So I went to Reno a couple of weeks ago. This trip has been in the making since November, when I went to my usual conference (the one I suggested be named DILDO).
"We want you to come review our program," my friend from Reno said. Her two colleagues nodded. They listed four areas they needed experts in, to serve on the review committee. They picked me for one of the areas. As an expert.
An expert. Me. Ahem. World, Blogget is a expert.
I recommended another expert for them. A friend from Lubbock. One who actually witnessed the 10-drink night. Her name is Maria. She's actually damn good at what she does, so she was a good fit for this panel.
The ladies in Reno like to have fun. So, I packed business clothes and fun clothes. I had been told that we'd be business people by day, and party people at night. We were staying at Harrah's, which is a little lost on me because I'm not a gambler. Remember this conversation from Las Vegas?
"Have you gambled while you've been here?"
"How'd you do?"
"I lost a dollar."
"Hey! You're doing good!"
"No. I only bet a dollar. I've lost everything I wagered."
Okay, so I had to try again in Reno. I wagered three dollars. And promptly lost it. Blogget is a bad gambler.
I was the first to arrive. I caught the hotel shuttle on a Sunday morning, and was the only passenger. The sweet driver gave me the nickel tour of the town as we headed to the hotel. "There's a good buffet. And if you want snacks and sodas, go to that liquor store. Watch your step when you get out - they'll run over you."
I checked in and wandered the hotel a bit. I signed up for Internet access and did some of the work I'd be missing over the following three days. I checked out the online course they gave me to review, and made notes.
The second person to arrive gave me a call as soon as she got in. "Let's get something to eat," she said. We headed to the hotel's 24-hour diner. Not a bad place, although we were challenged by a language barrier with the waitresses. We took a walk by the Truckee River and watched people reveling in the River Festival. We found a delightful bookstore. I peered into the windows of closed shops, looking for souvenirs to take home to my folks, the kids, and Ranger.
After I stepped away from one window, she said, "You have a shopping habit, don't you?"
I thought that was bitchy. Bitchiness noted, and I'd be watching my back.
On the way back to the hotel, we talked shop, about administrators and our other panel members. She didn't know Maria well. We're all members of the DILDO group, but Maria has only been to one conference. The other three of us are DILDO Board members. (Okay, so that cracks me up to a ridiculous degree. What can I say? I have an inappropriate sense of humor.)
And speaking of....I'd brought a little toy with me, since I was traveling sans kids. Thought I'd have a little phone fun, while I had a hotel room to myself. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men...but more on that later....
I waited up late for Maria that night. I was so glad to see her! We had much to talk about. When she checked in, they put her in the room next door to me. We went to the 24-hour diner, too.
Once in my room, I started to change into my pj's. Sitting on my bed, I contemplated the toy and the phone call, wondering if it was too late on the other end.... Then, I heard it.
The unique ringer of Maria's cell phone. Through the adjoining door between our rooms. I could hear everything in her room. I do mean everything.
I looked at my phone. I looked at my toy. And put it back in the suitcase. Damnit. So much for privacy.
Our agenda for the next couple of days was grueling. We interviewed everyone related to distance learning there. The only time the tables were turned was in the first breakfast meeting with the college's administrators. Provosts, vice provosts, deans...oh my!
The Provost comes up to me and says, "You're from Mesa? I'm not familiar with Arizona. Where is that?"
"In Colorado," I said, smiling. "Grand Junction."
"Oh! In the south!"
"No, in the west. Pretty much due west of Denver, just before you hit Utah."
Here's the funny thing about this conversation. I later learned he was from Colorado. WTF, right?
So, he sees me put salsa on my eggs. He laughs. "Oh! Salsa on eggs! That's a Colorado thing!"
"No," I winked. "It's a Texas thing."
I've rarely seen such a bewildered look.
After the breakfast meeting, the four panelists were left alone. The one I'd had lunch with the day before said, "I'm sorry! I don't know anything that the Dean said! I just kept thinking how much he looked like Bill Clinton!"
She was right. He really did. "Did you keep thinking of cigars?" I said, laughing.
She was shocked. So was the other one. Maria about fell out of her chair laughing. See, she gets my inappropriate sense of humor. But guess which two I didn't share my DILDO joke with last week?
On the second day, they took us to lunch at an Italian restaurant that's to die for. I mean it, folks. If you're in the Reno area, you have to go to Casale's Half-Way Club. It doesn't look like much, but it's FANTASTIC! Apparently, one of the student workers in the office is the grand-daughter of the owners, who started the place in 1937. The kind of place where the grandparents start making meatballs in the wee hours each morning, and the whole place is staffed with family. The student came to lunch with us. We met her grandma, who left the kitchen long enough to greet us. Her grandpa sat at the bar. Her cousin waited on us. Her brother did the dishes. The flavors were unbelievable. Really...don't miss this place!
Travel log over. But I wanna go back.
We worked hard. Interview upon interview got wearing. They picked my brain, and I picked theirs. Then, we had a few minutes to talk together and give our debrief of our findings. It would not be comprehensive, but the administration wanted an idea of what our official report would bring. As an instructional designer, I had a few tips and tweaks to recommend for their online courses. And I chastised their IT department like I chastise ours -- communicate, people! No excuse for not giving these ladies the tools they need to succeed, when you already have them in your back pocket.
We stayed up too late that night, not wanting to say goodbye to everyone. Maria and I went to the market/souvenir shop across the street. I picked out t-shirts while she perused the selection of liquor.
"Oh my! i haven't seen that stuff in years! Oh look! That's back-in-the-day...."
Ranger called. "What are you doing?"
"Maria is walking down an alcoholic memory lane."
"Oh, like Mickey's Wide Mouths?"
"Yes! There they are!" And they were.
We went back to the hotel with little bottles of wine and Kahlua Mudslides. Two hours later, the bottles were empty, we'd caught up on all the old gossip, and I was sleepy.
Maria and I gave them an extra morning, on the day we left. The other two left early, but Maria and I came to their offices for a couple of hours. I talked shop with the administrator and instructional designers, while Maria worked on the system itself.
Soon, one of the ladies came in dancing. Literally, dancing! "Maria talked to our programmer," she said. "And it was...lingo...lingo...lingo....and poof! Pretty reports! We have pretty reports!" More dancing.
They sent Maria and I lovely candles the next week, for giving them extra personal time with our expertness. Wow. I'm bowled over by all this.
However, we left without our compensation checks. Two weeks later, no check. This bugs me. It's a bureaucratic-red-tape kind of thing, but it's bugging me. Checks are nice things to get, even though I like the candle a lot.
12 hours ago