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Monday, July 21, 2008

BlogHer '08: Part 1: The Big Fail.

I'm going to begin in the middle, proceed to 16 years before the middle, continue to the beginning, and then get to the end. I've been told that sometimes it helps to give your readers a little introductory topic sentence that lays out the roadmap. So there's mine. Do you also want a compass?

The Middle

After the first full day of BlogHer ended there was a big party at a club behind the hotel. I was eventually convinced to get over my shyness and just get the introduction over with, even though in 24 hours it had been built up way out of proportion for me by someone who shall remain nameless and deserves to be flicked in the nose a few times, and it had become more of an obstacle than something I was looking forward to. So I cashed in my first drink ticket and wandered up to her as she was speaking with a couple of other people.

The Prologue

When I was 15 I spent a week visiting my cousin Michael in Barrie, Ontario. Set two 15 year old boys loose on a town like Barrie and hijinks ensue. Boring hijinks, really. We mostly just walked around, trying to buy cigarettes (which I was totally successful at even though I stammered the entire way out of the store), and smoking down on one of the baseball fields. We were joined in our delinquency by a third boy, Michael's friend. And he and Michael spent a lot of their time talking about a girl they knew: Lisa. She was gorgeous, and cool, and, well, that's as far as the descriptions went because that's as far as their attention span lasted and I didn't mind at all because I was also 15 and interested in hearing about gorgeous, cool girls.

We ran into Lisa one night, while we were walking around smoking, and my cousin's friend pointed her out, called her over, and started talking to her. Michael joined in. I stayed a little out of the way, nursing my cigarette; I had nothing to say to her, so no reason to interject myself into the conversation. Plus, she was gorgeous, and that made me nervous. She asked for a cigarette, and wham! I was in the conversation (because I was the one who had the guts to try to buy them earlier, so I was the keeper of the smokes).

I was so cool. I slid the Export A box open and eased one of the white sticks of awesomeness out, then offered it up. Because 15 year old girls never have their own damn lighters, she asked for a light, and all of a sudden I had no idea who the other two guys with me were: strangers? shadows? The Competition?.

Yeah. Someone was going to be lighting that cigarette, and we all had our own lighters. Michael had a Zippo, because Zippos were cool back then. His friend had a plain black Bic, the tall functional, unimposing utility lighter.

I had also picked up a Bic, at the store when I bought the Export A's. And I was so focused on what was going to go wrong with that purchase at the time that I let the clerk pick the colour of the lighter I asked him for. So he tossed a short, pink, Bic, onto the cigarette pack and I didn't have the guts to ask him for a different colour.

We weren't completely dumb, so we knew she was going to ask. We were also competing a little bit, and it was only upon whipping out my short pink Bic that I remembered that I had a short pink Bic and that there is nothing less impressive than a short pink Bic.

So, now what? How do you patch over the hole in coolness that carrying a short pink Bic around leaves? If you are me, you open your mouth and reveal all of the amazing wit and intelligence you have hidden within your soul.

You say: "Here. Use mine. It matches your eyes."



I stood there, hand outstretched in front of me, as all three of them turned to look at my little pink Bic.

Later, my aunt would put it best: "You really have a way with words, Shawn. No girl can resist a man who calls her an albino to her face."

The Beginning

I spent the first night of BlogHer meeting an insane number of people at a pre-party and being made to feel, over and over again, like a goddamned rockstar. People were that cool. Afterward, I went to bed at 1:30am and then let Erin wake me up at 3:30 and 6:30. I caught the 7:30am train back to SF and arrived for the first day very, very tired. I missed breakfast, and picked at lunch, and tried some coffee in the afternoon that just made me jittery, anxious, nauseated, and eventually even more tired.

I was not a rockstar that night. I didn't have the energy to hold up conversations. I was lame and emo and if it weren't for a few ladies who really propped me up all night I doubt I would have stayed very long.

So, it was the perfect time to go introduce myself to someone. It occurs to me now that I may not have taken the initiative in introductions until that moment, and it shied me enough that I had to work really hard to try it with other people, even when I wasn't exhausted, sick, emo, and anxious.

The End

"Hi." I was all smiles, hovering beside her for a few moments while awaiting a gap in the conversation.

What have my eyes looked like when I have turned to look at people I don't know? Have they been so appraising?

"I'm _______," she said, politely.

"I'm Shawn," said I.

Now what, genius? Oh, right. Why would she know "Shawn"?

