I lay in bed composing a scathing review of the Air B&B in my head. The one photo of the place hadn’t done it injustice enough. When I did fall asleep I slept straight through the night for eight hours, which never happens.
I quickly dressed and gathered my few belongings. I just had to check in for my flight before I left for the workshop, since the agenda said there would be “no internet” in the venue and I would leave for the airport straight from there. Hmm … I wondered why I hadn’t received an email from Delta yet?
A cold wave of panic flushed through me when I saw that my flight was … tomorrow, not tonight. Noooo!! I had briefly discussed staying two nights with our travel agent but distinctly remembered sending him an email saying I’d settled on just one night. It was my bad, I know. It’s my responsibility to check the details before accepting an itinerary. The agent had been careless, and so had I. This was what moving, my mom’s stroke, and moving my mom had done to my brain, I guess.
Thank goodness I had only written the scathing review in my head, because now I had to ask if I could stay here one more night. The manager said yes, and even said she wouldn’t charge me because the cleaners hadn’t shown up before my arrival. That explained a few things.
I felt virtuous, saving my organization hundreds of dollars, even though I was sure my coworkers wouldn’t be lining up to do the same. I didn’t have my laptop so I wouldn’t be able to get much work done. I would take a day off in DC, which was something to look forward to. But first, the USG workshop.
No internet in the venue—I wondered if that was some kind of cool spy vs. spy thing where they blocked satellite transmissions? No, it turned out they had just meant there was no wireless. Correction: one person did.
Since the election, federal employees have left Washington in droves. The new administration put a hiring freeze in place, so every bureau is woefully understaffed. The poor DRL people are no exception. Three of them were trying to work out how to make coffee for 150 people. This was bureaucracy in action, and it failed miserably. They blew a fuse and had to start over. Finally, we all lined up to get a lukewarm cup, only to be greeted by a sign, “No Food or Drink in Auditorium.” The coffee servers literally winked and nodded at us as we filed in with our cups in hand.
I found a seat and introduced myself to the guy on my right. He had a heavy accent and I thought he said he was from Grecian Aid but based in the Dominican Republic. “That must be interesting,” I said, “working for a Greek organization from Latin America.” He looked at me a long time, then smiled. “Eet ees Chreeeshchun Aid,” he said slowly, handing me his card that said Christian Aid.
“Ahh,” I smiled, “that makes more sense.” We talked shop; we were both what’s called “new business” people and we had a lot in common.
The first speaker opened by admonishing us not to have any food or drink in the auditorium, as she winked toward her cup of coffee balanced on the lectern.
A paper-shuffling sigher had sat behind me. On my left was a woman wearing a flower-festooned headband. Was she from Ukraine?
I looked around to see about half the audience paying attention while the rest were staring at their mobiles while the speakers were trying to hold their attention.
The content was helpful, and chock full of insider lingo like, “Decisions were made on 7th Floor,” “Folks at post want this,” and “’F’ Indictors.”
One speaker mentioned “blue sky options.” I had no idea what this meant but I always come back from workshops with jargon to spring on my coworkers to make them think I’m up to date. Once I Googled it and knew what it meant I would try to drop it at least once in every meeting.