At the Users Conference

May 19, 2006

Hopefully by now, all of you have played with the career builder monk-e-mail. When we discovered this at my office, it was very difficult to get work done for a couple of days, but good lord did we laugh at those monkeys.

Still, I have the occasional monkey pop up in my email. I've had monkeys claiming to be Chuck Norris, Johnny Cash, and Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers movies. But most often, the monkey claims to be someone higher up the corporate ladder at Equifax. And most often of all, the monkey claims to be CEO Rick Smith. They mostly sound like this one, with a general pattern of "Good morning and welcome," followed by something that Rick might actually say, followed by some sort of insult or asinine comment. I realize that I'm a child, but it keeps being funny.

So when Rick addressed the audience at the users' conference in Las Vegas, I had a bit of hope that he would start with "Good Morning and Welcome," and a little part of me fantasized that he might even mispronounce his company as "Eequifax," like the monkeys do.

Alas, he failed to provide me fodder for any inside jokes. His presentation was pretty normal CEO stuff: strategy, performance, optimism, etc. This kicked off Monday of last week, and the day turned into a blur of presentations and informal meetings with clients over and over and over.

I should mention that the walk from the hotel rooms at the MGM out to the conference center is nothing less than daunting. I'm not exaggerating when I say that had the conference been back in New Orleans, the equivalent walk would allow me to get from one side of the French Quarter to the other. It was no less than 20 minutes, and could easily take a half hour, if you stopped for a distraction.

This is no good, as I arrived in town nursing a broken toe. A couple of weeks earlier, I had spotted Lily tossing Bubbles -- the new kitten -- up in the air like one of her plush toys. When I got up to whip her ass, she took off running. Of course, being young, quick, and having four legs, she's a lot faster than I am. But I was pretty close, and knew that the dog door would slow her down a step. I thought I could get there in time to grab her by the tail, drag her into the house, and give her her deserved spanking.

But sprinting through the bedroom, I kicked some piece of furniture, causing a pain so intense that I saw colored spots. I'm no stranger to the stubbed toe, as I regularly turn at least a couple of digits into bloody messes each year, and have lost a toenail a time or two, but this was much different and worse, although marginally nicer to look at.

So the walk to the conference center was daunting.

After the end of sessions on Monday

I hadn't been out late the night before, but I was exhausted by the time of the vendor reception at 4:30. I had one drink, and sampled the (not very good) selection of breaded and fried food. And then I got out of there.

After a very quick nap, I got talked into a late dinner and a couple of bar stops with a couple of co-workers and some clients from Boston. But Tuesday was the day where I really had things to do for the conference, so I was in bed by 12:30 for the second night in a row.

The turnout for the first session on Tuesday morning was a little lighter, but there were still a lot of people. The speaker was the publisher of Forbes magazine -- not Steve Forbes, but his employee who actually runs the magazine from day to day. He's not a name that you've heard of, but he was very interesting.

My co-worker Alan hadn't made it down yet when this session started. And unbeknownst to me, when I had gone to the room the night before, he called several of our co-workers claiming to have gotten in a bar fight and been put in jail. It was all bullshit, but with Alan, you can't exactly rule it out altogether. On top of that, his performance was apparently pretty convincing.

So while the Forbes guy was speaking, Alan's and my common boss sat down next to me and in a quick, worried whisper said, "Have you seen Alan since last night?"

It wasn't too long after that first session on Tuesday that I had my most horrifying experience of the trip. It was about thirty minutes before an interface meeting where I was involved. I took a restroom break, to have a -- well a "number two" is the nice way to put it. Excuse me for being crude; it's important to the story.

The back of my pants on Tuesday

When I pulled up my pants, the back part of my right leg was soaked.

I about had a little panic attack right there. There was no way I had time to make the forty-minute round trip to my room to change pants. And even if I did, I would have had to iron the new pair. I walked quickly out of the bathroom, talking to myself. "It's only water, it's only a leaky toilet bowl, it's just water."

I decided to step outside and let the dry hot air dry off the pants. I was trying to walk in a way so that the wet part wouldn't brush the skin of my leg.

You have to understand too that I was looking pretty darned sharp that day. Unlike my regular day to day look, I had on stylish clothes that fit right -- including a bitchin' sport coat. I was cleanly shaved, and had even showered. In my hurry to get near the door, I passed Charles and Holly, who said, "Whoh, look at you," and "I've never seen you look that good in all the years I've worked with you." So apparently, the look on my face when I want to puke is appealing.

As I stood outside in the sun, drying my pants, I began to calm down. They started to dry fast, and after all, there was really nothing else I could do about it.

I've told this story to several people, and there is one detail that I haven't been able to bring myself to say out loud. When the wet spot was getting close to being dry, I sat down on a bench and pulled my leg up to my face. I twisted the fabric around to put the almost-dry spot up to my nose.

It was piss.

So I spent the rest of my day conducting meetings and giving a presentation to a large audience with someone else's dried piss on the back of my pants.