I pointed down to my namebadge, so artfully printed with "Backpacking Dad" (while every other person I met had filled that space with their actual name).

Whoops! Nothing. Maybe a flicker of recognition. Maybe annoyance.

"Oh, hi. I've seen you around but I didn't know who you were."

"Yeah." Nerves again? "I'm, uh, easy to pick out and tough to recognize."

Complete and total confusion. Man, you should have just gone with calling her an albino to her face. At least that provoked a smile once.

"So, how are you enjoying the conference so far?" She remained polite, but any conversation we were going to have would never ever recover.

"Have you met anyone you'd been looking forward to meeting?" she offered, professionally.

"Yes, [she who deserves to be flicked in the nose] has kind of adopted me so I've been talking with her a lot."

"Oh, she's great. Are you having a good time?"

A smart person would have ended this conversation with "I'm Shawn" and walked away. But you have other plans, don't you Bic-boy?

"It's a little overwhelming." What was the plan, dude? Did it tank when you realized she barely knew who you were? What, did you think you were going to walk up to someone and they would Of Course know who you were? You conceited ass. You have nothing, now, right? I'll remind you later that you could have brought up War & Peace, had a one minute conversation about it, and then left. I'd remind you now, but I really want to see what you are going to come up with here.

Polite nod.

"Plus," No, dude. Stop. Stop stop stop stop, "I've been feeling really anxious," please stop, "and nauseated all day."

Wow. I didn't think you could top the albino-compliment, but telling a writer you interact with online that, basically, you want to go throw up, is BRILLIANT.

She had nothing to say in response to my absolutely charming confession. And I didn't have the energy to put anything else into this moment. There was no saving it.

"Well, I'll let you get back to your conversation."

She looked a bit confused and relieved.

I retreated, went upstairs, and used the "I feel nauseated" line on some other women. It seemed to work.

You can't win them all. Or I can't.

After the albino-pickup-line of 1992 I always carried a little pink Bic with me to light my death-sticks; it reminded me to just take a couple of seconds to put my thoughts together.

Never should have quit smoking. Maybe I'll start carrying around one of those airplane barf-bags instead.


Doodaddy said...

You were "emo"? That hardly seems to fit -- I think I'm glad I only went to the pre-party!

CaraBee said...

I am sure it wasn't as bad as you think it was. I'd be willing to bet my own little pink bic that she was as nervous about that conversation as you were. Did you consider that maybe SHE was starstruck??

SciFi Dad said...

Sorry, but this post was COMPLETELY USELESS without links, dude.

Who's the nose flicker? Who's the one who ran before you yakked on her (probably new for the conference) shoes?

Names. We need names.

Badass Geek said...

A short, pink Bic, eh? They say size doesn't matter.

It's good to feel like a rockstar every now and then. Or so I've heard. I've never felt that way.

sam said...

It's always hard meeting new people. I ALWAYS say something stupid which keeps me from approaching other people for fear I may say something even MORE stupid! LOL

I'm sure the trip progressed (upwards) from there!

Carolyn...Online said...

Try to remember the rock star night and block out the next one. And more info please - who had you star struck into stunned dorkness?

peachy said...

maybe i'm just strange, but i would have liked it if a guy lit my cig with a bright pink lighter. makes him stand out from the pack...and i agree with scifi dad...i want names!

Mommy Melee said...

I'm glad to read this post. Your tweets were distressing all weekend, but so familiar. I've always flirted with massive social anxiety, and I hate that it usually takes a few drinks to get me over the hump. I'm also really prone to fits of self-conscious emo shenanigans. So I wanted to plop down on the train with you and kick some drunktards in the knees and say yeah man, I know how you feel.

Ali said... least you didn't ask anyone if they'd ever been in a meat locker....she wins for most awkward conversation starter ever. hahaha,

Backpacking Dad said...

doodaddy: I know, right? So lame. Emo is a choice. A lame choice.

carabee: no, absolutely not :}

scifi dad: links in the next one, but this one was just a story. I didn't want this one to be gossipy.

badass geek: size totally matters in the lighter department :}

sam: it absolutely got better. I can't believe what a great time I had.

carolyn online: ah, this was just a story that needed to be written down. Well, it's a true story, but it's just one small facet of a really brilliant diamond of a weekend. :}

peachy: names in the next one. although maybe not these names :}

mommy melee: Aw. I'm sorry I was using Twitter as a little chasm to shout into. It was a great weekend. Just a bad Friday evening.

