Thursday, July 26, 2007

Favor Curry

The best part of being a meeting planner was all the free lunches.

Actually, this is not entirely true. The free dinners were better. Fam trips (these are basically all-expenses-paid trips, including airfare and luxurious meals and accommodations, intended to familiarize meeting planners with a destination so that they will want to hold events there) were the best of all, only I never got to go because the only one I ever got invited to, in Geneva, Switzerland, was scheduled to end just three days before I was due with Anna.

She was born eight days late. I totally should have gone.

My current job is not very likely ever to send me to Europe, unless there are some fairly drastic changes in the way Texas state government is structured. But I did get taken to lunch today by some of my business contacts from Corpus, who were attending our conference in Austin. San Antonio, Atlanta (Texas, not Georgia), Pharr, Houston, and Laredo were there as well.

The guy from Laredo inexplicably reminds me of Carl Sagan. Well, it's not inexplicable that he reminds me of Carl Sagan - he looks, sounds, and acts sort of like him, and is clearly very smart - but it is a bit puzzling what a person who would remind anyone of Carl Sagan would be doing in Laredo. So I asked him; and he said he's originally from Massachusetts, and apparently just up and decided he'd like to live in Mexico City. So, in rather methodical fashion, he opted to move first to Laredo as a test environment.

But I didn't find out if he still thinks this was a good idea.

He brought a beaker of water and a PH testing kit to lunch, tested the beaker, the drinking water, and some tap water, and performed a few impromptu experiments on me and another of his tablemates. Smart guy. A little odd, maybe, but very bright people generally are. When I was a mere slip of a girl and all my classmates had ginormous crushes on Sean Cassidy (I'm dating myself here, but you know what they say about that*), I had a ginormous crush on Carl Sagan. I'm a little odd, too.

Robbie works with the guy from Houston. When Robbie and I were still very new (we started this job at the same time), Robbie called Houston to ask him a question. A secretary answered the phone. Robbie asked to speak to his contact.

"Oh, he passed away," said the secretary offhandedly.

"What?" said Robbie, taken aback.

"He's passed on," the secretary repeated.

"Oh my God. I'm sorry," Robbie exclaimed.

"Oh, it's okay," the secretary said.

Robbie hung up and told a senior coworker, who was surprised. "I just talked to him two days ago," he said, "and he didn't sound sick!"

And of course it turned out that the guy was not dead at all, and so all this time, we've just assumed the secretary was... well, a little on the transportational side. But we didn't tell this story to the guy in question until his unusually substantial and hearty-looking ghost attended the conference this week. He was puzzled, and after thinking about it for a day or two concluded that the secretary had misunderstood because someone whose first name was the same as his last name had died a couple of years before Robbie and I started this job.

I only hope she'll think it's funny that some people she's never met in Austin have assumed she was bat-shit insane for about a year and a half.

The conference is finished now, and overall I think it was a success. At the end, our supervisor lined all of us analysts up in front of what was left of the audience to thank us, and my contact from Corpus pointed to me and shouted out, "I'll take the one second from the end! How much?"

And that beats out free lunches, dinners, fam trips, and maybe even the tins of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies the sales staff at the Doubletree used to drop off in the meeting planning department where I used to work, once a month or so.

Well... maybe not the cookies.

*"You always get some when you're dating yourself!"

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