Monday, September 15, 2014


The year was 1997. I was in the early years of my chronic insomnia, and a fresh-faced Conan O'Brien kept me sane during the long nights. Conan ran his show different in the early days. It was raunchy and had very little structure, and typical guests included an even fresher-faced Dave Chapelle, who would spend his entire set bouncing racist jokes off of Conan in his best effort to offend the audience, and the pot-smoking granny from "Half Baked", who loudly proclaimed "I loooove the reefer" while sitting beside straight-laced Andy Richter.

One evening, Conan had invited Norm Macdonald to stay past his interview. Andy moved one chair to the right, and Norm was placed immediately beside Courtney Thorne Smith, of Melrose Place fame. Courtney was at the show promoting a movie she had just made with Carrot Top. When asked what the name of the movie was, she stated it was called "Chairmen Of The Board", to which Norm, with his typical deadpan delivery, followed by mentioning to the audience that "board" was spelled B-O-R-E-D. Laughter erupted, and for once, 3AM didn't seem like such a miserable time.

I've been at a statistics conference the last few days, and I have recycled this joke exactly one million times to delighted audiences. Let me re-phrase this: I am re-telling a stolen joke from 17 years ago, and it's killing. I am the class clown of the entire conference.

At first this revelation startled me. I live a life wherein I should never, ever be considered the funniest person in the room. However, I soon realized that I was not from their world. At my office, there is no such thing as water-cooler chat. Nobody cares about what the weather looks like outside, because children are hungry and homeless and over-dosing. There is no censorship at my office. My jokes seemed to shock and amaze my fellow conference attendees. They also seemed to genuinely enjoy the jokes being told by the lecturers as well, all while I picked at stale danishes and stared blankly at the ceiling.

On the second day, after a three-hour long lecture, there was a bright spot ahead. I saw them cueing up a Youtube video, and I said I silent prayer that it might be one of those compilation videos of animals being jerks to one another. At the very least, I hoped it would be that I Love Lucy chocolate factory clip, the very one that they play at basically every conference I've ever been to. As they stopped drawing on the whiteboard, and pressed play on the video, my hopes sunk. I watched as a person in the video drew out another efficiency concept onto a whiteboard. I lost it, and laughed so hard I had to leave the room. Bad turned into worse, in a way I didn't even think was possible.

I was in a cab on the way to the conference at 6:30 this morning, listening to my Kazakstani driver fight with his wife loudly on the phone. I could taste his cologne in my mouth. We were on our way to the Glemore Inn. I knew I was going to spend another day eating shitty hotel sandwiches and going to the bathroom to pass the time. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself until I realized that there was an end in sight for me. This conference, like every other conference, would come to a close, and I would not ever have to think about it again. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I should really feel sorry for the people that put on the conference. The ones that wake up in a different hotel bed every few days, and have to switch on videos of dudes drawing on whiteboards and then pretend to be excited about bookkeeping and statistics. Today, I tried to be nicer. I made significantly less jokes about meetings in the "bored room". I did, however, make fun of the lecturer wearing silver and gold wingtips and flared jeans, because I'm not made of stone. At the end of the day, I skipped down the long hallway I had called home for the last few days, and made it my official mandate to volunteer to attend significantly less of these things.

~sarah p.

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