Convergence 2010, Day Three

I woke up before the alarm once again today. The pain in my calves, feet and knees had subsided though I didn’t feel real refreshed. I did sleep in the middle of the bed as had been suggested to me and that did seem to work better. Maybe I should see what the baggage fee would be to bring my own mattress from now on… I’m sure the airlines understand and charge reasonable fees for things like mattresses. I mean, they don’t charge for car seats, strollers or wheelchairs, but I see no notation about mattresses. Guess I’ll have to ask next time.

Anyway, I slithered out of bed and two steps later all the aches and pains from yesterday returned. Given that today was going to be a long one and I knew it was going to be a long one, I was not happy with the status of my feet.

I got ready and put on the company shirt I wore yesterday. Yes, I washed it in the sink last night and let it dry. This hotel has ALL the amenities, let me tell you! Well, except reasonably priced internet service, that is. There’s a hide-a-line in the shower, so with little effort I was able to pull out a clothes line and hang dry my fine outfit! I spent a good bit of time marveling at the existence of this in my little room. Truly impressive. And to think if we had not had a wardrobe delivery malfunction, I’d probably have never discovered this fascinating technology. See, we were supposed to receive several company logoed shirts on Friday. Made of environmentally-friendly bamboo, how awesome are we as a company? Anyway, the shirts didn’t arrive – they were delivered to a non-existent address somehow. No matter, one of my colleagues loaned me one of his shirts so I’m all good and appropriately marked as a member of The Team. Soap works last I checked, so I’ll just wash it every night.

As karma or luck or coincidence would have it, at the registration desk yesterday (at the conference center) they had a bowl of sample-size Seventh Generation dish soap. I <3 me the Seventh Generation dish soap (though it’s not as heartable as the Sun and Earth dish soap), so I picked up a sample. Now my shirt smells all citrusy and clean and I can see myself in its shine. (That was a joke for the folks that are at least my age – remember the 1970s era Palmolive dishwashing liquid commercials that showed two women comparing the results of them using their various dish liquids to clean their abnormally greasy dishes and the user of the off-brand exclaiming “It’s so clean, I can see myself!” while looking at the Palmolive-cleaned plate. Yeah, ‘cuz that’s how we rolled in the seventies… we didn’t have video games or cable television or ipods so we popped our “Grease” soundtrack into the 8-track player and stared at ourselves in dishes for fun. Ahh, the good old days.)

I skipped breakfast this morning, including the “coffee” they claimed to serve at the hotel bar. I figured that since my partners slept in a bit and were ignoring my calls and texts, probably because they hate me just like the voices keep telling me they do, I’d pretend to get a little work done before heading over to the conference center. I was also not willing to face my disappointment at not having any grits available to me, so it was best for me to stay away so that I wouldn’t lose my cool around the innocent barrista. Besides, as I mentioned, it’s best not to drink (coffee) alone, as drinking coffee alone is just a gateway to harder things like drinking peppermint tea alone or many other far worse possibilities like eating scones.

We finally met up and headed over to the conference center around 10:30 so that we could get ready for our booth duty. Since the expo hall was set to open at 12:00, exhibitors were allowed to have lunch at 11:30, before the rest of the attendees. They kindly brought boxed lunches over to the exhibit hall around 11:00 and they were also opening the dining hall at 11:30 for us. The boxed lunches were right next to our booth, so I went there first, only to find that there were no vegetarian options. I walked to the lady running the Show Services booth to demand satisfaction and equality for all vegetarians around the universe (okay, so I asked if there was somewhere else I could get some grub). Her response was, “There are supposed to be vegetarian sandwiches in there.” So, she walked with me and checked it out, finding that I was, in fact, not blind. She said she would call down and have them bring some over, so I sat down with my group and ate their potato salads and cookies. About 15 minutes later, she walked over and said, “You should just go to the dining hall because it will take a while before someone can be freed up to bring you something.”

Fine.

Anyone who is paying attention can probably guess how this will turn out. If you’re not paying attention, remember that this is part of my travel escapades…

So, I went to the dining hall, which had an entrance from within the exhibit hall as well as one from outside in the main hallways. At the entrance from the exhibit hall, I was met by no less than a dozen people who looked at me with scorn and told me to go to the security checkpoint in the hall, where I would have to clear security to get in. I explained that I had, in fact, already cleared security, since I was inside the building and inside the expo hall. But, they grew bored of me and simply ignored me.

So, I went out into the hallway and walked up one level, across for a bit past another gloating, chuckling and empty coffee cart (empty except for the bowl of coffee beans) and over to the downward escalator that would bring me back down to the level I was just on, only a few dozen feet further east (have I mentioned all the walking up and down and around and around? I think I have.).

