worried about their home offices, others were frantically answering e-mails inbetween sessions, and many became lost in the hotel or couldn’t find a seat in the overstuffed rooms for their sessions. Some used the discussion sessions to vent about their jobs, and how much stress they were under. It was illuminating.

-Find the humor. When Tuesday evening rolled around, I brought the saint (he was travelling with me) into the ballroom so he could experience The Shining Effect (TM, A.R. Clayton) as I had. The evening event was complete with “heavy hors d’oeuvres and a full bar.” I had drink tickets, but we passed on the event and did our own thing. We had found an Italian restaurant that served huge portions for a decent price–we went there at least twice for dinner, and also had leftovers. God bless Italy.

Later that night, the saint went downstairs to grab some free bottled water we found the hotel offered. He came back upstairs, wide eyed. Apparently, the hotel lobby was filled with very tipsy (some flat out drunk) professionals who had attended said Tuesday evening event and were being quite vocal. I found empty beer bottles on a table by the elevators the next morning. I was glad we had skipped.

Conclusion & Miserable Airport Stories

By Wednesday morning, we checked out after I attended one last session. We went to the airport early, sat around for a few hours, blissful that we would be returning home soon. I began hearing delay notices for our flight…which eventually turned into a cancellation. The saint and I walked out of the terminal area past the customer service line that was a mile long, 200+ people deep. We flipped out our phones and rebooked our own flights and found a hotel nearby with a free shuttle.

The next morning, we got up 4:30 AM, got the first shuttle back, went back through security and got on our plane. We SAT in said plane for over an hour. Something about a systemwide IT issue or missing paperwork. Right. We landed later, found our car, and proceeded to get the heck outta there. Ten minutes later, I was on the phone with our mechanic–my car was making unholy noises. Apparently cars can do that when sitting at airports for an extended period of time–rust dust on brake pads, that sort of thing. The sound went away after a few miles of driving, as my mechanic said it probably would. We had made it.

That was my work conference, and that is how I survived. From being told I needed to put down a $400 returnable deposit on my hotel room, to sweltering in 90+ degree heat. It was indeed a magical time, full of learning and watching people nod off across from me.

It’s no wonder that Jack became insane during his time at the Stanley Hotel. It was all those people in the ballroom, I know it. Maybe he was an introvert, too?

Cheers and happy writing.


Introverts, sensitivity: Holiday Seasons

For those of us who would rather walk quietly in a museum, reshelf and browse books at a library or bookstore; for those who would like to put on a pair of skates and glide on ice under the stars seeing your breath blow out in clouds. For those of us who enjoy curling up with a favorite book, a blanket, and shut out the world around us. The holidays can be a time feeling like you are a Shakespearean actor, thrust onto a wooden, waxed stage. And you become deathly afraid of falling into the musician’s pit or disappointing the audience closely watching you.

Your feelings are valid; nothing is wrong with you. You are a sensitive soul, is my guess. And you are in great company.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. May you find a quiet nook this holiday season. Eat, write and be merry. At your own pace, in your own time, in your own way.

Happy writing.