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Three Stories from the Conference

December 4, 2006

As you know, I planned a national conference. It consumed my life. More logistics than a wedding. And just as much drama. Some people missed their flights. Instead of boring you with a day-by-day recap as I had originally planned, I will leave you with three vignettes from my time.

Vignette One – Eric Sent the Wrong Invoice… three times.

It was a day before the conference actually began. My fellow board members were flying into Seattle in a few hours. I had been to kinkos to pick up the packets, gotten a haircut, and went shopping for the event the next day. I had to drop off payment for the Burke Museum at 11:00 a.m. – I was already twenty minutes late.

Now this was supposed to be taken care of weeks ago. I had been working with this woman named Amy. She was nice and organized and we would talk about every two weeks about our event. Well she went on vacation. I had faxed Amy the contract over in plenty of time and left a note asking about payment. Because she was on vacation, a cute girl named Anna became my new contact. And because Amy is the only event planner for the museum, Anna had no idea about anything. To make matters more complicated, a person named Eric from accounting calls me, without Anna knowing, inquiring about my payment to the Museum. I said it would not be a problem, just send me an invoice and I would pay them. Eric says he is going to send me the invoice.

I check my email a few minutes later and the invoice from Eric is there. I look at it. It is for the wrong group and for the wrong amount. I email Eric back. He apologizes and sends me another invoice.

Wrong again. It is the same one he just sent. I email Eric again. We laugh about it and he sends me another invoice. Again, it is the same wrong one. Eric sent me the wrong invoice three times. This time, I do not even bother emailing Eric; I call the cute Anna again. She apologizes profusely for Eric and tells me he has been working there one week. Well at least we know that the Burke is in good hands with Eric in accounting.

Vignette Two – The Dairy Bitch aka My Conference Nemesis

Conferences are great. You meet people who share your same passions and beliefs. These people can reaffirm the reasons why you spend countless unpaid putting on a national conference. Well this blonde haired girl from Minnesota only reaffirmed to me that some people are just plain crazy, awful and weird. She was so awful that I cannot remember her name – it was either Bree or Suzanne. So for this entry she will be known as “Breanne.” Here is a transcription of an actual conversation we had right before lunch.

Breanne – Nick. Do you know if this bread has dairy in it? (we had mini sandwiches, the bread she was referring to was the size of a half dollar, and she only had two pieces)

Nick – You know, I don’t know but I can call the caterer (I made this offer knowing that most sane people, yes sane people, would decline my offer)

Well she was insane.

Breanne – You do that. I am allergic to dairy and I want to know.

Of course, my cell phone does not work in the room and I have to find the number of the caterer. I have a million things going on at once, and this bitch wants to know if there is dairy in these tiny pieces of bread.

Phone message of the caterer – Thank you for calling the Bay Laurel Catering. If you have reached this message during the hours of 8 – 5 Monday through Friday, that means all circuits are busy. (Of course, why would the caterer be there when I need them). If you are ready to place an order, you can do this online at [in the slowest and most deliberate voice, the man reading the message proceeded to recite the web address] http://www.baylaurel.com. (It literally took forever. It then went through the list of sales people and mine was list last of course).

Kristi (my sales person) – Hello?

Nick – Hi Kristi, I have a strange question about my order. We have an order of the mini sandwiches and a girl (conference bitch) wants to know if there is dairy in the bread.

Kristi – Well… we actually don’t bake the bread. But let me caucus the staff together and see what they think. I am going to put you on hold. [minutes pass]. Hi Nick, well we are 95 percent sure that if the bread is white or wheat that there is no dairy but if it is buttermilk there would be. Also, wouldn’t this person know about their food allergies if they have had it all their lives (Great question Kristi).

[I walk back inside and see Breanne]

Nick – Hi, well I called the caterers and they couldn’t tell me for sure. [I provide detail on our conversation].

Breanne – [in the snottiest of voices] Well, is there a hospital nearby?