Now might be a good time for me to point out that the bowls of coffee beans at all of these coffee carts seemed to be filled with precisely the same number of beans. I’m estimating that there were approximately 63 beans per bowl. This is just an estimate, of course, as I’m not a bean counter and I really didn’t have time to study the bowls to the extent necessary to write an app to do the bean counting for me. So, if it turns out that I am wrong and there were only 13 beans per bowl, please forgive me.

Where was I? Oh, yes, I was at the top of a downward escalator, one floor above where I had been moments before and one floor above where I needed to be. There I was met by a rope, a red, menacing Rope of Doom and Despair that gaped at me as if to dare me to try to get past it. To the right sat a security guard who looked at me like I was violating her airspace. Her facial expression said all I needed to know:

“What the heck are you doing here, breathing my air and harassing my fancy Red Rope of Doom and Despair?” her face asked me. And so I explained the situation.

“I am an exhibitionist,” I said, showing my badge and cursing silently at my colleague who kept calling us exhibitionists instead of exhibitors. “I mean, I am an exhibitor. The Exhibit Hall opens at noon, and exhibitors are supposed to eat at 11:30,” I added.

“We’re not allowed to let anyone in until 12:00,” she said politely, but sternly, pointing to the Red Rope of Doom and Despair.

By this point, there were a dozen other exhibitors behind me. Together in one unified voice we said, “But we have to be working at 12:00!” It was this moment that made me understand the meaning of the slogan on the Convergence signs… “Today | Tomorrow | Together” is meant to symbolize the rise of the workers against the tyranny of the corporate world and its paid mercenary security agents who exist simply to make it impossible for us to be successful.

I was proud to be part of the brewing riot, but I also understood that shouting was not going to accomplish anything, so I calmed my voice and explained how I had been to the Show Services booth (aka, the Exhibit Hall Overlords) and they had sent me to the dining hall. However, the dining hall tyrants had sent me out to go through security. And they had all agreed that we were supposed to go in early, so, I pleaded, “would you please let us down?”

No change, she stuck to the rule she had been given. She let us down, alright, just not the way I had hoped.

The person behind me in an electric scooter started yelling then. The two people carrying ski poles with cardboard squares containing their company name taped to the top like some kind of protest or perhaps some kind of advertisement started shouting. I politely requested that she get a supervisor and she complied. It took a few minutes but the supervisor showed up. I explained the situation again and then another time. Finally, she seemed to understand and she radioed HQ either to ask for confirmation or to call in the SWAT team. Luckily, I could hear the response and it was confirming our stories. She told the lady in the scooter to hit the elevator and go down and then she disappeared, leaving no instructions for the security guard. The lady in the scooter complained that she had just come UP in that elevator, but she went ahead and sped off, nearly knocking me over in the process since she misjudged the amount of space she had. At least she apologized while she yelled at me for being in the way.

So, the supervisor disappeared for 15 minutes or so but eventually she yelled up from the bottom of the escalator, giving instructions to allow us down. It was now about 11:55 and a whole lot of non-exhibitors were in our midst. The mob of near-rioters rushed the escalators, pushing on each other in a mad dash to be the first in line, because that’s how exhibitionists exhibitors, roll. I was first, you’ll be glad to know, and I didn’t knock anyone down or throw any elbows. Entering the bright dining hall, we were met by cheering, clapping dining hall staff members, singing songs and directing us to be happy and healthy and head to the farthest buffet line. There were guards (my term) at the long row of buffet lines shouting (in song and various styles of theatre) to proceed all the way down to the last buffet service and anyone who tried to stop at a closer buffet line was appropriately chastised. I’m sure these guards were armed, though it might have been with nothing more than a slogan (get it? Slogan… slow gun… sigh, fine, that one sucked. Sue me, I’m really tired!). Anyway, I trekked all the way to the final buffet and there was cheering and clapping from the helpers at this end of the building, like some kind of marathon had just been won. I grabbed a plate of baked ziti and some weird couscous salad, along with three different kinds of cake. I skipped the dinner rolls because I am, clearly, watching my carbs.

Anyway, I choked down the meal. Don’t get me wrong, it was quite good and the desserts definitely did not disappoint me in any way, though I think the lemon one could have had actual lemons in it rather than the “natural and artificial lemon flavoring” it seemed to have. I love couscous, but usually I eat it hot and this was a cold conglomeration of couscous and veggies. It was good, but I’d have preferred it if it were warm. Note: still no coffee, though there were tea bags and coffee mugs, along with sugars and creamers, on the table – no hot water, though and no sign of coffee pots.

