Time to Commit

(continued from 6/20, “Other Arrangements”)

As my final act of financial and mental commitment to attend the STC conference, I registered for The Summit 2011 on the April 15 absolute deadline. The credit card bill would be due before I even left home. It would hurt to take that money out of savings, but I’d already calculated and accepted the risk. That just left airport parking and transfers to research, book, and pay for. Those could wait until much closer to departure.

My other STC efforts in the month of April were devoted to leading a geographically dispersed team of two other judges—one in Houston, the other in Kansas, with me in the middle—to evaluate seven entries submitted to the 2010–11 STC International Tech Com Competition. If anyone thinks this is a minimal volunteer effort, they haven’t judged before—or they’re not doing it correctly. Evaluating seven entries of various types was easily a 40-hour work week, and my team members had jobs, too!

As the Lead Judge, I had the additional tasks of coordinating our efforts, mentoring the newer judges, hosting a consensus meeting online, and wrapping up all the paperwork for the team. It was good to “meet” some new colleagues and even better that we were all going to be at The Summit in May, where we could meet in person.

Oh, yeah, The Summit! Now, where was I?

The first week of May I started to make my arrangements for ground transportation. Only then did it register that the Lone Writer Progression—my session—had been scheduled for the last session of the entire conference, 11:30–12:30 on Wednesday, with a closing lunch to follow. My return flight was scheduled to depart at 2:25. I hated to miss the lunch (which was paid for!), but skipping it should leave adequate time for me to get to the regional airport.

When I tried to book the airport shuttle online, the latest pickup time it would allow me was 12:15 at the convention center. How could I possibly manage that? My session wouldn’t be over until 15 minutes past that time!

Is this how fate treats first-time presenters?

Or were the conference gods trying to tell me something more specific? Who did I think I was to pretend to be a “regular”, contributing member of the Society on a par with those who have paying jobs? Did my original doubts have much more basis than I understood when I first dared to forge a path toward The Summit?

When I booked my flights, I wasn’t thinking about a closing lunch or the timing of it. I certainly wasn’t thinking that our session would be in the last time slot. The only thing I was thinking was that there was a single direct flight back to DFW available for an AAdvantage award. And because I couldn’t get a direct flight to Sacramento (I would have a 3.5-hour layover in LAX), the direct, three-hour flight home sounded really nice.

But, I can’t turn back now. I have committed to reach The Summit already. I’ve committed money! And I’ve committed my word, which is even more valuable to me than my money. Therefore, I will do this. I will adjust to the unexpected bends that make the way toward The Summit more challenging and therefore more interesting, more worthy of attainment.

I checked into the possibility of changing my unchangeable return flight reservation. A later flight? A later day? Another night in the hotel? I checked into taking a taxi for a faster escape to the airport. Nothing provided a good, much less economically viable, solution.

One option remained. I contacted the session moderator, Ed, with a last-minute plea. Would it be possible for me to do only two rounds of my progression topic and run? Could I achieve the summit and make a hasty retreat all in the space of an hour? As a first-time presenter at The Summit, it was a disappointing circumstance. I really don’t like to operate this way …

(to be continued)

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