Last Tuesday I posted about an upcoming trip to a conference in Cambridge, Maryland. The conference is now underway, and I arrived around 1:00 this afternoon after a pleasant drive (averaging 50mpg, thanks to the Prius!) from Virginia.
My boss’s boss told me the other day that I “would owe” them for their having let me take this trip, the implication being that this was potentially a boondoggle (though not especially at government expense, since the conference, hotel and all meals except today’s lunch were comped by the conference organizers), conjuring images of me lying by the pool or receiving a hot stone massage at the resort’s spa while they remained hard at work back at the Institute. Well, they couldn’t have gotten it more wrong.
For starters, they had today off. I, however, spent my Sunday morning traveling here, having time only for lunch on my own before the first session started at 2:30. Between then and 9:30 this evening, when I finally got back to my room after dinner–where I was sandwiched between two vendors, so it wasn’t the most relaxing time of the day–the conference provided for only a half-hour of free time. So I’ve spent 6-1/2 hours of one of my weekend days, plus 2 hours of travel time, attending sessions and that “networking” dinner.
And tomorrow it gets worse. The day begins with breakfast at 7:00, at which point we’ll be given our schedule of one-on-one meetings with vendors that take place at various times between plenaries and workshops. Throughout the course of the day, we’re given only one hour of free time–lunch and dinner again being “networking” events that are part of the conference rather than on our own–with dinner not ending until 10:00 tomorrow night, for a total of 14 hours of sessions and meetings. And, when I say only one free hour, I really mean it; there aren’t even any 15-minute breaks, as sessions and vendor meetings are scheduled completely back-to-back throughout the day.
So even if I wanted to pay the absurdly expensive $175 charge for a massage or $110 for a facial, I wouldn’t have the time to indulge in them, since the spa closes at 5:00, which is before our one free hour comes around. The hotel grounds look beautiful, but my only exposure to them will be the views through the windows as I move from one session to the next.
In the earlier post, I talked about the expensive Internet access–$30/hour–the hotel charges in its business center. I’ve ended up connecting via low-speed dialup from my room; a $1 connection fee for a local call, but at least they aren’t charging per-minute rates after that. The high prices for Internet service, though, have been mirrored throughout the hotel, as the spa prices above also indicate. In the gift shop, a 16-ounce bottle soda costs $2.50 and a candy bar $1.50, the vending machines on my floor charge $1.50 for a 12-ounce can of soda, and the medium-size bottles of water on display in the room itself bear little signs nothing that they cost $3.75. During my half-hour break today, I drove to the Wal-Mart out on the main highway and bought a 12-pack of Diet Dr. Pepper, a bag of popcorn and a 10-pack of small candy bars for a total of $5, what I’d pay over here for just two bottles of soda.
I figure I’ll need the candy bars just to get through tomorrow’s 14 hours of meetings. Truth be told, perk though this trip might have seemed, I’d really rather be back home with Jeff, vegging out in front of the TiVo, and going to the office for just my usual eight hours of work.
And now I should get to bed. The long Monday starts very early.