My fellow Word Whores have covered the do and do nots of being on a panel and being in the audience in their usual thorough and individualistic styles this week. I've learned a lot, made notes, enjoyed the stories, armed myself for trolls. I really have nothing to add to the discussion SO I thought I'd share with you my very worst experience ever as a member of the audience to close the week...
This was a day job related conference. I was younger than I am today, shall we say, very excited to be sent by my bosses to a prestigious event, eager to soak up knowledge, meet with peers, admire the expertise of leaders in my field (we're talking government contracting here, by the way, not NASA projects or writing). OMG, looking back, so painfully new but we've probably all been there, right?
Now I tend to sit at the back of any room, on the end of a row. Reasons. No need to discuss. In the first session, the only chair was on the end sure enough but fairly close to the front of the room. OK, I really wanted to hear this speaker (not a panel - sorry) so I took the chair.
Halfway through the session, I had to leave. I can't remember the details after all these years (or have blocked them from my memory). I have a sneaking suspicion the esteemed gentleman speaking was droning on about some unrelated experience from his distant past that seemed like the stone age to ME. Of course I might have gotten a message to meet up with a certain charming guy for coffee....but since we're not writing a novel here we'll let that plot thread drop...I gathered my conference folder and my purse and smoothly rose to leave in the most unobtrusive fashion, and wouldn't have been the first person to leave the room - I know this because seeing a few others sneak out earlier had emboldened me - and the buckle on my sexy strappy sandals caught in some hook on the bottom rung of the damn chair and I fell full length in the aisle!
Full length. The chair fell over on top of me. Purse flew open, stuff everywhere. Conference papers fluttering in the breeze. Me on the ugly scratchy carpet face down, blue suit skirt hiked up (but not that far ok?).
Speaker of course stops speaking, starts squawking on the microphone, "Is she ok? Did she have a seizure? Someone call the doctor!"
Throngs of people gathered around, picking me up, picking my papers up, retrieving the items from my purse. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to swoon or pretend to swoon. Or that the ugly rug had swallowed me up. I WAS SO EMBARRASSED. You cannot die of embarrassment, however; I proved it that day. I handled it all so badly, mumbling repeatedly that I was ok, thank you, didn't need a doctor, etc etc etc. While the speaker very kindly kept asking via the microphone if I was ok and whether I'd had a seizure. I probably should have stayed on the floor and let them call the doctor, just to make a more graceful exit at that point.
I did apologize to the speaker for disrupting his speech. I distinctly remember that.
Mortified, I escaped into the hall. I probably looked like a wild person. I certainly felt totally disheveled. I bolted to my hotel room, developed a raging migraine and skipped the rest of the day. I attended Day Two and Day Three of the conference and no, I didn't think everyone was pointing me out and laughing behind my back. (It was a very big conference thank goodness, thousands of attendees.) You can bet I sat in the very back and was a quiet little mouse and wore a different pair of shoes. I was the best, most attentive audience member EVER.
And that was my finest Lucille Ball-type moment, may I never have another!