I got back from Albuquerque last Thursday, and turned right around to attend the Assn of the US Army (AUSA) convention in Washington, DC. This has been one of the hardest weeks of my entire year. Last year we, and by "we" I mean me and the convention services company GES, really bungled the show. I sent my paperwork in late, but it got there. And then GES lost all my paperwork. All in all, last year was a complete and utter disaster, and one of the worst event planning experiences of my life. Determined to not have any disasters this year, I hired an outside contractor to build me a custom booth, and decided to personally pack the boxes to ship to the show, and not rely on the warehouse to do it for me.
The show opened on Monday, so on Sunday I had to go down and just check in, make sure everything was there, etc. I thought this would be a quick and easy procedure. Ha! I am so naive! Instead, when I arrived there was nothing. Zilch, zero, zippo. I hadn't thought to ask for a shipping or tracking number. Why would I? It was a same day shipment. How can a crate moving only 30 miles up the road get lost? That made no sense. So instead I jumped to a much more logical conclusion- that after I had packed everything and left explicit instructions on when and how to ship the crate, the warehouse just hadn't done their job. This sort of thing has been known to happen before, so I started panic calling and emailing people throughout the company who just might answer a cell phone or blackberry on a Sunday. I recruited Ann into my efforts, but we got nowhere. I had to go home after 5 hours there basically freaked out. NONE of my materials were at the show. I had more or less decided I was just going to quit my job because I can't handle not being able to rely on other people to do their jobs, and then be blamed for it myself. The company "blame" mentality is that although I wasn't the one who didn't forget to ship the package, and although I'm in a different state and can't see what they are or are not doing in the warehouse, it will be my fault that it didn't arrive because I am the one who didn't call to make sure it shipped. In the back of my head the very unlikely option that maybe the warehouse did send my stuff and somehow the trucking company just lost my same day shipment was there, but I didn't pay much attention to it, because really what were the odds?
Well, my phone started ringing at 5:45 am on Monday morning. I didn't sleep all night because I was so freaked out and trying to figure out a plan B, or C or D, or anything. As the phone calls and emails started coming in from the people I had contacted on Sunday, I realized this was not a simple mistake. That teeny tiny chance that the freight company had screwed up a direct and nonstop shipment had actually happened. Next thing you know we have the VP of the freight company on the phone, the loading dock manager is coming to my booth personally to ask questions, the expo company is bending over backwards, and at one point I had 15 union laborers scouring a loading dock searching for my crate. The crowning moment was when the head of the convention center came down to personally apologize for the situation. Fingers were being pointed everywhere!! But thankfully, not at me. Which was good, because at that point, I was ready for a complete and total meltdown. Mysteriously, my crate appeared and was delivered quickly to the building and then to my booth. And I managed to get everything set up and finished only 10 minutes after the show opened.
About that point is when I realized someone was missing. We had a new guy on his first day at work in the booth with me (lucky him getting stuck with a frantic me), and my other co-worker was AWOL. A few phone calls and emails later and I find out he's having car trouble and may not be in for a while. So we have no experts in the booth, just me and the New Guy. But New Guy knew his stuff and did quite well. And for once, a guy had no problems deferring to me when he didn't know something. Shocking I tell you! I got several supportive and kind emails and phone calls during the day Monday, and for that I must thank my friends. You know who you are. It was probably after 1 pm before I really let go of my frustrations and anger. Oh, and I didn't quit.
Tuesday rolls around, and we had a few glitches, and I lost my cool, but it ended soon enough. The hardest part of Tuesday were my feet. I could barely walk from the pain of the blisters I got running around on Monday. I had 7 nickel-sized blisters on one foot alone. I wanted to cry the pain was so bad! But I managed to survive the day again and join my dear Anne C. for the "So You Think You Can Dance" Tour. The show was absolutely great and well-worth the exhaustion for the evening. The highlight for me was getting to see the "Tranji" dance and the group number "Rama Lama Bang Bang." And just because I am soooo nice, you can see it too!
The rest of the trade show was pretty uneventful. It was a lot of fun to see my friend Ed Walters in a work setting though. It was the first time I've ever really seen a friend in a work setting like that before.
So the show finally ended, I went back to work today, and now I'm off to Boston on Friday. Just 6 more days!!! I just have to get through my last biggest event of the year, and I can breathe again. Or not. I'm home for 13 days, preparing for 3 more major shows, and then I go off to Utah to visit my nephews for Halloween. I get back from that just in time for the next events, and then- breathe- it's Thanksgiving! Yeah!
Somehow knowing for 9 months that these 21 days of hell were coming hasn't made it any easier on me. I'm flying up to Boston early so I can have any necessary panic attacks before the rest of my team sees me. Cross your fingers for me that the freight company won't make any wrong turns, Fed Ex won't lose a plane, and no one gets food poisoning from the clam chowder. I just have to get through six more days of this... And then, yeah, maybe I won't have a nervous breakdown.
Oh, and keep the supportive emails and text messages coming! They help a lot!!
Friday, October 13, 2006
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