This past week, I went to an educational conference. Overall, it was pretty good, but there were a couple of things that stood out. First, the opening keynote speaker was a Canadian actress who is fairly well-known here as a TV personality. But she’d just written a book, so the conference organizers must have thought that she would have the appropriate gravitas for such an occasion. Apparently, no one vetted her speech ahead of time, and frankly, it was bizarre. I’ve never actually been to a conference of any kind where the keynote said “F*ck”, “pussy”, or “blowjob”, let alone had to sit through a 5 minute rant about Donald Trump, the relevance of which, at a conference for Canadian professionals at 8:30 in the morning seemed a tad out of place. But she DID come up with some creative new nicknames for the American president, aside from the “Pussy Grabber in Chief”, including “Cheeto Benito” and “Orangini Mussolini”. Then things got REALLY uncomfortable when she started referencing the “goddamned patriarchy”, the #MeToo movement, and how badly men oppress women, like the younger man she was dating who broke up with her because she was losing her eyesight. It was pretty intense—half the audience was guys, and I’m sure most of them were looking around like “I didn’t sign up for this, but if I walk out now, someone might lob a stiletto at me”. It really was the strangest experience, and had virtually nothing to do with the topic of the conference. Luckily, the luncheon keynote on the last day was Indigenous activist/broadcaster/author, Candy Palmater, who was incredibly inspiring, and didn’t reference either Trump OR blowjobs.
Second, there were a LOT of people at the conference, and while that might seem self-evident, the trouble was that many of them had no idea of either personal space or how to navigate any space at all. People would stop suddenly in the middle of hallways, stand in huddled groups in the centre of doorways, and walk like snowplows on the highway. If you know me at all, you are aware that I am just a titch OCD. And when I say “just a titch”, I’m understating it just a titch. And while I’m not sure what a “titch” actually is, it must be a real word because Spellcheck is not underlining it in that passive/aggressive way that Spellcheck has. Anyway, I don’t like being touched by strangers in the same way that other people don’t like being punched in the face, so in the line-up for lunch, I thought I was going to lose my sh*t, thanks to the number of people who bumped into me because space was so tight.
Third, while waiting for a session to start, I was stuck behind a woman who was the most melodramatic person I’ve ever eavesdropped on. She was freaking out about several things, including her new house (“It’s SOOO unfair that we have to put all our money into the house when we could be spending it on other things”), her hair (“I just don’t know what to DOOO! Should I let it grow or cut it short?!”), and finally, this gem:
Dramatic Lady: Babies are TERRIFYING!!
Sympathetic Companion: *makes soothing noises*
Dramatic Lady: I mean, I’m TERRIFIED of having a baby! It’s not a plant or a dog—it’s a CHILD! You give birth to it, and then you’re expected to TAKE CARE of it!! And NOBODY tells you how to DO THAT!!
I actually snickered out loud, but she was so caught up in her own hysteria that she didn’t hear me. But I was like, Seriously? Thank GOD babies aren’t plants, because I’ve killed so many plants over the years it’s not even funny. I even killed a cactus once (I overwatered it). But I did pretty OK with the baby I had. And if you can take care of a dog, you can take care of a baby—it’s not much different. Well, the underlying philosophy of love, nutrition, and hygiene is comparable. Also, we teach dogs to do tricks, and we do the same thing with our kids. Like teaching your dog how to give a high five isn’t technically much different from saying, “Oh look, Grandma—we taught the baby how to clap!” But the icing on the self-absorption cake was really when she finished with, “I just THANK GOD that my husband was in foster care for so many years. He’s diapered so many babies that he’s not worried about it AT ALL!” And then she got up, and I realized that she was pregnant. I wish I’d gotten her name so that I could send her a plant to practice on.
Titus (leaping onto the bed): Watcha watching?
Me: The Olympics.
Titus: Oh yeah, we have those too.
Me: You mean, like agility trials or something?
Titus: Ha! No—agility trials are like the Commonwealth Games of the canine world. No, I mean Dog Olympics.
Me: What are some of the events?
Titus: Well, there’s the Barking—
Me: Dogs bark all the time. How is THAT an Olympic event?
Titus: People WALK all the time, but you still have medals for it. Besides, there’s a real technique to barking. You’re judged on volume, pitch, and sustained howling. There was a huge scandal last year when the Borzois were caught doping with Vick’s VapoDrops.
Me: Wow. OK, what are some other events?
Titus: Well, there’s Staying Upright on Ice, Find the Toy, The Butt-Sniffing Challenge, and my favourite, Moguls.
Me: Dogs can ski?!
Titus: Well, technically it’s just dogs falling down hills. But it’s fun to watch.
Me: Are there any team events?
Titus: There’s the Steeplechase. I wouldn’t want to be THAT cat. Oh, and there’s Curling, but the rocks are made out of Milkbones so the games don’t last long.
Me: That’s an improvement. High five! Ow—you hit me in the face.
Titus: Sorry. You should have taught me to clap.