Backpacking Dad said...

ali: I almost brought up the meat locker woman as a contrast because that is an awesome story. :}

Jozet at Halushki said...

You should have totally used the albino line a few times. ;-)

Oddly, I still can't wait to go to BlogHer next year and be totally overwhelmed and feel dorky. I think that 2nd time BlogHers should form a BlogHer Mentor group for those BlogHers who are feeling a bit dorky.

As long as there is no hazing. I don't want to have to swim in Jell-O or anything.

Neil said...

I'm not sure I understood the point of this point. Are you telling young men that the only way to meet hot chicks is to start smoking?

Julie Pippert said...

I, for one, am relieved there are a lack of links in this story because it lets me put any number of people into the position (excluding myself because I'm pretty sure we talked about my health exclusively, so it's too bad you didn't say nauseated to me b/c dude, I would have totally understood).

It was great to meet you and I will eb broadcasting party pics...someday.

Right now I have to (a) recuperate) and (b) start prepping for a possible hurricane that might hit here on Thursday.

How much are you selling that house for...I come with an architect...

I think I want to evacuate back to SF...

Jill (Boston Savvy Souce) said...

It's not the size of the... oh forget it. Too unoriginal. Congrats on going. I'm actually skipping a networking event that I do not even have to travel to because I don't have a pal to go with. You seem charming in a shy, normal guy kind of way.

Mary Beth said...

You come across as so confident in your blog, I would never have pegged you as having that kind of awkward moment. There are many times when I just blurt something out to fill the silence and it makes absolutely no sense at all. I've never told someone I feel nauseous though. Just think of all your readers who will now be coming up to you at BlogHer 09 and telling you how they're feeling:D

Jill said...

Hi Backpacking Dad - we met in front of the coffee kiosk in the Roomba room (boy that sounds weird) and it was a pleasure to meet you. I actually skipped the People's Party and the Ruby Sky one and didn't make it long at the newbie mixer. I'm shocked at how many people I didn't meet - but I was extremely glad that I had the chance to meet you. Thanks for writing this take on the events.

Marilyn said...

I think you're hard on yourself. Every time I happened to see you at the conference you were surrounded by a gaggle of adoring women. Not a bad gig! But I think you felt all the feelings that I felt the entire weekend...

I met you briefly on Friday morning (Loralee was there, if that helps) and I'm pretty sure I came across as just a gigantic dork, but I'm glad I got a chance to introduce myself. :)

Lollie said...

Oooh, my skin is crawling with your discomfort. I think you should always cary around a pink Bic lighter. It's definitely a conversation starter...just stay away fropm the albino eyes comments, cause that seems to cause screeching halts.

Headless Mom said...

As long as I'm not the ass that you're speaking of...

I actually had some of those moments this weekend, too. I think we all did.

Danielle said...

Agh! I can't even follow because I need more details. Who are these people you are talking about!

But it's a story? Not real?

I'm so lost...

Backpacking Dad said...

jozet at halushki: there was absolutely no hazing. I think the BlogHer mentor thing is a great idea.

neil: Every girl I ever went out with I met while I was a smoker. Chicks dig guys who cough on them.

julie pippert: you saved me during a long, fatigued afternoon.

jill (boston savvy source): I think "charming, in a normal guy sort of way" is my new favourite compliment :}

mary beth: probably ever other person I met at Blogher would agree with you: I'm a frenetic cheeseball in person and this incident was a crazy blip. But I can't wait for all of the gastro-intestinal reports next year :}

jill (writes like she talks): You had the chance to swat that coffee out of my hand! I blame you...;}

marylin: I totally remember! And you didn't come off as a dork at all. I win at dork.

lollie: I should have been carrying around a bottle of vodka like I had been the night before. That was a real conversation starter.

headless mom: true dat. I remember this one time when I totally flexed my bicep and posed for a picture with someone. :}

danielle: Oh, it's real. I said "it's a story" just meaning that I didn't want to gossip about it; it's a story about how I made an ass of myself, not how someone else did something to me. So I left the names out :}

Danielle said...

When talk of Blogher was going on I was certain I didn't want to go.

Then all the posts about it and I became so envious- I so wished I was there.

But I KNOW KNOW KNOW I would have been so socially awkward that it would have been blog world suicide.

I guess the good thing about meeting super cool bloggers is that (it seems) most of us are painfully socially awkward in real life...

at least that's what I keep telling myself. It helps me sleep at night... :)

Redneck Mommy said...

You wanted to flick someone in the nose????

