A couple of weeks ago, I attended a writers’ conference. Although I have written most of my adult life, I’ve never had the audacity to call myself a writer. But here I was, among women (mostly) not unlike me — in the middle of life, full of stories and not sure how to share them with the world.
It was the second day of the conference. I was feeling rather empowered by realizing that the difference between me and the people getting paid to write is that they believed they had something to say to the world, and I was still unsure that anyone would be interested my observations. I was also feeling rather chic in my new jeans and bright print top. No wearing black to blend in with the crowd, not me. I chose a flame pattern pullover with a lime green scarf and yellow snake print jacket. I’d force myself to get out there, even if it was simply looking like a tropical cocktail. (Shoot. I should have stuck a paper umbrella behind my ear.) Nonetheless, I plunged ahead. Fresh from a workshop from a blogger sharing branding information, I was sure that blogging would be my future, so I went to the next blogging workshop, even though I really wanted the novel-writing plot-vs-character to shore up my courage to write a novel.
I arrived at the conference room on the third floor, and yes, I took the stairs, thank you! Look at me, chic and healthy to boot. I’d have no reason not to have cake with lunch. The room was full. Overflowing. Kinda reminded me of when I tried to squeeze into a pair of pants that didn’t quite fit on a hot summer day. Tight and uncomfortable. What the heck. I’m not old (!). I’ll sit on the floor.
I staked out my space near the front of the room, near the door. No sooner had I plopped myself down then four more like-minded and youngish women joined me. I now had to balance my laptop on my knees, my computer bag, and jacket, which I’d removed. It was hot. Middle aged women should not be crammed into a hot room, overflowing like a sticky muffin top.
The workshop got underway. I couldn’t quite sit up straight and I couldn’t reach the wall to rest a bit, so I gingerly uncrossed my legs and switched my Indian-style legs. Yoga couldn’t have been done more deftly without swiping one of my now five companions on the floor.
The room grew hotter. The crowd now spilled into the hallway. I was surrounded on the floor by at least six squatters. The woman next to me was slim and truly chic in her gray jeans tucked into her snakeskin boots. Huh. So much for my good look.
As the presenter went on, I noticed my ankle had gone numb. I tried to uncross my legs, but it was too crowded. I was stuck. The room grew warmer. I stretched the numb ankle straight out ahead of me, almost goosing the butt of the lady in front of me. I gingerly re-tucked the leg. More awkward note-taking on my laptop. The numbness crept up my leg. Only 15 minutes had ticked by a 90 minute workshop.
By now, I could hardly concentrate on the speaker. All I could think of was that it was hot and crowded and I couldn’t move.
The numbness spread to my hip. Panic. Must. Move. Now.
I whispered to the owner of the snake-print boots. “I’m making a move to get out.” She’d have to let me by her. Slowly, I put my laptop in the bag, folded my jacket, and tried to stand. Nothing. I was sure everyone was looking at the fruit-salad lady trying to stand. I didn’t look up. Focus. Onto one knee. Breathe. Bag on shoulder. Breathe. Slowly rise. Breathe. Step. Can’t. Feel. Leg.
I managed to hobble quietly into the hallway. I walked into the bathroom, gulping in cool air, and still could not feel my leg. I used the facilities, washed my hands, reapplied lipstick (in a complementary coral shade to make the tropical illusion complete). Still no feeling. I walked down the hall. I could see women spilling into the hall on chairs and standing. No. I would not go back.
By the time I was halfway down the first set of stairs, a tingle. It occurred to me that if I fell down the terrazzo stairway, it would be another half hour before someone would find my body. I knew laughing at the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial would catch up with me.
The first floor. Success. And look, there was a space in the Plot v Character workshop. I sat down at the back table and pulled out my laptop and started taking notes like I belonged there.
Did I mention it was a humor writer’s workshop?
Yeah. I haven’t been reading the other participants’ blogs.