What struck me as particularly odd is that this dream came with a back story. I had been scheduled to speak at a conference some months prior. The opening night events had taken place, but the rest of the conference had been postponed due to an imminent storm. So I arrived at registration on the morning of the resumed conference, already in a foul mood. The new conference was on a weekend instead of a weekday, and so it was cutting into family plans. Plus, I no longer wanted to go to the banquet, for which I had paid at the original conference, but wasn’t sure I could get my money back. And the venue, which looked like a large, carpeted lecture hall without any seats, was horribly crowded, adding to my frustration.
This was obviously a conference outside of my immediate discipline, something social science-y instead. I saw from a distance the leader of our atheist parenting group, except I could hear him say that his name was ‘Gaius’ (which it’s not, although his last name is Latin-y). The Classicist I was with (no idea who, originally Trillian was with me and then she wasn’t) remarked on his name as I tried—and failed—to get his attention.
The new program was given to us in a hardback format, full of ads and other bits of information not directly related to the conference. More frustration. I headed to find a place to sit—by myself, since I was suddenly alone. Everyone was finding space to sit cross-legged on the floor. I finally settled in at the very front; high school marching bands, without their instruments, and athletic teams kept sitting en masse where I wanted to be, so the very front was all that remained.
I decided to stuff the hardback program into my backpack and pull out the original program since I thought it would be easier to find information in those few pages of paper—the organizer said she was sticking to the original order. The backpack was the one Scooter uses for school, and the interior looked much as one would expect of a kindergartener’s backpack. The lunchbox and extra change of clothes were missing, but crumpled papers lined it, along with other, unidentified items. I slid the hardback program into the back and managed to locate the other one, smoothing it out a bit.
I was pretty sure that my paper was in there and that I had even thought it was pretty good back when I first wrote it, but I couldn’t remember anything else about it, not its title or content or even why I had wanted to attend this conference.
I thought about going out into the hall as soon as the organizer quit talking so that I could sort through all the papers, but the first speaker was at the podium before I knew what was happening. As he began to talk, there was a mass exodus. Since I was sitting right in front, I felt like I couldn’t get up now that he was speaking, so I felt trapped.
The presenter was speaking in a foreign language, something odd I couldn’t place. Occasionally he almost made sense, but those moments quickly passed. There was another person standing next to him who appeared to be translating, but he wasn’t the one at the microphone, so I couldn’t hear anything he was saying. I still hadn’t found the information in my program, so I was completely lost.
And then I woke up.
I think maybe I failed to mention that the worst part of a conference for me tends to be attending session upon session. Information presented orally with only limited visual support is the most difficult way for me to learn new things or follow a new-to-me argument.* And generally speaking there are only one or two papers in a session that I really want to hear, but I’m not the kind of person who feels comfortable entering or leaving at any point other than the official beginning or end.
After I register today and have answered the pressing question of which cocktail hours I should attend (opening night? graduate students? both? neither?), I’ll be sitting down with the online program for this upcoming conference and deciding which sessions I really want/ought to attend. Then I’ll make plans with the two friends who are local to the conference so I can meet their kids and try to catch up a bit. Plus a trip to Ikea and/or Lego Store—because that’s really the main reason to travel to a major metropolitan area, right?
*Seriously, want to make outrageous claims and have me nod along solemnly? Make a long oral presentation. I won’t have any rebuttals or questions until I’ve been able to process for several hours or days. And you’ll be gone by then.**
**Except you, Trillian. I will come back to the topic, out-of-the-blue, days later when you’ve forgotten you ever said those things in the first place. But you already knew that.