Sunday, March 11, 2007


I apologize for not posting much recently. A week ago last Friday I was told I could go to a conference that I had been told I was going to in February and then told I was not going to the Tuesday before I had to leave. So I had to uncancel my hotel reservations for an overbooked hotel, cancel my Girl Scout troop meeting that I had uncanceled, let DD#1 know that she had to drive DS#2 to the bus stop for school, remind DS#2 that he had to get up earlier because his sister needs to leave earlier than we do to get to her 8:00 a.m. class, and he had to make his own lunch, and remind DD#2 that she also had to get herself up, her lunch made, and be out of the house in time to walk to school.

The conference turned out to be pretty interesting on both a professional and a personal level. One of my close friends, who relocated to the East Coast, was there, and we made arrangements to go to dinner. I ran into another former co-worker who was able to introduce me to the Vice-President of Sales at his company. I met a couple of customers I had trained. I met several groups from ports in China to whom we are either selling data or trying to. I met the representative from the port of Manzanillo, Mexico, who supplies my company with data for that port.

Best of all, from a strictly personal point-of-view, I felt like I belonged. I knew how to dress. I knew the lingo. The panel discussions made sense to me. I knew enough people that they introduced me to others and soon I was eating and drinking and laughing with a group instead of holding up a wall or wandering aimlessly with a drink in my hand.

In the wierdest coincidence of all, I met the marketing manager for a container company who is married to one of my classmates from high school and is the brother-in-law to another one. And he went to school with the guy I dated my junior year. This sort of thing often happens to two people who grew up in San Francisco, especially if their families have roots there. Others in our "cocktail cluster" were more surprised.

But being away meant that the reports and things I was supposed to produce during those two days didn't get done. (I don't rate a Blackberry or a Treo or a laptop.) I felt rather strange being away from a computer, kind of like a withdrawal. On the other hand, my most urgent issues were passed on to my colleagues and I couldn't worry about them.

The awkward part was Sunday night when I was on my own for dinner. I slipped a book into my purse and was thinking about my options (I didn't want to just eat in my room) when I ran into an associate. She was on her way to a dinner engagement but suggested I visit the Queen Mary, which is moored nearby. Turns out there is a free shuttle, so I spent several enjoyable hours poking around the shops and historical displays on board. I wondered if the restaurant would stick me in a corner, but they showed me to a window seat where I could enjoy the lights along the harbor.

Much better choice than room service!

I impressed one of the senior sales reps there, as I was able to introduce him to some of the accounts he is taking over from a rep who retired. ("You worked that room like a pro," was his assessment.) Since he's close to the President of our division, this is not a bad thing. In fact, there may be more travel in my future.

I'd rather have more money.

Still, I remember my first awkward cocktail parties with customers, some thirty years ago. (That long? Yikes!) I wasn't sure how to juggle a drink, my purse, and a plate of appetizers. (I know now that I don't even try!) I drank drinks too quickly, trying to keep up. I worried I laughed too loudly. I didn't know how to move gracefully from one group to another. I clung to the people I knew like a drowning woman to a life preserver.

Kind of nice to move beyond that.