I have mentioned my “road family” in the past, but never really realized the number of different road families I was a part of. There is the group of people who I see at nearly every conference, there are various regional groups around the country, and of course my local mortgage group, which I have been involved with for many years. Occasionally I attend conferences where two different road families are in attendance but seldom are there more than two different groups at one time. Fate had other plans of course, and all of that changed at one large conference last summer.
It was at the Originator Connect conference last year in Las Vegas. Our team had just been out for a late-night dinner with some clients and were returning to the venue hotel. Nearly every hotel/casino in Las Vegas has a very open central bar, where people seem to congregate throughout the evening.This hotel was no exception. I was walking past the bar when I heard someone shout my name. As I turned, a surreal scene presented itself to me. At least five distinctly different groups of friends were in the same bar. I felt like that Bizarro World episode of Seinfeld. My alternate universes were colliding in a single location. The really peculiar part of the situation was the groups were separated and spaced out around the bar in their unique pods.
I finally realized who had shouted my name and was making my way into the bar to say hello. I, of course, greeted each group of friends I passed as I made my way to the bar. With each hello, I found more and more humor in the situation. By the time I reached my friend at the bar, I was laughing hysterically and shaking my head. I turned and looked back, scanning the room from one side to the other, explaining to him about my Bizarro world experience and why I was laughing. Then it occurred to me that I bore some social responsibility to visit with each of my group of friends. It was very late, my energy stores were waning, and I was starting to feel a bit of weight from the moment.
My friend called this “loser talk.” He promptly ordered me a can of Redbull and some libation in a shot glass. So I popped the top on that Redbull, chugged the entire can, pointed at a group of people walking by the bar, and switched shot glasses with my friend as he turned to look. Slowly I made my way from group to group, bringing them all together, and introducing the ones that did not know each other. The unfortunate side effect was they all enjoyed each other’s company so much; they decided they wanted to go to a big night club together to continue the bonding session. The next thing I know a stretch limo was out front and most of the group was headed in the direction of the front door. A small group bowed out gracefully and were hanging at the bar for one last drink.
Here I was, completely exhausted standing between the bar and the front door. There was significant peer pressure to get into the limo. As I helped one person after the other into it, a plan came to me. As everyone in the limo was distracted with their laughing and conversations, I took a $20 bill out of my pocket and whispered to the limo driver that it was his if he could declare the limo full. He whisked the cash out of my hand, subtly tucked it into his pocket, and quickly proclaimed the limo to be at capacity.
After a brief roar of disapproval from the other passengers,the quick-thinking driver told them not to worry; he would come back for the remaining passengers. I waved to everyone as the driver closed the door. He gave me a wink and a smile and told me to have a pleasant evening. I could hear the laughter and cheers coming out of the car as they drove away to their next adventure.
I enjoyed a comfortable conversation and a cocktail with the friends who had stayed behind and then headed off to my room. I figured the next day I would pay the price from the “club” group for not showing up, but my barking dogs told me I was doing the right thing. Funny enough, all I heard the next day -- and frankly to this day -- is about how much fun we all had that night at the club. They are all, without exception, absolutely convinced I was there.
Yes, most of the time I would have been there until the end,and have done so many times, but for one night I had discovered the wonders of my Bizarro world, and the value keeping a neatly folded twenty dollar bill at the ready.