Saturday, April 12, 2008

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Yesterday afternoon it occurred to me that poring over banquet event orders is not all that different from poring over highway construction plans. Both consist of reams upon reams of paper, filled with dry, boring specifications.

Though, unless you have a taste for bituminous flex base, banquet event orders are more apt to make you hungry.

Did you know that, these days (I haven't done meeting planning in several years), it's standard for a hotel to charge you extra to have the electrical outlets in your meeting room activated? We're paying $35 per room per day for it, and I'll bet you that's cheap.

Planning meetings will warp your sense of what things should cost. I've paid $3.95 for a can of soda or $18/person for a light continental breakfast and not thought twice about it. There's also a surcharge of 20% on everything, written into the contract, "to ensure the quality of the service of hotel staff." I wasn't around when this contract was negotiated. I wonder if we could have struck that out and gotten the hotel to waive the charge in exchange for letting the waiters spit in the food? Duly initialed by both parties.

One big difference between this job and the old one is that it would actually matter if I failed to review the information carefully. This seems a bit odd, since what I'm doing now is supposedly a little more tangential to the overall mission of the agency than what I was doing before. But there it is: how important is it to maintain accurate data if people in other areas of the agency - as I've since discovered - aren't even aware that it's being maintained, and just call up a regional employee to ask them to go out and take a look at the roadway if they need the information?


The banquet event orders are the dullest thing I've had to deal with yet in the new job, so it's really not so bad. It just sets my mind to wandering on hypotheticals, like do we really need electricity? I mean, really? And would it really be so awful to feed conference attendees bituminous flex base? It's one of those things everybody assumes is bad without even trying it. Kind of like demonic possession.

Fortunately, my job keeps me much too busy to come up with such seditious ideas, for a change.

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