“So is it really true about the screaming and hugging in the lobby on the first day of BlogHer?” Vanessa asked as we drove into Chicago.
“Oh yes,” I replied. “You’ll definitely see it.”
Not even five seconds after putting the car into park for the valet and opening our car doors, a screech echoed in the covered driveway as two women near the revolving door recognized each other, quickly embracing and speaking in high pitched tones about how thrilled they were to see each other.
“Wow, that was fast!” remarked Vanessa.
I walk out of the elevator into the hotel lobby, and am passed by several women, all carrying small brown bags – some with two bags – as they make a quick escape into the elevator. As I get closer to the Room 704 party, I see crowd swarming two small brown tables against the escalator. I stand near the back of the crowd, slowly being pushed upstream until I arrive at the front.
“I’m really sorry, but we’re out of swag bags,” Dawn tells me.
It’s 10:25pm. The party was scheduled to start at 10:30pm.
I look across the horizon of the crowd, and see more women leaving the party before it has even started, carrying their prized bags with them to their rooms. I see very few of those faces the remainder of the night. I grumble to Sleepy New Mommy and Karianna about how rude it is to grab free stuff from a party and then leave the party right away. Isn’t the point of this to talk to each other?
Pulling out my phone, I tweet: “I could make a joke about people who grab swag vibrators & run to their rooms, but it speaks for itself. #blogher09″
In the Expo hall, I see Heather. I try to tell her a story about how a post of hers has been saved in my feed reader, a post discussing what went wrong, and how I revisit that post often. As a new nurse, I read that list of contributing factors, and I ask myself, if I were in that situation, what could I do differently to make sure this never happens to a child on my watch? I’ve used her post to play through different code blue scenarios in my head, trying to keep myself mentally prepared for it.
Unfortunately, I am overcome with emotion as I attempt to tell her all of this, and it comes out in heaving sobs. Damn emotions. As I cry and hug her, her posse circles in closer, wondering if they need to protect Heather by dragging this psycho stalker away from her. She waves her hand and tells them, “It’s OK, I know Christina.” I pull myself together and let her get back to enjoying the Expo hall. I feel like a complete emotional freak.
At lunch on Friday, I offer to hold Ezra for Amy so she can have a few moments to eat. While he sits on my lap and gnaws on bread and chicken chunks, I perform the long-distance food spearing maneuver to get my food from my outside-of-Ezra-reach plate to my mouth. I’m well-skilled at this maneuver.
Yet somehow Ezra uses his Plastic Man reach to snag one of the croutons from my plate, and I laugh. He looks up at me with a goofy grin of accomplishment; suddenly I miss Mira.
I attend a swag suite and am overwhelmed at the crowd. I somehow make my way into the back of the room. At the same time, new swag arrives in boxes that are passed through the crowd. As soon as a box is opened, outstretched hands take everything before it can warm the table. I am handed a backpack, and before the next box is brought in, I start to feel claustrophobic.
“I need out of here. Right now. I feel trapped.” I tell Amelia in short, panicky breaths.
I try to look for an opening, but there are none. The room is packed with women shoulder to shoulder. I brought this on myself, I think. Greedy swag whore.
“Please excuse me. I just want to get out.” I repeat over and over as I squeeze and force my way past each person. I consider offering my backpack to anyone who will simply make a path for me to get out. When I reach the hall, I take a deep breath, and my heart starts to beat a little slower.
I later attend another swag suite, where I’m scheduled to have a meeting with one of the PR reps. After the first experience, I’m frightened to go in, but quickly find it to be a relaxing atmosphere, free of crowds and offering plenty of space to sit, chat and have a snack.
After my meeting, I sit and have a lovely conversation with Kristen, The New Girl, Liz and Susan. Margo provides the entertainment as we keep her from eating the plastic plant on the coffee table. This feels more like past BlogHer events; the time passes without notice as we enjoy the company and the conversation.
My roommate Amelia and I were decompressing after a long day on Friday.
“What’s been your best moment so far?” she asked.
“Meeting Mrs. Potato Head.”
I’m such a mom.
As I leave the Birds of a Feather lunch for parents of special needs children on Saturday, I find myself chatting with a woman in the Expo hall. I mention that I’m feeling a little under the weather after the Nikon party the night before.
“Oooh, you went to the Nikon party?” she asked. “I’m SO jealous! I wish I would have been invited! So, tell me: did they give you a camera?”
“Uhm, no, they didn’t.”
“No? You mean they were all exclusive and had all the security and you didn’t even get a camera from it?”
“Nope. It was just a party.” She was taking this revelation harder than me, clearly.
“Oh well, I’m glad I didn’t get an invite to it then.” And with that she was distracted and turned away to say hello to a friend walking past.
“I’m glad you didn’t, too,” I say quietly to myself.
As I wander the Expo hall, looking a little lost, I spot Janet and wave hi to her, thinking she’s too busy to chat with me. Instead she calls me over, “Hey, will you wait for me while I finish this?” We walk the Expo floor together, both feeling a little hungover and wanting someone to quietly talk with.
We’re approached by one of the sponsors, who asks to interview us for a video being made for their corporate executives. We agree, and do our best to give them our full opinion of their products, both good and bad. Actually, we’re both pretty harsh on them.
Just as I’m feeling like maybe I was being too Complainy McBitchy, Jaelithe appears to share some exciting news with us. Another company in the Expo hall – a company that listened to several moms a year and a half ago – presented her with their newest product: a product that was developed based on the feedback they received from the mom bloggers they talked to. I’m ecstatic and rush back to ask for my own sample of the product. I’m feeling proud of our accomplishments. (More on that product later, I promise.)
It’s Saturday night, and I’m hungry. I have yet to eat a full meal since Wednesday, and I’m really craving a large meal. I invite myself along with Stimey and her group of friends for dinner. We try for Gino’s pizza, but when the line is out the door and around the block, we settle instead for an English pub nearby. I devour my fish and chips, thankful for a quiet moment to talk with old friends and new friends.
It’s 9pm, and I’m perched on the edge of my hotel bed, a bed that is completely covered in swag. I sift through it, deciding what I want to keep, what I want to take home as gifts, and what I want to offer up to my roommates or throw away. The latter category gets a lot of entries.
I am reminded of an earlier conversation that day, when I said that the closing keynote subject was “Where are we headed?” and Stimey’s response was, “Where are we headed? To hell in a swag bag.”
I’m sitting in an oval soaking tub with Devra in the Presidential Suite of the Sheraton at the Cheeseburgher party. Someone comments on the acoustics in the bathroom, and one woman sings a line from I Will Survive. Suddenly the tune is picked up by Georgia and the other women in the bathroom as a spontaneous sing-a-long drowns out the chatter from the other rooms of the party. We erupt into laughter at the end of the chorus.
“THIS is what BlogHer is all about,” I declare to the room.
And it is.