I am back home and recovering from a five-day business trip to Los Angeles. My employer, the world’s largest public interest law firm, held its annual nationwide conference. Some 600 people from across the country descended on the city for days filled with workshops and nights filled with hanging out big time.
Now I gotta tell you in the months and weeks leading up to the event I wasn’t really looking forward to it. As I have explained numerous times in this space, I don’t travel well, especially by air, especially all the way across the freakin’ country. I’m still waiting for someone to invent those Star Trek teleporters so we can do it instantaneously. It was also going to be labor intensive because my department manages the conference itself, so there was work waiting for us the minute we touched down. On top of that, I had meetings I needed to take with certain folks from our affiliates to fit into my work schedule. Finally, I have relatives out there and if I didn’t at least attempt to meet up with them it was just gonna cause bad feelings all around.
So with all of that weighing heavily on my mind, last Friday, I boarded a 6:30 a.m. flight out of JFK for LAX. I had about 3 hours of sleep before the car picked me up. I expected the usual hassles going through security. Ironically because this was a long trip, I needed more clothing and thus a larger bag, requiring me to check my bag instead of carrying it on. That actually made life easier. I didn’t have to worry about the 3 oz rule. Then I truly lucked out when our widebody Boeing 767 wasn’t even half full. Everybody on board spread out, claimed whole rows and just slept through most of the five and a half hour flight. Little turbulence and not a crying baby to be found. I arrived refreshed.
At the hotel, the Wilshire Grand, I got my second pleasant surprise. Because people in my department were there to work, I got an upgrade to the executive floor, which meant a larger room, access to the free continental breakfast, a newspaper every morning and free WiFi. (Note to self: purchase a laptop.)
Saturday there were a few special workshops for early arriving participants, but otherwise was our time to set up for the opening on Sunday. Now I’ve been on my job for six months and there is a lot my co-workers don’t know about me, nor I about them. In our office we all have our individual responsibilities and can go days without interacting. But at the conference we spent lots of time together and I think they now know about the wacky, irreverent sense of humor I have, and I’ve learned a great deal about them as well. The conference was a bonding experience.
The same could be said for the other folks from our headquarters and field offices. By day, we are hard-working serious people focused on important issues. But take us out of the office and we all cut up. Workshops during the day were well-attended and provided valuable information and opportunities to network. Night-time gave people a chance to let their hair down and act a fool.
Like karaoke night. Yeah, karaoke. Monday night, they bussed us all to the Santa Monica pier to eat dinner at Marisol Restaurant, a Mexican place. Afterwards, we bussed back to the hotel and took over the karaoke bar on the ground floor. Imagine a few hundred people, getting drunk, singing anywhere from good to ear-splittingly bad, but everybody just having a good time. My co-workers egged me on and I even sang My Cherie Amour. (Of course I was good, don’t even go there.)
About the only negative to this trip was the weather. That supposedly sunny southern California weather is highly over-rated. It was either rainy or overcast and nearly as cold as it was here in New York the entire time we were there. But getting out of the office was worth the trip regardless.