I had a great opportunity last night to attend a panel discussion hosted by Washington Book Publishers. Other than my friend who was on the panel, I didn’t know anyone else in the room, and they definitely all knew each other. It reminded me of my early days in the Association of Legal Administrators, which started out the same way and then gained momentum. If I did it before I can do it again, so I did my best to mix, mingle, smile and not embarrass myself. Of course, I failed on that last one.
The people were all very friendly; the challenge was that they were speaking a different language. It was publishing-writing-editing talk, and I of course am a complete novice. When the panel asked for questions, I was fascinated. Someone would say “I’m in acquisitions, and when I’m dealing with production…” and everyone but me would groan knowingly. Huh. Note to self: figure out what the hell people are talking about.
While the group and industry was new to me, the topic was not; it was a discussion on how to deal with difficult people. Karla Miller (the @Work Advice columnist) was one of the speakers; honestly, she has my dream job. I guess technically it’s not her fault that she has her job and I don’t, but you know, it still hurts.
After the discussion, I sort of lingered near Karla, not in a weird stalking way of course, but in a “hey look at us, a couple of writers” as if I’m legit and we both write a column for the Washington Post Magazine. But let’s not get all hung up in details of who has more writing experience. I mean, it’s not a competition, right? When I finally had a chance to chat with her she was very nice and funny and don’t think that wasn’t annoying.
While I was chatting with Karla, a woman came over to follow up on a question she had asked regarding one of those difficult people in her workplace. Karla was encouraging her to try this and that, and go figure, it was great advice. And then I heard these words coming out of my mouth, unsolicited, “I’m certainly not Karla, but I’ll tell you what I’d do in that situation…”
Take a moment here people, to realize that I was giving work advice to someone while Karla Miller stood right next to me. They both said it was good advice, but if I’m truly honest with myself it’s probably just because they were being nice to the odd person who had infiltrated the group.
Sometimes I can’t believe the stuff I say. Words just tumble out of my mouth without ever stopping to check out the terrain. It’s scary. Let’s say I am at a cocktail party and other columnists just happen to be there. Will I wander over to Gene Weingarten and Dave Barry and try to be witty? Will I tell Will Shortz how to put together a solid crossword puzzle?
We all know it’s just a matter of time before I really step in it. It’s comforting to know that you’ll all be on the sidelines, laughing and pointing.