Ducking the really tough conversations
I spend a lot of energy trying to convince people that my faux pas are actually word-play. Take my most recent one: Wild Birds Unlimited’s Paul Pickett posted pictures on Facebook of the latest members to his avian flock. There was one particularly cute chicken I asked him to name after me, if said chicken wasn’t a future dinner item. Paul posted another picture of him holding “Nancy” and gently chastising me for mistaking a duck for a chicken. To mask my city-girl ignorance, I quickly replied: “I know it’s a duck. I was calling it a coward.” Now the duck’s probably mad at me. I bet he’s refusing to answer to “Nancy.”
But that’s nothing compared to my meeting with Joyce Mazero of Haynes and Boone at the Women’s Foodservice Forum breakfast at the International Franchise Association convention. Joyce, who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, walked up to me with a young woman wearing a name tag with “Emma” printed in big letters—all the better to read at a glance. I thought I remembered hearing Joyce’s daughter’s name was Emma, so I said, “Oh, are you Joyce’s…” which is when I realized I didn’t really remember if Joyce’s daughter was named Emma, or if this woman was actually the right age to be Joyce’s daughter. But still I should have continued the thought because it could have been misconstrued as an insult to Emma, who is a lawyer at Haynes and Boone and certainly not Joyce’s personal property. In order to clear up the confusion, I told the woman she looked young enough to be Joyce’s daughter. When Joyce looked slightly offended, I told Emma she looked 12. When Emma looked slightly offended, I shut up.
And yet, even that faux pas pales to the time I enthusiastically congratulated a woman I hadn’t seen since I did a story on her during my days with our sister publication Foodservice News more than five years ago on her imminent pregnancy. When she assured me she wasn’t pregnant, I thought I could make it better by saying, “Oh, that’s right, you just had the baby.” To which she replied, “He’s four.” I immediately switched to safer subjects: politics and religion.
I was going to tell Joyce she looked great. But to say she looked like she’d lost a lot of weight was to imply that she had previously gained a lot of weight. I was tired of being off balance and needed to get both feet solidly planted on the ground and at least one of them out of my mouth.
That’s why I never compliment myself. I’m overly sensitive to criticism.
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There aren’t many meals you have to buy on your own at the IFA convention, but lunch on the first day was one of them. After polishing off a stir-fry at the healthiest option in MGM’s food court, I lingered to talk to FranchiseWorks.com’s Terry Corkery. I like to ask Terry each time I see him what he’s done lately to embarrass his youngest daughter. These are not accidents, they are deliberate acts. This time he had a video. He rewound it several times to show me the look of apprehension growing on his daughter’s face as it occurs to her that her father is no longer content to use his phone to record her friend dancing with Goofy at Disney World, he is about to hand the camera to her mother so he can dance with Goofy. And my kids think they have it tough.
As we walked out of the food court, I stopped back at the Asian restaurant to get a drink to take with me. A large Diet Coke was $4.59. Terry was appalled. I assured him that was the going price in Vegas, but he made me ask at the McDonald’s around the corner what they charged: $1.99. I conceded he was right. However, the next day when I walked by the food court on my way to the sessions, I noticed McDonald’s was dark. Obviously, it was because they weren’t charging the going rate for their large fountain drinks.
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Suppliers who didn’t have some sort of gimmick during the exhibitors’ hours at the IFA’s convention were most likely lonely. It would have been superhuman to resist dressing up and stepping into the retro photo booth provided by Listen 360 to get a photo strip of four different poses (see mine below).
At the Yodle booth, artist Sam used her mini-Ipad to do the 21st century version of caricatures, those drawings that exaggerate the feature you’re most sensitive about. Sam, who goes by just her first name, was kind to me. The picture looked nothing like me as I am today. Maybe 30 years ago. I plan to use it with my obituary.
Adding a bit of glamour to the photo-taking sessions was the Konnect Public Relations booth, where a red-feathered show girl posed for souvenir instant pictures. (You can see her picture on page 65.)
My favorite keepsake was Satmetrix’s USB flash drive that looked like an oversized Lego man. It was the prefect belated birthday gift for my son-in-law.
Strategic Meetings Solutions was handing out tiny cloths that attach to the back of your phone, but magically can be removed to clean your face grease off the screen, and then reattached to the phone. It made another awesome gift.
I think IFA is missing a tremendous revenue-making opportunity. Schedule the convention the first week in December, and between the FranPAC auction and the free giveaways, most of us could get our holiday shopping taken care of in four days.