Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Don't Get It

When generating the content for this blog (for you non-writers who don't have the fancy-dancy vocabulary down yet, that's another way of saying "writing the crap you're reading now"), I'm faced with three interests:
  1. Keeping it interesting
  2. Keeping it real
  3. Keeping it positive
Usually those interests are aligned, but sometimes they're not entirely square.  Today, ferinstance, I'm faced with an interesting topic that's real but isn't entirely positive.

I know, I know--yesterday I said "If I don't have anything nice to say...."  I also sometimes say "there is no such thing as a stupid question."  Trust me, little white lies like that are the tools of the trade for us teachers.

Trust me.  No, really. 

Anyway, one of the things that continuously amaze me is how others apparently think very differently from me.  I don't get it.  I mean, I assume that people are generally not out to make my life miserable; I know there are exceptions, but they're the exceptions rather than the rule by definition.  If that's the case, though, then some peoples' minds must simply work really weird sometimes.

Take, ferinstance, the Con Suite, which is the fancy-dancy way of saying "snack room" at the Ravencon (and many similar Cons, for that matter).  I worked there most of the time, not because they needed my choppin' magic but instead because that was where my wife was assigned and I liked being there with her.

(Note that I did get to use my amazing Ginsu skills a few times, and boy were my co-workers amazed.  But that wasn't the point.)

The point, I guess, is the number of times I had to point to perfectly obvious things.  "Do you have any coffee?" was a frequently-asked question.  "Yes, we do."  "Where is it?"  "In the coffee pot right behind you."  "Do you have any water?" others would ask.  Now, at least I understood what they were getting at; these days folks are conditioned to believe that you cannot drink di-hydro mono-oxide unless it comes to you contained in a little plastic bottle.  These guys, though, always asked the question over three pitchers full of ice water with cups right beside. Literally over, as in some of the kids had to stand on their tiptoes to speak over the water pitchers. 

I don't get it.

What took the cake, though, besides the number of people who asked us if they could have a piece of the cake that said "do not touch the cake"--no lie--was the dozens of people who walked right past the two uncovered and well-stocked bins in the entrance, one labeled "Regular Sodas" and the other labeled "Diet Sodas," in order to ask me if we had any sodas.  Seriously, it was dozens.  I really had to work to maintain a straight face, and I very likely failed toward the end. 

I don't get it.

Saturday morning I left the Con Suite to participate in the session I'd been looking forward to all convention long: Writing Workshop.  It was a small event, only 12 participants allowed, run by a panel that consisted of a literary agent I've come know on Facebook, an author who floored me at SheVaCon with his extensive knowledge of the craft (Allen Wold), and a reader I'd never heard of.  Hey, I help set up the setup, so I felt no shame in signing on early.  A good friend of mine from James River Writers also showed up early to sign up for the session, and I was looking forward to both improving my own writing and seeing her work.

It didn't happen.

First, I was put out of sorts by a lady that--well, I don't get it.  She was sitting in the middle row.  When I went to sit in the front row, she told me I couldn't sit there because I'd block her view of the twelve-foot-wide panel in the front of the room.  I moved to the side as she suggested, and she complained that her friend wouldn't be able to see.  "Why," I thought of asking later when I'd cooled off, "don't you ladies sit in the front row, then?"  I didn't ask, though, because....

Well, lookit.  When you're at a Con, next time you see a guy walking around with "STAFF" hanging beneath his name, please, for the love of God, Odin, Cthulu, or whatever deity you speak to at night, be nice to him.  Odds are he was on site two hours or more before you thought of getting out of bed; he's very probably both tired and hungry and is doing whatever he's doing not because of the pay (somewhere around $0 per hour), but instead because he loves the conference.  He also knows that if you say something stupid to him and he smarts off in return, there's a chance he's not doing the Con any favors and may not get to do it again the next year.  Odds are, if he's smart as well as exhausted he'll just gurgle quietly, smile his best toothy expression, and move off to somewhere else.

Luckily enough, the session was way overbooked.  Somehow "Max 12" had been understood by some of the attendees to be synonymous with "somewhere around 15 or so."  Since I was no longer in the mood to write anything that didn't tell the story of a convention attendee who met an untimely and quite painful ejection from the hotel via the topmost floor, I took one for the team, used the overbooking as an excuse, and went back to putting my Ginsu magic on display. 

I don't get it.

As the convention was getting a rather rough start despite the meticulous preparations that had preceded the opening day, the Con Chair put out a message about how important it was for everybody to do what they had committed to doing.  He ended the message with "I will probably be doing a lot of yelling today."  Now, I've come to know him a little, and I suspect that the comment was only half-serious, but it was intended to "serious" everybody up and make sure the guests' experience was okay regardless of pitfalls encountered along the merry path of setup.  I think, anyway.

In any event, another staff member--I'll call her Staff Member B--responded with, "If you yell at me when I am trying to help, I will leave."  That I took as a gentle reminder that we're all volunteers.  Despite my own occasional propensity for yelling things, rule #1 of managing volunteers is that you never raise your voice.  Her comment, then, was a nice reminder.  Not subtle, certainly, but subtlety wasn't exactly what was called for in getting the thing kicked off.

Fast forward to Saturday evening.  The band, Bella Morte (a band I came to really like, incidentally) started playing, and one of the staff members was asked, I think, or at least she took the wonderful initiative to get them some sodas.  She actually found the sodas, a feat that had outwitted several dozen guests by that point.  But then, because we'd run out of ice and had decided to not spend any more (the hotel actually charges for it) since the evening was winding down and, well, we know what happens to ice overnight, she found that the sodas were relatively lukewarm.


Now there are several solutions to the problem, but she took Path C.  She yelled at the (young) crew in the Con Suite, and then buzzed by the few of us standing at the Reg desk to yell at us.

Hey, I understand.  Frustration after a long day clearly took its toll.  No worries; I went back to the Con Suite and smoothed out the feathers and stuff.

But wouldn't you know it--the yeller was Staff Member B, of all people.

I don't get it.


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