Saturday, January 28, 2017

Silver Linings

As hard a decision as it has been to leave window restoration (because self-employment isn't something I can handle, and there's nobody nearby in this field who I could work for), it does have some silver linings. One is that, once I'm working for someone else full-time again, I won't have the constant feeling of guilt over not spending more time working -- when I clock out, I'm done. Another is that I'll have resources available if I screw something up. Being the boss has meant that I have no backup, no help if something goes sideways, and it only adds to my stress. The silver lining I've been thinking about most, though, isn't big in the scheme of things, and it's pretty specific, but it's such a huge relief to me that I've been dwelling on it.

Back in September I went to a conference for people in the preservation trades. Because the fee to attend was out of my budget, I volunteered to teach a workshop on glazing windows, which got me in for free. I love demonstrating my various skills, and I wanted to network with other preservationists, so it seemed like a good fit.

It was the biggest shitshow I've ever had the displeasure of attending.

The professional organization that runs the event has been doing it for 20 years, so you'd think they'd have at least the basics covered, but that wasn't the case. Simple things like a street address for the venue, whether meals would be provided, and the schedule of events, were incomplete, incorrect, or not published at all. One of the other demonstrators had to stand at the gate handing out photocopies of her workshop description because the workshop coordinator had forgotten to put it in the official info packet. Of the first dozen people to sign in on the first day, half of them didn't get nametags because they either hadn't been printed or hadn't made it to the check-in table. I missed the first part of a workshop because the location had changed without notice. I ended up cleaning up the food tent in the mornings because nobody had stayed behind the night before to pick up trash or make sure things weren't left on tables.

A little perspective: between 4-H, historical reenactment, sheep and wool festivals, and renfaires, I've participated in a LOT of volunteer-run events. I've helped out with everything from bake sales run by third-graders to multi-weekend fairs that see ten thousand paying patrons through the gates. This conference was, by far, the most disorganized, confusing, poorly-run event of them all.

The worst part was the attitude of the people running it. Any time I suggested an improvement or asked why something wasn't done, I was met with, "well, it's your first time at this conference, so you don't know how it works," and/or, "join a committee if you want to make it better." So... you belittle me, invalidate my experience, and then expect me to bust my ass to make up for your incompetence? Not a chance.

For a group of so-called professionals, their conference was the most unprofessional event I've ever attended. I am so very thankful that I don't have to go to another one.

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