Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pawns in Our Own Game

At conference each year, we tour on three motor coaches. Each coach has a "captain," one of the conference planners, and each captain is armed with a heavy-duty walkie-talkie in order to coordinate with the other two coaches while we're on the road. Are you with me so far?

The captains are not normally armed with tape dispensers - this photo was taken just as I had put all of the the bus signs up. I had the best bus, by the way. Did I mention that I had the best bus? Well, I did. Go Green!

Conference is intense and it's a lot of work. But we have a lot of fun too, and one of the most fun things that we do is the bus cheer. It's funny how these things get started. From what I'm told, there never was a bus cheer until conference two years ago (I didn't work here yet, then), when the host city delegate assigned to each of the three tour buses stirred up the spirit of competition. It was a huge deal, that year. "I think by the end of the week," the delegate from that year's host confided to me last week, "we were just about ready to kill each other."

A few people from that year's host always attend conference, though, wherever it is, so the tradition has continued. My Gator Green bus cheer, last year, was written by an attendee from that city. But this year, the delegate had to leave partway through the week - and we pressed on regardless.

It's funny how things take on a life of their own. She started a cheer; no one much cared for it, and I thought it would fizzle out after she left. My two bosses were the captains of the other two buses, and they thought the whole thing would fizzle out too. But our attendees wouldn't let it drop. One of my bus people wrote us an awesome new cheer. I've told you how we actually ended up rehearsing in my room after hours, thereby ruining whatever reputation as a virtuous innocent I might heretofore have held (but let's not kid ourselves).

All that happened, though, was that my boss mentioned that on her bus - the blue bus - she was surprised at who had written the cheer. He's someone from our office, a good friend of mine. He's a funny, intelligent person, but not exactly someone you'd picture as a cheerleader. His supervisor happened to be assigned to my bus. So it all went down like this:

"Hey, you guys," I told my bus, "I heard a rumor that the Blue bus is really good. I heard they've been practicing. And I heard their cheer was written by a professional writer."

My bus immediately began to murmur. A professional writer? Who could it be?! "Isn't Charles on that bus?" asked one of my attendees, but his boss piped up right away: "Oh, I don't think that's the sort of thing Charles would do."

"I know!" I said significantly, "I wouldn't have thought so, either."

Her eyes flashed, and from that point it was GAME ON! Rehearsal was held in my room later that evening. Here I am with the photographer for whom I sacrificed my reputation, by the way. You have to admit he is pretty cute.

But even egging on our attendees this way - and there is some very strange sociology going on here, I have to admit - neither of my bosses, nor I, really knew quite how it got to be so big, or quite where some aspects of the whole phenomenon started off. I mused about it after the cheer competition, which I still think the Green bus should have won. "Does it ever seem to you," I asked my two bosses, "that we are merely pawns in our own game?"

They looked hard at me. "Well, duh," they said.

Just checking.

Forget the tape dispenser. If only I could dress like this for work every day!

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