Monday, October 20, 2014
Oh the People You'll Meet!
So you want to make new friends, but you’ve heard Bouchercon is too big. Or maybe you’re the shy type, or worried you might do something to embarrass yourself. Just to put you at ease, I’m going to tell you about my most embarrassing moment at a mystery con ever—if you don’t count the time I accidentally threw a bagel smothered in cream cheese into an editor’s purse. Actually, now that I think about it, the bagel incident was more embarrassing, especially considering that I was trying to appear so professional. But since it took place years earlier at a romance writer’s conference, I feel as though it shouldn’t count. (Note to readers who attend these gatherings in the hopes of meeting an editor and maybe getting published: I don’t recommend the bagel method for introductions.)
But I digress. It was 1997, my first-ever Bouchercon in Monterey. Like anyone walking into Bouchercon as a newby—and perhaps also because I was an aspiring mystery writer—I was intimidated by the vast number of people attending, worried that I’d say something wrong, perhaps commit some grand faux pas. Even so, I wanted to immerse myself into this world and so I stepped out of my comfort zone, stuck out my hand, and introduced myself to the first person I met in line at registration. She in turn introduced me to several more people in her group. Mission accomplished. I now knew someone in the room.
That first night, this same group invited me to dinner at the pub behind the hotel, and being on a budget, as many of us are at these cons, I ordered an appetizer-sized spinach and feta pizza for my meal. Undoubtedly the more cynical readers (especially those who know me) are probably wondering how I could possibly remember what I ate seventeen years ago, when I can’t even recall what I ate yesterday. Well, I’m getting to it. A few of us from dinner stopped at the bar afterward, and I was having the time of my life meeting so many people. After an hour or two, I reluctantly bid goodnight, and went up to my room. The moment I looked into the mirror, I thought I’d stepped onto the set of a zombie movie. Every single one of my upper teeth appeared decayed and rotting. On closer inspection, I realized each was covered in green and white globs of various shapes and sizes.
Just. Plain. Ew.
Horrified, I wondered why no one had told me? Did anyone notice? How could anyone not notice? Perhaps the combination of alcohol and the dim lighting of the bar kept the majority from seeing the condition of my teeth—and if they did see them, from remembering anything about it the next day.
Being that this traumatic (at the time) event occurred almost two decades ago, you’re probably wondering why would I bring it up now, when everyone has surely forgotten? I do so, because embarrassing things happen. To some of us (me), more than we care to recall. (I think I’ll save the Bouchercon/DorothyL handcuff story for another time…) My point is that you shouldn’t let the fear of being in large crowds stop you from meeting new people. Sure, Bouchercon is a big conference and it can seem intimidating. But mystery people are the nicest people. They don’t hold those moments against you. So step out of your comfort zone, introduce yourself to someone new. Just maybe don’t do it after you’ve eaten spinach and feta pizza.