I spent part of last week at a conference in Washington, D.C., one of those deals where industry executives and underlings come together to share exciting new ideas and make unfortunate personal choices after four free cocktails.
Prior to 2009, this conference was held in the convention center of whatever the city du jour was – usually somewhere like Dallas or Austin or Philadelphia or Orlando – all perfectly attractive cities, but ones that would not be my first choice when someone else is footing the bill. Apparently, whoever plans these things does not own a map that extends beyond the continental U.S., and assumes that traveling to a treacherous locale like Paris or the Italian coast would risk tumbling over the edge of the world and falling into Hell.
I know, it’s all about travel costs and time, but I personally think that the dissemination of ideas would be greatly enhanced by disseminating them on the balcony of the Hotel Splendido in Portofino, Italy; but apparently I am alone in this notion, and in fact, convention exoticness has been headed in exactly the opposite direction. I expect next year’s to take place at the Comfort Inn in Keokuk, Iowa.
And I’ve already been there.
But I digress.
Starting last year, conferences as a rule were scaled down. To their credit, this year’s was held in a city to which I have not traveled for two decades, and one which, as our nation’s capitol, has a unique glamour and allure that I was able to enjoy for nearly 30 minutes each night. The only problem was that pesky scaling-down process. Instead of the convention center, the entire conference was held at a large convention hotel which was not, according to my math, nearly large enough.
I don’t know whether there were a slew of last minute attendees or the organizers were smoking a fat one with Nancy Pelosi, but it was as if we had been crammed into it like a train bound for Auschwitz.
Typically, meeting rooms for these conferences are plenty large enough, with tons of empty seats that help make the speakers at any given session feel really lousy about themselves; but not this year. Attendees were stacked like participants at a really uncomfortable orgy, and exiting any given session required lube, optimism and a diet plan. Fistfights broke out. Women fell off their heels. Grown men cried.
Every subsequent session became fraught with stress – if I’m late, I’ll have to take my notes standing outside the door. If I stop to make a phone call, I’ll be stuck praying that someone who made it inside is stricken with leprosy or a freakishly tiny bladder.
This is a period in American life where those of us who were not bailed out have to scale back, and I both respect and support that; but really, does it have to start with meeting rooms? I feel kinda bad for having to deck Dr. Laura Schlessinger over a seat.