The continuing education of John

It is never easy to join a discussion as an outsider. Everyone in the group knows each other but you. You feel left out. You don’t get all of the inside jokes. You don’t understand the references to past experiences. No one leans in and whispers conspiratorially in your ear. Being shy, I don’t tend to go out of my way to place myself in these types of situations. Call it a defense mechanism.

Today I put myself into one and the results were mixed. It was exceedingly cool to check into a hotel upon my arrival. I could imagine myself an important person, being brought in from out of town to consult on an area of my expertise. Finding that my room came with free wireless internet connectivity absolutely blew my mind (I know things like this exist, but I had yet to run across it). Then I went to the meeting and was brought back to reality.

Don’t get me wrong, most of the people seemed plenty friendly. Others did not, and therein lies the problem. Have you ever run across people who automatically assume you are not worthy of their respect until you prove otherwise? That’s the best way I can describe some of the folks I met today. During the introductions I tried to be low key. I played down my accomplishments and merely introduced myself as a worker bee from the field. I don’t like trying to impress people, and seeing as how I’m not overly impressive, I think it’s a wise tactic. As a human being, regardless of where I work, what I earn, or what I may or may not have accomplished, I deserve at least an introductory level of courtesy. For example, as I walk in and say hi with what I hoped was a non-threatening smile, I believe I deserve more than a pause, an arched eyebrow and a smirk. As I see it, if you are going to go through the trouble of returning eye contact, a simple hello is the least you can do. Today I was really nervous, so I would have settled for any acknowledgment. A smile, a nod of the head, some kind of verbal acknowledgment… anything. Apparently this was too much for a couple of individuals – even after I achieved eye contact first and initiated the verbal introductions with a preemptive “hi.” The first half of the meeting only went down hill from here. I admit I was nervous, so I know I wasn’t terribly eloquent with some of my statements, but I would have liked to have gotten some benefit of the doubt as to my competency. After all, they asked me to be there – not the other way around. If you are going to go to the trouble and expense of bringing in someone from out of town, you might as well listen to what they have to say, eh?

The turning point came when I corrected someone on a matter of policy. Ooh, that sure did it. It was like someone flipped a switch and I was suddenly worthy.

Now that I’ve said all of that, I should say that this may represent a bit of an exaggeration of this afternoon’s events. Some of my more picky readers may point out that I’ve described few of this afternoon’s events. Ah, the joys of being vague! As I said before, most of the folks were quite friendly. I guess the trouble is it only takes a few bad apples to ruin the experience. I guess that’s true in many aspects of life.

My silent thanks go out to the good apples. As nervous as I was to be the outsider, it’s a good thing they were a majority of the group.

Here endeth the rant. It would have been a little shorter, but communication partners are in short supply when you are out of town on business. My silent and extremely small readership will just have to do for today. It really illustrates how much my family means to me, sitting here in a hotel room by myself. Does that make me overly needy?

Oh what do you know anyway?