Recently I attended a two-day education conference. It wasn’t very good. The less I say about it the better. As the caffeine wore off on hour three of day two, squirming in an uncomfortable chair, I was feeling, well, downright snarktastic.
The woman sitting across from me, the same woman I sat across from for all eight hours of day one, was once again wearing two name tags. Catherine. Outdoor Outreach. And…Catherine. Outdoor Outreach. She had the laminated, clip-on one that they passed out at check-in, the one we all wore on our collars or shirt-pockets or blazers or wherever we could find to clip it. But then she had another one, hand-carved, wood, varnished, probably something like cherry or walnut or maple, but possibly something exotic like bamboo.
So there we were. Day two, hour three of a not-so-good education conference. Catherine was telling me about the history of floods in California. Then she segued, somehow, I wasn’t really paying attention, to how comets first brought water to Earth. Instead of listening to her transition, if there was one, I was thinking of snarky things to say about her two name tags. Things like:
I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?
While I am fascinated by the origins of water on Earth, I’m perhaps equally intrigued by someone wearing two name tags at an education conference.
Excuse me. I hate to be the one to point this out. But your collar is obscuring the end of one of your name tags, so that it reads “Cath”. And your sweater is covering the front half of your other name tag so it only shows “ine.” Could you help me out here? I’m thinking Catherine, but you just never know. It could be Cathline. Or maybe there are more letters in the middle? Names and spellings are so crazy these days, don’t you agree… Cathzine?
What is that, mahogany?
(After making a second name tag for myself with a half sheet of paper and a paperclip.) Can you believe these people? I mean can you believe them. I’m astonished. The nerve. It’s like they just don’t give a fuck. Only wearing one name tag. I normally wear three but my nice one is being cleaned.
Catherine. It’s Catherine, right? I wasn’t sure. Have you ever thought of doing Indoor Outreach? Like kids that don’t spend enough time indoors watching screens. Or even Outdoor Inreach? What would that even look like? Or what about Indoor Inreach? Yeah, I know. I get a little carried away sometimes. Like sometimes I go to education conferences and bring my own name tag. What was your name again? I’m sorry. I’m just not good with names.
But the snark didn’t stop there. Oh, no. A question distracted Catherine and her discourse on early water. She turned, her head nearly tripling in size, to answer the following question, “Excuse me, was that name tag made by a 3-D printer?”
At which point, I turned and introduced myself to Heather, an education coordinator for an organic farm. I asked her if she coordinates field trips and learned that “field trip” is something of a taboo phrase, even an insult. With my mind on full snark, I imagined a couple of men in suits wearing sunglasses and white gloves, bringing in a soap box and mid-conversation lifting her up, chair and all, and setting her down on the soap box. I adjusted my gaze to her new, imagined height as she described the “field work” she does with students, and how it’s MUCH different than just a one day, quick and cheap and dirty field trip.
And I wanted to ask her, so badly, I practically had to bite my tongue to keep from asking it, as the imaginary men with suits came back and lifted her off her soap box…So, how would I go about setting up a field trip?
It was that kind of conference.