Monday, June 13, 2016

IRWA Conference in Nashville

I was home for literally 12 hours before I was on another flight for work, this time headed to Nashville, TN for the International Right of Way conference with fellow co-workers Corinna, and Gary from Texas, Tennessee Tommy, and Matt from Michigan.  It was my first time meeting everyone and they all turned out to be amazing people.    Read on...

The conference was at the Gaylord Opry Convention Center which was MASSIVE.  It was basically a small city with a glass roof over it and a friggin' river running through it.  Everything was overpriced.  A root beer, for instance, was $3-$4 and meals were $30+.  Thankfully, every time we ate out Matt or Gary covered the bill as they were supposed to per company policy of senior management covering food.  Phew... 

The exhibit Hall was pretty fun.  It was my first exhibit hall conference for Cardno and I had brought a DJI Phantom 3 to raffle off as a prize in exchange for receiving people's business cards as entries for it.  I had a looping PowerPoint of what our group does at Cardno with some cool data fly-through videos in it.  Corinna and I manned the booth pretty much the whole two days.  Corinna and I really hit it off.  She's super nice and for being from Texas I was surprised that she shared a lot of the same views I did.  There were a lot of people interested in what we do with our platforms so I ended up talking so much I nearly lost my voice.  Thankfully, I'm passionate about our work so it was enjoyable to see interested potential clients also get excited about the new technology out there.  It was also really good to be able to educate Matt, Tommy and Gary about our group so they could better understand what we do and sell us better to all their client contacts.

Gary is a fun, interesting guy but pretty opposite me when it comes to our political views and gun control (he has over 80 guns).  I think Corinna and I were able to make some pretty good points with him on the sensibility of tighter gun control laws after we had a few drinks one night. We met up with a bunch of Gary's friends for dinner Tuesday night at a crazy expensive restaurant called Kanye Prime Steakhouse.  Pretty much everyone at the table (10+ people) ordered $40+ steaks and sides.  Thank God I wasn't involved with the bill on this meal... I believe Gary split the cost with a friend in upper management at another company that was there.  

At the end of the meal Gary hadn't touched his steak so I asked for a to-go box and took it back to the hotel room, without a fridge, and ate it the next morning anyway!  No way, especially after Tanzania, was I going to let a meal like that be thrown out.  Everyone was super nice but I don't know if I'll ever get used to being around that kind of money and lifestyle.  My mind just goes back to the poverty I saw in Africa and I feel guilty partaking in that lifestyle at all.  

We did have one crazy night on the town.  I was supposed to fly out on Tuesday night but as I headed towards the hotel exit after checking out I got an alert on my phone saying that my flight was delayed at least several hours due to weather and there was no way I would make my connecting flight, forcing me to either sleep in an airport overnight or stay one more night at the conference and get to hang out with the crew in downtown Nashville... Tough choice.... I called the airline and switched my flights to the next day, talked the desk clerk into giving me a conference rate again, and headed out for the wrap-up conference dinner with Gary and the others downtown.  The dinner turned out to be incredibly boring as it was a small buffet and then a really long, drawn-out raffle of very weird items that apparently has become a tradition for the conference.  The group of us pretty much just stuck to drinks and mingling with potential clients.

After dinner we hit bar after bar with my tab being covered for me each time thankfully.  It was the Country Music Awards that weekend in town and it was super busy, even for a Tuesday night.  There was live music at every bar we went to and everyone had amazing voices.  Even the karaoke at the "Wild Beaver" we ended at was top notch singing!  Matt left early in the evening but Gary, Tommy, Corrina and I stayed out till nearly 3am partying with a potential client that had won our drone giveaway.  

There was some very drunken karaoke sung and a mechanical bull was powered on for the crowd as well.  On a dare Gary rode it first and then later guilted me into riding it.  Everyone in the bar rode it the traditional way with one hand in the air and hips rotating with the bucking beast but I took a different approach, latching onto the thing with all fours and keeping my head down and chest tight against the bull.  While the others in the bar lasted no more than about 30 seconds I lasted a full song and into another, with the operator of the bull at one point looking at me like "what the hell!".  He finally put the thing into a 360 degree spin with enough force that I couldn't hold on anymore... Kind of of a cheap trick to throw me off as I was clearly winning the day....

When I got back to the hotel I couldn't remember what room I was in as I had rushed to get it before meeting the others for dinner and had to ask the hotel for guidance back to my correct at 3am.  Embarrassing.  The next day my flight was early so I wasn't able to make breakfast with everyone else but texted everyone goodbye.  I think I earned the respect of all my colleagues while also making some potentially great business contacts for our team.  I was glad I chose to stay the extra night with everyone!

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