Thursday, February 23, 2012

Conference A-Go-Go

So, you all hear me talk about my big conference every Fall.  Back in 2007, that's where I had my little fling with SC.  In 2010, it was held at Ole Miss.  The woman I've referred to as Droopy Dog (the one who tried to start gossip about SC) gave a presentation to the Board there, to host the conference at her school.  They're in a little town in Illinois.  The presentation went something like this, in true Droopy Dog form:

"We're really not sure how you'd get here.  You can fly to St. Louis and rent a car, but it's a long drive.  There's a small airport near us, but their planes aren't very good...."

"We have a new Motel 6 you can stay at, but we don't know how we'd get you to campus for the meetings.  I guess you'd have to have your own car."

"We have a great barbecue place for the big Friday dinner.  It's won awards and stuff.  But I don't like it."

The president later said she wondered if she was the only one hearing how ridiculous this was, until she looked across the table and saw me "rolling [my] eyes uncontrollably."  She'd never seen me do that before.

The woman sitting next to me shielded her mouth as she turned to me and whispered, "OH MY GOD!"

When Droopy Dog finished, a strange silence fell.  Someone broke the silence by turning to a colleague from Minnesota and saying, "Didn't you say we might be able to come to your school?"

He looked baffled.  "Come to Minnesota?  In November?"

Yes, the presentation was that bad.  But he agreed to go ask his boss.

And that's when I did it.  I said I could talk to my boss, too.  I did, and he liked the idea, but not for 2011. Too much going on.  2012 would be better, he said.

So, at the next board meeting conference call, I was prepared to report that we'd submit a proposal to host in 2012.  I was sure our friend in Minnesota would come through for us.

"Sorry, guys," he said.  "My boss said no go on the conference."

My cell phone lit up.  It was my pal at Ole Miss.  The text said, "DO NOT MAKE US GO TO ILLINOIS!  TELL ME WE CAN COME TO COLORADO!"

So, I spoke up.  "My boss said we could submit a proposal for 2012, but I can ask if he's willing to bump it up."

"I can help with whatever you want," said my pal at Ole Miss.  "We just hosted and have all kinds of things to help since it's such short notice."

"Why don't you all want to come to Illinois?" said Droopy Dog's voice.

I honestly don't know what the answer was.  But I can tell you this - it was the last time I've heard from her.  At all.

So, we put together the proposal.  At the next meeting, it was approved.  We sent out the announcement and put up the conference registration site.

Guess who was the first person to register?  It was SC.  Immediately, I got a text from him.

"Are you staying at the conference hotel?"

"No, I live here.  About six blocks from the conference hotel."

"Oh.  So, if I want to make an omelette in the middle of the night, I can come to your place to do it?"

WTF?  Really?  Not only does he know all about Jacob, but I am completely aware that he recently remarried his ex-wife.

"Only if you don't mind cooking for my boyfriend, too.  I live right behind his house."


So, on with the planning.  It's a three day conference, with additional pre- and post-excursions to local attractions.  It all fell in my lap.  Even the stuff my boss said he'd do.  Oh, except for the part about scouting wineries for our excursion.  He did that part.

Let me say that where I live is the perfect spot for a conference.  It plays host very well.  Everything fell into place perfectly.

And SC was one of the first to arrive.  He was among the group going to the "Early Bird Dinner" on the first night.  I was in the lobby with the others when he showed up.  Now, since the last time he saw me, I've lost about 60 pounds.  He did a bit of a double take when he saw me.  He gave me a hug and said, "You look good.  I mean, really good."  I smiled and thanked him, and we all headed off to a great dinner.

Many of my good friends arrived later, wanting to go out for a late dessert and drinks.  The nearby Irish pub still had live music going, so we headed that way.  SC had gone back to his hotel, but texted to find out where everyone went.  When he got there, he managed to slide into the seat beside me.

At the end of the night, the group's ticket was placed in front of me.  Everyone leaned over to see their totals.  As SC leaned in to see, I felt something strange.  Then it became insistent.  It was his hand, gripping my thigh and moving upwards, into unwelcome territory.

I tried not to jump and make things conspicuous for the others.  I put my hand down to block SC's wanderings.  A few excused themselves to go to the bathroom before we left.  SC turned to me.

"Maybe I shouldn't be doing that."

"Right. Maybe not." My tone was not at all welcoming.

"Should I remove my hand?"

"You should."

"Okay, but you should come to my room.  I have some new music you should hear."

Seriously?  What a jerk.

The next evening, I was at dinner at a pizza place with other conference goers.  SC found us there.  I was sitting beside my pal from Ole Miss, and she was quite put out when SC worked a chair between us.  She told me later that she wondered why he was sitting so close to me, invading my personal space.  So, I told her why, and told her about the pub.

"What an asshole," she said, in that delightful Mississippi drawl.

Another friend (from Colorado Springs) overheard one of his repeated invitations for me to come to his room.  So, we explained the situation to her, too.

"What an asshole," she said.  Between the two of them, they decided that I would not be seated anywhere without the two of them taking up the space on either side of me.

You gotta love good girlfriends.

As we piled in vans that night to go to the big Friday night dinner, my Colorado Springs friend saw SC climbing into the van I was driving.  She made him sit behind her.  She spent the whole trip to dinner asking questions about me and Jacob.  Loudly.  Just gotta love her.

That was a stellar night.  Dinner at a winery.  Live entertainment from our theater department.  Perfect weather.  As people smiled and laughed, my boss came to stand beside me.

"You really pulled this off," he said.  "People are really having a good time.  This is a great group."

And I was early proud of myself, truth be told.  Months of hard work, and it was working out.  No disasters.  The following week, my boss actually asked when we could host again.  He wants us to be very active with this group, and support my activity in it.

SC did not relent, until the last day came and it was obvious that I was not accepting those invitations.  We haven't talked about it.  I just let it be.  Let him go home to his wife, knowing there was a line I wouldn't be crossing.  Jacob means a lot to me, and I won't put that on the line.

As we gathered for one last dinner, several people came to me to thank me for putting on a good conference for them.  I was flattered, and oh so happy that they'd enjoyed our little town.

The past president, who had seen me rolling my eyes at that meeting one year ago, pulled me aside.  "You're on notice," she said.  "Be prepared to be president, as of the next ballot."  She was the first of a few to say that.  It kinda scares me.  But to have their respect feels awfully good, too.

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