I finished eating around 12:05 and was at the booth at 12:13, where I stayed until 5:00 when the hall was closed to all attendees (exhibitors could stay). During that nearly five hour timeframe, I spoke to a number of people about my former product and did a couple of in-depth demos. It was great to see so much activity (it was almost constant) and so much interest in these products and our services. I must admit to some part of me still having emotional attachment to the product I invested 14+ years in, so my ego was certainly bolstered to hear current customers praising the product and potential future customers being excited about what they were seeing.

I also met the man who fired me back in November. I had never met him before, nor had I even had a conversation with him, since he usually either skipped our meetings or backed out at the last minute. I’ll admit that I expected him to be taller and perhaps a little older, but whatever. He grunted at me and acknowledged I was there, but that’s about it – I was not the person he wanted to talk to, so I didn’t rate, I guess, and I really am not sure if he even knew who I was. He was with a guy with whom I had tried numerous times to setup meetings over the year before I was laid off only to be ignored every time. This guy came into our booth while I was demoing the product and someone else was demoing other products… and he starts cursing and saying negative things about the products. Let me make it clear – these are the products his group is tasked with supporting and selling, and he was bashing them loudly. Sure, it was likely nothing I hadn’t said myself at one time or another — the difference is simply that I didn’t do it in front of customers or prospects. It was awesome, as I’m sure you can imagine. Luckily, he also didn’t want to talk to me and since the one person he wanted to talk to wasn’t there, he left before I could ask him to go. I was irritated for the rest of the day, though.

At 5:00, the expo hall closed and everyone who was not an exhibitor was ushered out for an hour so that they could setup the dinner stations inside the hall. I wandered over to the exhibitors break room and found a thing that was labeled as coffee, but I was too scared to try it given that I hadn’t actually seen anyone carrying coffee around the place. Maybe tomorrow.

We lucked out and had a booze station right next to our booth. We tried to convince the bartender to just look the other way so that we could grab a few beers before the throng of thirsty people showed up, but he was under strict orders to not allow any fluids to flow until opening time and from the looks of things, there were people monitoring him to make sure that he toed the line. At 6:00, the hall was opened again and the booze started flowing. With our fortuitous position next to the booze station, we had a constant stream of people as an alcohol-induced captive audience. Some of these folks may not remember doing so, but they all willingly placed their cards in our little fishbowl and will be receiving our marketing propaganda shortly. If they don’t like it, maybe next time they’ll stick to drinks no stronger than Diet Coke.

Dinner was setup at various stations throughout the hall and included things like (cold) pizza, burgers, fancy cheeses and lots and lots of booze. Thankfully, there were a lot of desserts, too. I had a piece of the cold, flatbread pizza which was tasty enough and was clearly not supposed to be cold. I then found a hummus station and grabbed a plate of multi-colored garbanzo bean heaven. This I considered my appetizer. For my entrée this evening, I had several small pieces of cake, some giant cookies – oatmeal raisin cookies dipped in chocolate, chocolate chip cookies dipped in white chocolate, macadamia nut cookies dipped in white chocolate or regular chocolate. And then for dessert I had a kit kat, a “fun size” three musketeers and a fun size snickers. As an aside, I still wonder what’s so fun about “fun size” candy – I think they’d be a lot more fun if they were 31 times that size, don’t you?

The dinner session in the expo hall was open until 9:00 and as such I lost track of just how many not-so-fun sized candies I ate. I’ve never been good with numbers that large, which is why I’ve spent my life writing budgeting software rather than using budgeting software, of course. I grabbed a couple of cookies to go as we left the building just after 9 (they were just going to get thrown away, so it was clear that I had to do my part to avoid wasting them. I always try to do my part, you know.). Unfortunately, the chocolate melted in my hand as we were going up the escalator, so it became a gooey mess. Didn’t stop me from eating it, of course, it was just messier than I’d hoped.

The Marta train delivered us successfully to the area of our hotel and we headed up to our party rooms and hung out for a while, mostly complaining about our feet hurting. Eventually it was time for bed for the lightweights like me so I left to wash my shirt (I know, that’s what everyone says they’re doing in their hotel rooms at night).

Total steps for today: 8,652 (I was mostly in the booth)

Total desserts for today: 5 pieces of cake, 8 large cookies and probably more than a dozen pieces of candy (remember, this was my entrée. So stop judging me.)

Total coffees for today: 0. That’s right. ZERO. See? I can, in fact, stop any time I want to (no matter what the coffee beans are whispering behind my back). I control the coffee, it does not control me.

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