Nick – [I am shocked at this point] Well Breanne, I would prefer if you forgo the bread, instead of risking a food allergy.

Breanne – Well I also have religious reasons why I don’t eat dairy. Thanks for nothing.

Nick – (OMG, thanks for nothing!?) [I say the following statement in the nicest way possible] Well Breanne, on your registration form, we had an entire section for food preferences, did you fill that out?

Breanne – No. I didn’t know that was there.

And with that last comment, she walked away. Breanne would call me before each meal and want to know the ingredients for dinner and lunch. You would think that someone who has been to graduate school, has a dietary restriction all their life and also have religious concerns around dairy, would be able to lead a life without handholding to eat their daily meals. But I guess I was wrong. What killed me the most was the amount of bread she wanted to eat. It was two tiny pieces. And there were plenty of other options available. If I were allergic to something, I would pass on the tiny pieces of bread. Plus, I think this girl was crazy enough to eat the bread and accept going to the hospital.

Vignette Three – Flying Glass Cuts Her Hand

I am over at the Burke Museum – the site of our last event. Our event starts at 6:00 p.m. and there is a flurry of action. I take a carload of people over to the museum to help me setup. Our keynote speaker, Jorge Cham, needs a projector for his talk. So I run an extension cord from the left side of the museum to the middle of the room. Now the problem with selecting the Burke for the venue of our gala dinner was that the Burke is a museum, not a restaurant. So the caterers I had been in communication with since the Summer of Nick (like the perspective), had to bring everything to the museum. Plates, glasses, tables, silverware and napkins – all the shit you take for granted when you have an event. And this is billed by the dish. Additionally, this was the only event where we had an open bar. So this girl (see below):

Is the bartender. She is pushing eight racks of glasses on a wheeled cart. We planned for 115 people. So there are 200 beer glasses, 200 wine glasses, 115 water glasses, and 200 soda glasses. Remember that extension cord? Well the bartender girl didn’t remember. She comes flying out of the back room with her rack of glasses and hits the cord at full speed. The cart tips over and glasses going flying on the hardwood floors. I see the whole thing happen. It was like slow motion. CRASH. Almost every glass breaks on the floor and the ones that didn’t were unusable because they had glass shards in them. There is broken glass everywhere. Flying glass cuts our Treasurer on the hand. And much to my surprise, everyone remained calm. The Burke staff ran to get brooms. The caterers ran back to home base to get more glasses. And I began to sweep the broken glass. It was the most awesome thing I saw. There is beauty in destruction.

The conference was a great success. I think I am ready to plan weddings. Here are some photos.

A photo Katie Vahey. I met Katie and her man in Boulder, Co., when I was there in April. Katie won the NAGPS Presidents Award. She was quite shocked and I loved that she won. I think this is a great pic of her.

A photo Katie Vahey. I met Katie and her man in Boulder, Co., when I was there in April. Katie won the NAGPS President's Award. She was quite shocked and I loved that she won. I think this is a great pic of her.

 A photo of my table during our Awards Dinner. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of my table during our Awards Dinner. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of the all of the conference attendees during our awards gala. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of the all of the conference attendees during our awards gala. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of the new NAGPS President, Liz Olson and me - why am I getting a neck rub? Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of the new NAGPS President, Liz Olson and me - why am I getting a neck rub? Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of me at the bar. Despite popular belief, not all those drinks are for me. God bless the open bar. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of me at the bar. Despite popular belief, not all those drinks are for me. God bless the open bar. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of me and fellow conference attendee Sarah. Sarah is originally from Seattle and now attends college in Philly. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of me and fellow conference attendee Sarah. Sarah is originally from Seattle and now attends college in Philly. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

 A photo of our keynote speaker Jorge Cham. Jorge writes a comic strip called Piled Higher and Deeper. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

A photo of our keynote speaker Jorge Cham. Jorge writes a comic strip called Piled Higher and Deeper. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton, taken on November 18, 2006 in the Burke Museum.

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