I didn't sleep at all the prior evening.
The hotel gave me what I call "Hellaciously Perfect Placement." On one side was the ice machine which would, at random times, make loud noises and rattle. In front of my room was the elevator, which dinged on every floor whenever someone pushed the button (I don't know why). Behind me was the wall of the casino...not so loud, but it bounced the sound of the Falls right into my room (that wasn't so bad, actually). And then there was the other wall.
Now, the walls of this hotel were quite thin. With a toilet so loud you could hear it down the hall, I was embarrassed to flush it. My neighbors felt no such compassion. They were either newlyweds or just really happy people, because all I heard that first night was the thumping of a bed on a wall and loud screams. That's right, I was privy to the sounds of the beast with two backs, to the music of the Horizontal Mambo, to the background music of most Cinemax movies. You get the idea.
Let me tell you, it makes hard to sleep when your wall is bouncing your bed (I ended up moving my bed away from the wall. I had to....)
With little sleep to speak of, I headed out to breakfast.
The IBO was giving us breakfast, which was nice, but they didn't have enough tables for all the attendees. If you got there late (I did), you were either standing or eating in the hall. Now I got lucky in that the other guys got up earlier (that's what happens when you sleep in the hotel where the conference is being held) and grabbed me a seat. The food was quite good. I was shocked. The last time I went to a conference, the food was terrible. That was a pleasant surprise.
I noticed there was not a ton of intermingling between schools. The guys and I talked amongst ourselves, the other school at the table only talked amongst themselves. I tried to bridge the gap (I'm a uniter, not a divider...), but they weren't having it.
With a flash of the lights, over a thousand people stood up and went off to their meetings.
I was lucky in that my group (the English teachers) were to be in the basement of the hotel in which I was staying (yeah, take that Sheraton!), which meant I could drop off my stuff during the breaks.
IB training. If you have never experienced it, it can be hard to explain. In the case of the English teachers, we had two older and VERY southern (from Texas, y'all) women. They did not really agree with each other (which would be a problem the whole weekend).
A student asked me to discuss the IB training. I'll give you bits and pieces. The biggest issue started right up front. We began with question and answer before any training. One of the guys I was there with posited a question about the "elitism" of IB. If you don't know, you have to be a very hard worker to do well in the program. In most schools the GAT kids (Gifted and Talented) are the ones who end up in the program. The concern raised by my colleague was the fact that the program is dominated by Caucasians and Asian-Americans. The response was slightly troubling (at least to me). The ladies were proud of the elitism, because it meant that only the best students will come out of the program. I don't know about you, but when I heard that, my first reaction was, "That's great and all, but what about the regular students? The ones who work really hard, but are unable to keep up. What about them?" I didn't voice this concern to the two ladies, but later I would talk to the other guys who came with me and discuss this issue further.
Back to the point, IB wants kids to be able to work at a very rigorous pace and to be able to take any passage from any book they have read and be able to discuss it's meaning, placement, etc without any problems. Now, I'm simplifying it tremendously, but that's the gist: students write the way IB wants (there is a rubric) and students talk the way IB wants (there's a rubric for that too).
The rest of the training that day was ho-hum. We got introduced, etc, etc. What was more fascinating to me was the guy with the welding torch outside the window. We would see these blue flashes now and then.
The other aspect of the whole weekend began to develop during that first session. Because we arrived late, the four of us were split up around the room. I ended up next to a girl from Colorado. I didn't think anything about it at the time (remember: little sleep, just ate, and not sure what to expect). During the entire first session, this girl would not stop talking to me. I just thought she was nervous. One of the other guys later told me I'm an idiot.
This is the seedy underbelly of the conferences and the training: the meat market aspect. When lunch came around and the guys told me about how that gal was flirting with me, I thought they were picking on me. Then we were joined another school from Minnesota (I'm not saying where, but the school is close to Minneapolis. That's all I'm saying about it). We got to discussing, and then one of the teachers from this other school asks me, "So, you been hit on yet?" I went a little numb.
"Yeah," I replied. "I have. You?"
"From the moment I got here. That girl over at the fruit...do you see her?"
"The one in black?"
"That's Lily (name changed just in case). She's usually so quiet and reserved."
At this point he droned a little bit about how quiet she is, how he asked her out before and was rejected, and how she had talked about how much she was looking forward to this trip.
"So," he continues, "We get here yesterday and go to the Hard Rock Cafe. She's slinging shots like they're going out of style. Next thing I know, she's in my lap sucking on my ear."
At this point my B.S. meter is ringing.
"Come on...." I retort.
"It's true," says the guy sitting next to Earlobe. "We all saw it. She was not the same person. That's what these things (he indicated the whole room) do to people."
"See, Leab," One of my colleagues says, "That girl does have a thing for you."
It's at this point I start to blush.
Earlobe continued. "People get here and consider it a free pass."
At this point, Colorado Gal comes by, places her hand on my shoulder and tells me, "I'll see you back there, Leab."