You come off as all sweet and polite and totally harmless.

Yet here you are. A closet nose flicker.

Oh, The Joys said...

You totally made that up.

I call bullshit.


for a different kind of girl said...

Girls love emo boys. Even if said emo boy looks better wearing her skinny ass jeans. Fact.

Backpacking Dad said...

danielle: everyone was amazingly cool. But it was also painfull.

Redneck Mommy: what? who could I possibly have been talking about?

oh, the joys: sometimes I tell the truth :}

FADKOG: but why? they're so lame? "Oh, my tortured soul." Whatever, dude. Grow a pair, grab a drink, and dance like Stairway is coming up next. said...

See, I didn't know what you were about, so I asked if you had any camping recipes while we were at the bar at the Westin. And you looked pained that you didn't, and explained that you carry your daughter in the backpack, thus the name, and I felt pained, because I totally put pressure on you to come up with recipes for the TRAIL and all.

But it worked out and I enjoyed meeting you, especially after it was over and I didn't feel like such a dork.

Good to meet you, BD.

Anonymous said...

I met you for all of 2 seconds (while you were standing next I shouldn't name names until your story is finished)I was on the way out of lunch (I think) and she (who was standing next to you) said, "Hey, you know Backpacking Dad...right?"

[eyes go wide]

Me: "Um...oh, my gosh, yeah...hi, I'm {something unintelligible) and I read you all the time."

You: "Of course, it's SO nice to meet you!"

[bites lower lip]

"Um...excuse me...but, I gotta go pee!"


Never did get the nerve up to try at another chat.

Can I borrow your Bic?

Miss Grace said...

Ha. I spent Friday night in "Fake Jenny" mode, which involves a lot of big smiles and outgoing handshakes. Which I think is good, because it keeps the introversion at bay, but also bad because that? Is totally not me, and I always think I must look like frightened rabbit behind a fake smile. If I made anyone uncomfortable, I was honestly too drunk to notice....

Backpacking Dad said...

anneglamore: that was one of my most hilarious and awesome meetings :}

liz@thisfullhouse: I was so glad to see you and then you ran away (I think I was being dragged away somewhere too, so it's not all your fault).

miss grace: I probably should have had more to drink. "The Shawn" really comes out with booze. :}

Immoral Matriarch said...

When I met you you weren't stalkerish. You were just drunk. And full of cheesburgers.

becky said...

Um, we didn't officially meet, but I wished I'd had the nerve to come up and say hi. Although I did see you with a bottle of vodka and said I wanted to follow you to whatever party you were going to. I'm sure that sounded great from a mom who was pushing her 8 month old around in a stroller. Ha! Maybe next time. :)

(@lolagoetz on twitter)

Steve from winescorecard said...

I thought this was pretty funny. It brought back memories of buying Export A's back in Lakefield, Ontario when I was 16.

What great days. Of course, I had a Zippo, so they really were great days.

Backpacking Dad said...

immoral matriarch: not that drunk, and not that full. I had one cheeseburger, and one pickle :}

becky: that was awesome! and I was entirely uncomfortable walking around with that thing and having people ask. It never crossed my mind what a provocation to conversation that thing was going to be. I do remember the party remark :}

steve from winescorecard: damn zippo dudes, stealing my girlfriends.

Assertagirl said...

Damn...this conversation is totally sounding familiar...

kittenpie said...

Barf bags DEFINITELY the way to go. In a pinch and with a little imagination and a pen, they make GREAT puppets.

caramama said...

I am sorry about your ackward moment, but Dude? This was hysterical! Thank you for sharing your pain for my amusement! And haven't we all done something totally geeked out like this? I know I have.

Backpacking Dad said...

Assertagirl: Not You! Although I may have, uh, recounted this tale to many others over the next day or so. It was on my mind.

kittenpie: excellent. and then I can do a ventriloquist act to get myself to shut the hell up :}

caramama: you're welcome :}

bejewell said...

Oh God, maybe I should have used an alias instead of linking back to the woman I accosted. Did I breach some blogging etiquette?

Great. Now I've got a whole new THING to obsess about. Thanks a LOT, Jake Ryan.

crazymumma said...

Darling. After the age of forty all of this does not matter. One realizes that one rules the world and carries a pink lighter with pride.

ah. But I can tell you have far to go grasshopper.

I really want to know who the nose flicked should be. Because I shall go and tdo the flick. laughing merrily and carefree all the way. Because I as I have said after forty one is untouchable.