The other day I was in a different city.
At at teaching conference.
Sure I know this city.
And sure I knew plenty of people in town.
And even a few at the conference.
But I found myself with a few empty hours
And I took off.
The conference had me a little panicked.
I used to go to the conference every year.
And came home with all kinds of new ideas, freebies, handouts and especially renewed excitement for what I was teaching.
It was really really crowded.
The first three workshops I tried to go to were full.
(and no you couldn’t sign up in advance)
I was frustrated and overwhelmed and a little panicked, instead of the excited I had been expecting. So I decided to take off until the next session which didn’t start for hours. Really, I was bolting.
The conference center was in a newly updated really hip part of town.
That usually I would want to explore.
But I kept walking.
For atleast a mile, probably two. Til I didn’t see anyone with obnoxious nametags any more. Taking in the city with every step.
And I found a book store.
And thought I’d found my spot.
But I was hungry and wanted more to eat than a cookie.
And I wasn’t sure I could resist the temptation.
So I kept moving until I saw the classic Starbucks logo.
But this Starbucks was small and dirty and a little sketchy. If that is even possible to imagine. There were bars on the window and I had to ask someone to unlock the bathroom for me. I ordered and spread out my papers to grade. And kept a close eye on my purse.
And looked around.
The man beside me was having long loud and very intense business conversations.
I looked briefly for a Bluetooth only to confirm what I predicted. That he was in fact talking to himself as he scribbled on post it after post and placed them orderly on his table.
I tried to smile and comment on something he had said to himself.
He quickly turned away and started to cover up his postits.
Another guy beside me had his laptop out and was very into his current world of warcraft game.
As in was giving himself an occasional peptalk and the rest of us the play by play.
Another shabbily dressed older man with a cane walked in.
There were some brief words with the barista.
She wasn’t particularly welcoming and asked him to move.
He threw his cane at her and sound some fabulous things that I can’t type here.
(although I guess that has never stopped me from using those words before).
I graded and sipped and listened.
I smiled and made eye contact.
And was finally comfortable.
And worried a little what this said about my life.
That I was happier in the middle of crazy starbucks than surrounded by my peers.
And the next day for lunch.
I had slightly less time and didn’t feel like spending money on coffee.
But I of course needed to escape the crazy that was the conference center.
So I bolted again.
And I found a bench.
A really great bench.
And read a really great book.
But each day I made my way back.
And my conference got better.
Especially the second day.
I did leave with a few new ideas, good handout, websites and some encouragement.
But most of all I came home with the peace of getting to wonder a city for a few hours.
Reading on park benches in the sun.
And a whole lot of fabulous time with some of my favorite people that I love (that is far too big and great and personal to fit into a blog post).
And none of that was in the workshop catalog at all.
But maybe the best thing for my soul.
And even my Monday.