I was in Atlanta last week attending the 2015 American Institute of Architects National Convention. I arrived on Tuesday afternoon and I left that next Sunday morning – essentially spending 4 full days surrounded by people just like me (no offense to those people who don’t want to be compared to me). I typically enjoy myself when I attend this convention, but that wasn’t always the case. Sure, you meet a lot of interesting people, pick up a bunch of continuing education requirements, and hopefully go on some good building tours – those are always fun – but the thing that makes these conventions the most fun is having a convention wife.
[needle scratch] ….
Wait …What?!? Did he say convention wife? What sort of conventions is he going to?
Relax. There’s nothing sordid about this at all. A convention wife is that one person who hangs out with you during the convention. I went to a handful of conventions a long time ago, before I had found that special someone and conventions were good, but not great. I didn’t really know anyone back then so I spent a lot of time trying to look so busy that nobody would notice that I was by myself and didn’t have anywhere to go. About 4 years ago, I finally met that person who has become my convention partner. We have a similar sense of humor, generally enjoy the same sorts of activities, and (as far as I know) haven’t ever really gotten on each other’s nerves. Everyone who knows me now calls this person my convention wife … whatever. All I know is that my convention going experience has drastically improved and since I have heard this phrase about 50 times in the last few days, I thought I would take this time (as I sit on the airplane) to explain why having a convention wife is such a good thing.
In no particular order:
1. You don’t have to go do things by yourself
Nobody wants to do things by themselves when they are traveling – at least, not regular people. I am about as social as anyone but walking into a room where you don’t know a single person can be a little like dressing up for a costume party and arriving to find that it’s not actually a costume party.
There are typically a lot of parties and social gatherings that go on in the evenings during convention time, most nights there are two or three that I attend. You can always spot the person who came by themselves because the first thing they do when they enter the room is to scan it for a familiar face. When you have your convention wife, the first thing you typically look for when you enter the room is the bar.
2. Share your adventures with someone whose company you enjoy
This isn’t a convention thing – this is a life thing – but it still makes the list. At one point, I’m pretty sure that I spoke about architectural contracts for about an hour over dinner. AN HOUR!! Nobody in their right mind would think this is interesting – but – when you have someone who has shared experiences and insight, discussing almost any item is a lot more rewarding and valuable.
Also, when you find yourself surrounded by a bunch of flight attendants from Swiss Air, it’s nice to have someone else who thinks getting your picture taken would be kind of awesome. (I should have told the pilot to squat down rather than simply move to the back)
3. Acts like a buffer if someone won’t leave you alone
This might sound super rude but it’s not as bad as you might think. At this particular convention, there is an expo floor where there are hundreds, if not thousands … definitely feels like thousands – of vendors there to educate you on their products. The vendors are placed side-by-side and in rows that have a center aisle – where all the
victims interested parties walk through. It’s kind of like herding cows, only there’s a lot more bulls*&t being thrown around.
The most important rule of walking the expo floor is DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH ANYONE. If you do, they are on you like *snap*. While not all vendors are like this [I am evoking my right to hyperbole] there are vendors there that just sit there and nobody seems to want to talk to them and they look a little lonely. If they do manage to engage you in conversation, they are so excited to finally have someone to talk to you had better be prepared to be there so long that you’ll have to go to the bathroom twice. Except you can’t … unless you have a convention wife who can come pull you out of the vendor booth quicksand.
4. Can be your mental unload and sounding board of the day’s activities
There is a lot of information and stories being shared during a typical convention and sorting through which ones are worth moving from short-term to long-term memory is a bit of a chore. Sometimes, you think you get it but while you are talking to your convention wife, they had a different take on things and all of a sudden you realize that what you thought was a terribly boring general session lecture, actually had some interesting ideas. This is also something that you could say happens in everyday life but I am going to say that it’s slightly different with your convention wife. This person, who typically tends to be a lot like you (for those of you who are looking for your own convention wife), and has typically earned enough of your respect so that when they hear the same thing as you – but have come to a different conclusion – you are more likely to actually listen to their reasons for why you *might* have missed the mark (other than the fact you *might* have been reading emails during the presentation).
If you’ve been to a bunch of conventions, you are probably already familiar with the concept of the convention wife. For the record, I am using the term “convention wife” because I am a man, not for some other sexist reason you might be thinking … you could just as easily have a “convention husband” if that’s the way you want to roll.
At any rate, I’ve had the same convention wife for the past several years and I am quite certain that my overall convention experience is better as a result. If you are looking for your own convention wife/husband, there are also some additional rules for who that person CAN’T be – they are:
1. Someone you see all the time anyways
Seems pretty self-explanatory to me. Part of the fun of spending so much time together with a single person during a convention is the fact that you haven’t seen each other in a while.
2. Someone of the opposite gender
Also pretty self-explanatory. Feel free to call me old-fashioned but it seems inappropriate for me to be spending a lot of one-on-one time with someone of the opposite gender. Maybe it’s because I’m not single.
3. Someone who is wildly different in age than yourself
I don’t know if this is so much as a rule as it is an observation. I can probably go about 10 years either way but other than that, things just get weird. Someone older than me by ten years is probably wondering when we are going to eat when it’s only 5:00 pm, that or they start checking their watch at 8:30 pm because they want to make sure they will be able to get enough sleep. In the opposite direction, someone who is more than 10 years my junior is probably hoping to go to the after-after party … and then the after-after-after party. Now I’m that guy who is looking at his watch because he wants to make sure that he gets enough sleep.
4. Someone who already has a convention wife.
You can’t have two convention wives. You just can’t. And you certainly don’t want to be “the other woman” (or man) in a traditional convention marriage arrangement. Maybe there are people out there who have an open convention marriage but let’s be honest … it’s not going to end well for those folks.
I hope that I have either confirmed what you already know to be true, or I’ve opened your eyes to what it takes to have a more rewarding convention experience.