Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Last week I headed to Orlando for our first Midmarket CIO Forum. Nothing really funny happened on the way there....well, nothing worthy of a full blogpost...but as always, a trip, whether for business or pleasure provides good fodder for reading.

1. Airports are interesting places. I love to travel but, not so much. What spurs more fear in my heart is having to actually walk out on the runway and see the metal tube I'm climbing into. I prefer walking down a nice hallway onto the plane as if I'm just walking into another room at the airport. Thankfully, I only had to de-plane on the runway, which is fine, because the flight is over. The first flight from Louisville to Cincinnati was oversold, and overweight. The last two folks who booked tickets were told long before boarding (at the early hour of 7:30am) that they would most likely get bumped. As I was boarding one of the two soon-to-be-bumped passengers was arguing with the check-in attendant. He explained to her that the plane was overweight, etc. To which she replied, "Well, I'm not overweight!" You gotta love people. The best highlight of the four airports I visited? Eating at a Qdoba in the Orlando airport. When we saw the Qdoba sign, I thought I had just glimpsed the Promised Land.

2. Shuttle services are hit and miss. As staff, we didn't get to enjoy the Towne Car and SUV transportation our attendees did, but had to take an airport shuttle. We walked out to the shuttle stand with our happy yellow vouchers when the Shuttle Nazi (see Seinfeld's Soup Nazi episode) said "You need to go inside and buy ticket!!" Off we went rolling our luggage back indoors. When we arrived at the shuttle stand, she took our tickets and gave us a pager ala your local eatery, that would go off in 30 minutes or less indicating our shuttle was ready to roll. Now never mind that there were two shuttles just sitting there not going anywhere, but we just sat and enjoyed the sunshine while we waited. One of my co-workers I was traveling with asked Shuttle Nazi if he had time to go in and buy some sunglasses. She replied "NO! The shuttle could come any minute." So he waited. For 20 minutes. The very friendly shuttle driver, Todd, appeared as our pager went off and we all cheered. As I hopped in the shotgun seat (being charming works wonders for me), I told the driver, "Todd, you have an opportunity to redeem your shuttle company. The poor lady at your shuttle stand was not having a good day and lacked in her customer service skills. You have 30 minutes to make us love your service." And he did. It was quite an entertaining ride to the hotel. Yes, I tipped him.

3. It pays to know people everywhere I go. When I first found out about my trip to Orlando, a dear friend of mine, Joyce, offered to meet up with me while I was in Florida. She lives about an hour away and is the mother of one of my friends here. Spending time with her comes far too rarely and being with her is like drinking from a fresh water fountain. My only true free time was Saturday afternoon and she was sweet enough to meet me at the hotel for a late lunch. It was glorious. Those are the kinds of memories I love to make.

4. Being charming and enchanting is fun and rewarding. Our goal at this event was to host the 100+ folks that attended, showing them first-class, white glove treatment along the way. I thrive on being charming as my Mom always taught me "you catch more bees with honey than vinegar", but even for the most bubbly of souls, it can be wearing. But, the rewards along the way are worth it. Joe was the Meeting Concierge at the hotel. He always stopped by the information desk - my main location for work during most of the event - and would make sure we were fine, had what we needed, etc. One morning he stopped by and asked me "Can I get you a drink?...a latte, a cappuccino, a mocha?" Music to my ears! I smiled charmingly and in my most southern belle voice said "Why, of course! I'll take a skinny mocha!" One of my co-workers thought he was hitting on me, but he did ask her what she'd like to drink as well. In response to her question, I said, "I don't know...I just work the charm and reap the benefits." He had me at "mocha" so it was a pretty easy close for him.

5. I missed meeting a president. During our stay, former President George H Bush and Barbara were also at our hotel. I was so excited that I was on a hunt to see them, get my picture with them, and be all charming. Well, I never got to see them. Although I saw many a secret service agent and co-workers caught glimpses of he and Babs, but never got a photo. Had it been Dubya I would have put much more effort into getting a photo opp with that handsome man. Joe, my mocha provider and inside scoopster, informed me one day the time of the Bushes arrival. He told me all the ins and outs of how they get them in the hotel and where the secret service stays. I won't go into that much detail here as it may cause a breach of national security and since I'm already an ancestor of a presidential assassin, I best keep my intel to myself. Maybe at the next conference I'll rub elbows with the rich and famous.

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