Wide, carpeted halls, too early in the morning; the symphony starts with the industrial vacuums running figure eights, retreating and returning, fortissimo, pianissimo. Lulled almost to sleep, hunched against a fake wall with the cuffs of my Good Pants dusting the only square inch of unscoured carpet in that cavernous space, I can imagine that’s the sum total of the music, that the Zambonis will dance away across the salmon and beige and leave us with ice, silence.
But no, it’s seven a.m. – the air conditioning rumbles to life, war drums beating out rhythms of frosted air from what seems like miles overhead. Through the glass walls, the crescendo is coming again – there, a brown shoe scrapes the paint off the crosswalk, paper claps on the clipboard and business cards rattle, restless, in their pocket cage. A salvo of buses scatters on the shoals, fresh from Marriott, Radisson, and other distant lands. Daisy chaining good manners, polite consumers hold open the doors for their next-in-line, swinging them wider and narrower but never again closed, and the air conditioning rushes to meet warm morning air. Soon enough, all that percussion fades from a rhythm into a hum.
Slowly people fill this space, each searching in vain for the danish on the bagel tray. The re-minted hall is jammed with gray suits and sweat-stained t-shirts, shackled alike under heavy lanyards. The trash cans are filling up again. Somewhere in a back room an organizational committee pipes out some final deliberation over the scheduling of Hall B… but make no mistake, there is no conductor.
I never imagined this would be my song. But I’ve heard it more clearly, these last few months, than any other music. GDC, SXSW, Meaningful Play, SIGGRAPH… exhibitions, expositions, symposiums, colloquia. How many people do you think there are doing nothing but dancing to that tune? Bounding from Civic Center to Convention Hall?
Is there such a thing as a conference junkie?