Even i have limits. i can tolerate a rather remarkable amount of pain – particularly in regards to enduring meetings, workshops and technical conferences. i have developed tools and techniques for staying awake.
Physiologically? They call me “The Camel”, as i am generally able to drink my weight in coffee in a half-day meeting and never require a mercy break*. That – and my ability to sleep on airplanes – is one of my most important business skills….
Friday was Day Four of a Hardcore Tech Workshop. The first three days of the meeting were at our on-site conference facility – allowing me the option of sneaking home for lunch and avoiding getting my leg humped by aggressive and/or needy academics looking for research funds. They often have no table manners, and will corner me during lunch, sharing the merits of their particular microcosm of the research universe whilst spitting chunks of squishy pasta salad in my lap.
The final “invitation only” geekfest was held at a downtown hotel… less convenient for an escape. With about 200 people at the events earlier in the week, it was easy to disappear and escape notice. The final day consisted of a smaller subset of researchers, maybe twenty folks total. This presented a much greater challenge – especially since i was one of only two “senior leader” types in the room…
So it had to tough it out. This little topical workshop was focused on a piece of my technological pie. Since i’m the techno-strategist du jour for my new group, i felt obligated to feign as much interest as possible.
i pulled out all of my standard tools. Fantasize about someone in the room? Umm… right…. Mostly physicists. Next trick, please? Discreetly surf the news on my blackberry? Nope. Seats were crammed too closely together in a small room. The speaker would see me doing it… just too rude.
Oh, for the love of Maxwell, these fuckers simply would not shut up! We were destined to run late. On a fucking FRIDAY afternoon. But i was hangin’ tough. Going through my “to do” list for the weekend in my head. Playing games with the words being spewed**….
At 1:30 pm, i began to squirm… the dreaded “Post-Lunch/Pre-Cookie Break” chasm of death. Nowhere to stand and pace in the back of the small meeting room. i was trapped. When the final speaker of the session launched into an impassioned discussion of non-hermitian hamiltonians, i cracked.
Looking at my blackberry, with my trademarked “Oh, There’s A Highly Urgent Management Matter I Must Attend To” furrowed brow, i stood, grabbed my coat and briskly walked out of the room, off to the parking garage and squealed my tires outta there.
Sometimes they simply can’t pay me enough…
* In fact, i have used this particular skill to accelerate the decision process. After filling the urn in the group conference room with coffee, gathering my management team around the table, and hashing out the advantages/disadvantages of a particular course of action, i can wrap a meeting up fairly quickly with the statement: “No one is leaving this room until we come to a decision!” They’ll squirm, cross their little legs, and sometimes even pace a bit, but eventually, we’re done and there’s a mad dash to the cans… Yeah. Evil, but highly effective.
** One particularly enthusiastic speaker, who was Greek, managed to hold my attention inadvertently. Every time he said “PT Phase” it sounded like “Pretty Face”, and therefore made his presentation much more entertaining…