I blush even harder.
Fast foward to that night. The boys and I decide to eat on the other side of town, so we take the long walk over. Though I won't say what we discussed about, I will say that my favorite line had to do with a bridge, kids drinking underneath it, and one of them exclaiming, "Give me your hooch, bitch!"
Dinner was uneventful except for one moment. A couple sitting next to us forgot their camera. It was a nice Nikon Digital SLR (around about $1,000). I noticed it, so did one of my colleagues. He ran out to get them, I grabbed the camera and followed. Five minutes later, after we had ordered, a man and a woman came up to us and said, "That was mighty nice of you. Most people aren't good today, so it's nice to see someone do something nice. There's not many good people anymore."
Dinner went off without a hitch, though we did discover that the menu was misleading. It had a "One Pound Steak Challenge." I asked the waitress.
"There is no real challenge," she told me. "We just call it that so people will order it."
"Good marketing, I guess," I retorted.
We were on our own starting at 8:30. Two of the guys went to go to sleep. One went to go grade papers. I decided to walk around town some more. Near my hotel was a Planet Hollywood. I hadn't been in a Planet Hollywood in years. I decided to check it out and see if it was still as garish as I remember (Oh God, it was).
I went to the bar, sat down, and ordered a Molson Golden. I don't normally drink beer, but my brother-in-law is always going on about how Molson Golden in Canada is SO much better than in America because of the different brewing techniques. I wanted to see. I still think he's full of it as I didn't taste a difference.
As I sat at the bar, I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was one of the ladies from the Florida that I talked to on the bus ride up.
"Hey, St. Paul right?"
"Yes, but most people call me Leab."
A slight (almost fake sounding) laugh.
At this point, the rest of her crew strolled over. I was surrounded.
"Hey there," Carol says to me. I attempt not hit her with a bottle for what she did at the border.
At this point I'm trapped. I listen to stories about students, being in Florida, etc. I talk very little. I tell the occasional joke here and there and make witty comments, but I mostly keep to myself. At one point, Jenny (not her real name) says her legs are tired from all her walking she did that day. Being a gentleman, I gave her my seat. That was a mistake. I stood next to her, and she grabbed my ass. I tried not jump as it was a shock, but I slammed my knee into the bar. That hurt, and it left a bruise.
The culmination of the evening came when Jenny told me her birthday was the next day.
"Oh," I said, "Well, happy birthday in advance. Let me buy you a drink."
"I don't want a drink," she said. "I have an idea of what I want for my birthday, and I usually get what I want."
Now, remember boys and girls. I'm a guy, and most of us are idiots. So I, of course, ask:
"And what do you want?"
All four of the ladies are now looking at me. I can see out of the corner of my eye that Carol, of all people, is shaking her head. The other three ladies start moving down the bar.
"Any thoughts on what you want?" I ask again.
"Well, I can think of one thing," she says and squeezes my arm.
Now I get it.
"Oh...OOOOhh. That's really sweet," I say, "But I'm married. Five years." At this point I show her my hand.
She's quiet for a moment, takes a drink, and then says, "Well, you don't have to be. She's not here is she?"
I shake my head.
"Well, you could have a free pass. What she doesn't know...right?"
I was shocked. I don't know if my face showed it, but my brain almost melted trying to comprehend what this woman was telling me. If my wife doesn't know, it won't hurt her. Wow. I smiled, laughed a little, and then finally said, "I'm sorry, Jenny. You're beautiful, but I'm married. If I wasn't, then that would be a different story, but I am, and I love my wife."
"That's ok," she tells me. "There's no harm in trying."
Again, my brain screams as if having an aneurysm. Hey, it's ok, I just tried to make you cheat on your wife, but no problems...no worries.
I bought her another drink. She called down the bar to her friends. "He said, 'no,' girls." Immediately, I hear the responses.
"What? What's wrong with you."
"She's gorgeous! How could you?"
"She's only 25 and throwing herself at you!"
"Look, ladies," I began. "I'm married. Five years. Quite happy. Sorry."
"Well she's not here is she?"
"Why is that the popular response?" I ask.
"Because that's what happens at these conferences," I'm told. "A teacher at our school slept with a married woman at a conference in New Mexico. There was no trouble there."
I left not long after that. Jenny did grab my ass again, but I think it was more as a goodbye. I can't really explain it.
I would see those ladies again the next two days, but more on that later.
Am I the only one troubled by this? Am I too old fashioned in the modern world? The average marriage now lasts only five years with sixty-five percent of the marriages in America ending in divorce. It's no wonder if people treat large gatherings, such as conferences, as meat markets. Instead of "Welcome Educators," maybe the banner should have read, "Let's Get It On!"
I would hear more on day three about all of the hookups. I would also be propositioned twice more. Once by an English teacher, and, sadly, once more by the Florida crew.
Like I said, everyone said this was typical. It kind of saddens me that this is true.
"What about the kids, fool?!"