So I drive to the conference center like a bat out of hell. My original plan, the plan in my head (that land of the perfect me and perfect world where everything always goes...well...perfectly) was to be a little early so that I could stop at Starbucks for my 2nd cup of coffee. By the time I got there, however, I sat at the intersection debating. I could skip coffee, be grumpy, and be 5 minutes late. Or, I could swing through the drive through, get my coffee but be 15 or 20 minutes late. I hesitantly drove on through the intersection when the light turned green and continued to the conference center to park, figuring 5 minutes late was bad enough, but still looking over my shoulder longingly at the Starbucks sign that was so close yet so far.
When I arrived, there were no less than 10 big yellow school buses lined up outside the building. I had forgotten that today was kid's day in conjunction with the book fair that would take place on Saturday. So I parked, as close as I could find a spot. Grabbed my laptop bag, purse, lunchbox, sweater and notebooks and headed across the wet parking lot in my flip flops. Yes, that's right. I had also dressed completely inappropriately for the rainy, cloudy weather in a fit of wardrobe confusion and optimism for spring weather.
Once inside I made my way to the registration table. Finding the session I wanted to attend in the program, I was lucky that the room was right around the corner. Now, I had been to conferences in this building before and I knew this room. Or I was pretty sure I did. Although the next door down was labeled 113 and I was looking for 112, I was pretty sure it came into the back of the same room. I hesitated at 112 a moment, not sure, and decided just to go in 112 not wanting to risk bursting into the wrong room. When I slowly opened the door, I saw that, of course, the program had already started. At the front of the room stood a tall, lean man wearing a huge cowboy hat. "WTF?" Was all I could think, "I have got to be in the wrong room, what big ole' Texan guy writes memoirs?" blogger's note: I did not, at this point, know if he was from Texas, I just naturally assume everyone wearing a cowboy hat is, indeed, a Texan. 'Cause I'm open that way.)
There I stood. I was inside the threshold of the door. Right in the front of the room. Yes, everyone was looking at me. Yes, the speaker too, and he was smiling and telling me it was fine come on in. He stopped speaking until I could find a seat. I was loaded down like a pack mule with laptop, lunchbox, purse, notebooks, and a bottle of water. I raised my hands in front of me in the universal mea culpa gesture and mouthed "sorry sorry" to go along with it. I immediately spied a seat on the aisle and made a bee-line for it, my flip flops making a slapping sound with every step. I was so grateful for that aisle seat so that I didnt' have to climb over people, slapping them in the back or head with my lunch box or purse or anything else.
Only as I dumped my laptop bag, lunchbox, purse, water bottle and notebooks in the floor in the aisle did I notice the man sitting next to the spot I had chosen. He looked ecstatic that a girl had "chosen" to sit beside him. He looked like I was possibly the closest he had been to a cute girl, well, maybe ever. He reached over and eagerly pulled my chair out for me and, don't think I didn't notice, in doing so pulled it a good 2" closer to his. I gave him a sideways glance and a sweet smile, silently thanking the gods that the scoop neck blouse I had chosen that day wasn't more low cut.
This guy, a hulk of a man, really, just looked for everything like the bully from the Simpsons all grown up. Or a guy who would hang in the comic book shop on Big Bang Theory. He was fidgeting and bouncing his leg and kept looking over at me randomly. blogger's note: when you read this, please think of him as having the speech patterns and mannerisms of that Office Space guy, the one with the stapler? 'Cause he totally did.
I tried to listen to the speaker who, to my relief and amazement, was really very interesting. Ad Hudler has published 4 books, one of which was a memoir of being a stay at home dad for 18 years and what happens when the chick flies the coop after graduation. He had some very relevant ideas about memoir writing, was entertaining and held our attention very well. I was taking notes and suddenly the guy next to me is frantic to ask a question.
Ad was talking about facts and how to represent them properly, what needs to be completely accurate and how timeline orders can sometimes be changed to help the story line move along. So a few people ask varying questions and then we get to the guy next to me.
