In California, veterinarians are required to complete 36 hours of continuing education every two years. It’s a good requirement, one that forces us to stay on top of the constantly evolving field. And, like in other professions with similar requirements, most of us fulfill those requirements by going to meetings and conferences that get big chunks of that educational requirement taken care of.
My husband is in his company’s business division. Their meetings are racuous, high-falutin’ affairs with dinners in steakhouses, free flowing wine, and headliners. Vets, on the other hand, tend to have conferences in Marriots and the like with taco bars, $1 soda and ‘an evening with Sha Na Na’. I don’t mind. I can skip the taco bar and go buy something edible.
On the other hand, I find attending these conferences somewhat awkward. For various reasons, I almost always end up going by myself instead of with a group of buddies. I’m not the most extroverted person in the bunch, so walking up to a table of 9 people who obviously know one another, plopping down, and jumping on in is right up there with “sticking 18 gauge needles through my cornea” in terms of comfort level.
Talking to someone once we get going isn’t an issue- as you can tell I have more than enough to say- but those introductions are rough. And since this is a group that tends more towards the introspective quiet types than other fields to begin with, finding someone to talk to can be a challenge.
We had a 15 minute bus ride to a location yesterday morning. A lady seated herself gingerly next to me. I smiled. She looked straight ahead. “Nice day,” I offered. She grunted. At that point I pulled out my iphone. I looked around at the sea of faces, but most everyone was tightly enclosed in herds of We Work Together Already or sitting sullenly, staring out the window at the Wal-Mart and watching for something interesting to happen.
On the way back on the same bus, I got stuck next to a woman who answered when I said hello, but the only topic she wanted to spend time on was how much she missed her cats. This is how I ended up in my room at 6 pm watching Julie and Julia (which was decent, BTW.)
I’m used to it by now, having gone to a good many of these. If you’re gregarious, you have no idea what I’m talking about. But if you aren’t, you understand the anxiety of sitting by yourself at the restaurant in a state of Loserville, poking at a plate of cold scrambled eggs and wishing you had someone normal to talk to.
Fortunately this morning, I was first on the bus and was soon joined by an outgoing blond woman who was, like me, on her own. We’re tight now. We’re conference buddies. When we found ourselves in an unfortunately bad lecture where we were supposed to role play (seriously, someone was assigned to play a dog, and someone else the veterinarian) we guffawed and made incredulous noises at similar volumes. We tag-teamed the vendor show so as to maximize our accumulation of free stuff. We hit the karaoke bar at the hotel after the conference (sadly, the play list was already full and we were never given the opportunity to inquire about our preferences: “Borderline” or “Single Ladies”.)
In retrospect, the fact that I did not sing “Single Ladies” in public is quite possibly the best thing to happen all week. Second best thing though is meeting someone whose sense of humor is the same as yours. It makes the time go by a lot faster.