I've been working at the Centers for Disease Control for a few years now. I started there through a small contracting firm that was purchased by a big, mostly-military-industrial-complex corporation a year or two ago. Recently the company decided to recognize some of the achievements of their employees and I was selected for an award. I grumbled about going to the ceremony. Frankly, I'd rather have the cash it cost them to send me to D.C. than the one-night trip. Sure, I could've extended my stay, but degenerate SW doesn't have many vacation days and we're going to NYC in a couple of months so I'd rather save her vacation time and our disposable income for that trip. It wouldn't have been wise to decline the D.C. trip and I hadn't been there since the mid-80's, so I boarded the smallest plane I've ever been on, a United flight that loaded straight off the tarmac.
I was pleasantly surprised by the weather when I arrived at Dulles. There was still snow piled up in the shade, but it was melting so fast the gutters were flooding. 62 degrees or something. Nice.
I was in a Doubletree Hotel, 10th floor. The view wasn't much - McLean, Virginia, during winter. Some geese landed in the dirty pond formed in the exit cloverleaf below. Brown trees, concrete buildings, suburban housing as far as the eye can see.
But they handed me a warm cookie at the desk, in an envelope
that reads "Why a cookie? Simple. Cookies are warm, personal and inviting. Much
like our hotels and the staff here that serve you."
But I hardly care. The food is paid for and I'm distracted anyhow. Even though I'd double-checked every detail, I'm still worried even though I have hours to jot down any notes I might need to give a speech, change clothes and get to the banquet. Getting to the banquet should be a snap. It's only 2 miles down the street, thanks to my advanced planning. Giving a speech is what has me stressed. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I hate being the center of attention. I prefer to be the off-center of attention. Giving an acceptance speech at a corporate banquet ranks up there with dental surgery on my wish list. Public speaking phobia aside, awards and ego-stroking make me nervous. Too many years at .com businesses that handed out the phony thanks and the back-slapping and the "we're all a family" speeches sometimes only hours before laying off two thirds the company. To this day whenever I have a problem with email or network access at the office I get nervous, wondering if the phone is about to ring and next thing I know I'm being escorted from the building along with a couple dozen other people who are suddenly expendable. Post-.com-stress-syndrome?
Back at our table, the light conversation continued between presentations. The event ended with coffee and dessert in the neighboring room. I ate small piece of cake and decided to split. I'd done a few hours of Googling in advance and had a short list of nightlife activities to chose from.
Waiting for the cab, I noticed my name was misspelled on the engraved crystal trophy. I laughed. Now I can say I have a "Nobel" prize! The envelope was full of AmEx Gift Checks, silencing any complaints I had about the trip.