He begins telling his story, about how he has had an experience in the past, he wants to write a memoir, but there is no one to confirm facts with, he never sees the people and they could be dead for all he knows, and the CIA is keeping a tight lid on all the details of what happened so he can't find any records of it happening. At least that's what I heard, I really wasn't paying attention because he rambled, rambled on for about 5 minutes. So while I am sitting there wondering if he was the victim of a UFO abduction or what that the CIA or KGB would be involved, I look over at him again. Big mistake. He starts confiding in me, while Ad is moving on, about the conspiracies and what a horrible, sad story he has to tell. I sort of nod and smile sympathetically whispering, "yeah....yeah" to anything he says because I am really not listening.
Now, y'all. Ad handled this whole situation with great aplomb and a genuine interest in what the guy was asking/saying telling. But I don't mind telling you that I couldn't have cared less. Y'all know I am nothing if not honest, and honestly? I really don't don't have time to listen to the ramblings of someone like that and their conspiracy theory that the CIA has their personal records, and is following them, bugging them, etc. I just don't care. I am sorry, I know that is awful, but it's the truth. I was basically thinking "well, this is my punishment for coming in late, sitting next to this guy."
So we move on through the lecture, which was full of great advice, and toward the end the discussion the guy next to me raises his hand. This time his concern is that his story happened a long time ago and he's afraid he's forgotten all the details. And, again, there's no one to talk to they've all apparently been killed or put in hiding by the CIA or KGB (again, just what I heard) and how can he bring back the memories. So this sparks a discussion on going back to the place, returning to the emotions, talking to people. None of which are an option in this guy's case. Again: see CIA or KGB.
Then it comes out that he spent a portion of his childhood in a mental institution. And he can't return there, of course, because the building has been shut down and he'd be arrested if he went there and the records are all missing, and he tells us his story of being there and being given medications and being locked up and he was a minor so he couldn't sign himself out, etc. Very sad thought, indeed. So trying to be helpful, others in the room start making suggestions like maybe a song that reminds him of that time or a particular smell.
And then, the lady sitting directly across the aisle from me speaks up. I had noticed her, a beautiful older southern lady sitting with another lady who I judged to be a daughter or sister because of their resemblance. She was very well dressed, prim and proper, perfect honey blonde hair done up out of the weekly wash and set. So she hasn't said a word all day, and now she is sitting there with her arms crossed in front of her chest. Without raising her hand, she speaks. And it's like the Cool Whip Queens have raised themselves out of the water and materialized at the writers conference.
"Weeeayuull, honey, yeeeww know whuuuut helllps me?" she asked in a slow southern drawl. "Ah find that a big glass of reeed wine helps unlock all sorts of memories." Giggles in the classroom. "Wheyun ah have one of those? Things just come floodin' out."
To which the man on my left responded, matter of factly, "Well, alchohol doesn't mix very well with psychotropic drugs, that's not an option. Definitely not an option." We all sort of sat in stunned silence.
Without missing a beat or blinking an eye, she casually says, "Well, honey. I cain't help that'chore craaaazy. Ahm just sayin' it wurks fuh me."
Well, y'all. The room exploded into laughter. I think the speaker may have gone to his knees for a moment. I couldn't even look at the guy next to me, I was afraid to see what was going on.
I was trying to supress my laughter, all the while thinking "My god, woman, I am sitting right next to this guy. If he's carrying a gun or knife I am gonna be between that and you. I will be the first to get it. Why oh why do I always have to sit next to the former mental patients who are heavily medicated?"
The woman still is cool as a cucumber. She's not really getting why we are all in hysterical laughter. She raises both her hands in a shrugging gesture and says over the waves of laughter, "Well, I'm sahrry, it's the truuth."
So. Awesome. How glad am I that I attended Ad's memoir writing session?
5 Lessons Learned:
1) Get your ass out of bed extra early so you can sit in the sane section.
2) Never pass up a chance for coffee-you never know what you might have to deal with that day.
3) Cool-whip queens are everywhere, y'all, and they are spectacular.
4) I am SO gonna be that woman when I am older. I am working on deepening my accent.
5) Writing memoir is tough and you have to pretend everyone is dead. At least that's what I heard him say.
Check out Ad's blog here! He's funny y'all. And not bad to look at.