Saturday, April 21, 2012


Yes, you saw that right.  FFS.

Friendly Face Syndrome.

What did you think I meant?

I've talked about it before. I have one of those faces, everyone thinks they know me or that I look just like someone they used to know. I also have this really bad habit of smiling most of the time. It makes people think that they should approach me and talk to me. The problem with this is that I am also an introvert. I can play an extrovert if I have to, I've had jobs where I have had to present a very outgoing personality, but I am an introvert at heart. I'm not shy, I'm not a recluse, but I prefer to keep my own company or the company of my small group of friends.

The other problem with that is that I am like flypaper to freaks. If I am in a large group of people I know that the ones that will make the beeline for me are the ones who are just off. And I have a very hard time being overtly rude to them to make them go away. I will do the subtle leave me alone signs, books, headphones on an airplane, checking my phone, but I can't really just say, "Hey, look, leave me alone!" Part of it is that I always wonder if that 5 minutes out of my day where I feel uncomfortable is maybe the 5 minutes out of their day where they feel like they had a good day. Could this be the only conversation they have with someone? And for the most part it's over quickly, I can shake my shoulders and clear off the claustrophobic feeling and walk away.

Unless I can't. I posted about this yesterday on Facebook.  The introvert's nightmare is being in a situation that you cannot leave with someone you don't know deciding that you are their new best friend. I have been going to these seminars by the Institute for Brain Potential. Super interesting topics, very engaging speakers, they count towards my continuing education credits (though that doesn't matter now) and they aren't super expensive. You add all of that together and you can see that they would also be extremely popular with others. So there is always a slight anxious feeling going to these things, crowds don't bother me but forced group work does. You know those things where they make you group up with people you don't know to work on something? I hate those.

For awhile when I was working in advertising the parent company of our client decided that at their annual marketing meeting they would assign seating and make you sit not with your clients and co-op but with people from other parts of the country. This was to encourage "cross-pollination" of ideas. Now for an advertising exec what it really means is it's a chance to poach someone else's clients. So the entire time you are trying to be extraordinarily engaging and full of brilliance with the group you are sitting with while watching your co-op members who are scattered to the four winds and making sure that no other agency is being engaging and brilliant with was exhausting for everyone and for me? It was horrible. After those trips I would come home and just want to sit by myself for a day. I needed my own space and my own thoughts and nothing intruding on me to recharge. But I was getting paid to do that so I did.  Benefits outweigh the pain.

The same thing with these seminars. The thought of having to interact with strangers makes me nervous. But the benefits outweigh the pain. And after the first one I discovered that except for a few odd times during the day when people (extroverted people) feel the need to make small talk you are left to enjoy the lectures on your own. I can deal with that.  Then there was yesterday....

I knew I was in trouble pretty early on. When I walked into the conference room I could see that it was going to be even more crowded than the last one I went to. The entire room was filled with chairs and tables, there were two big screens at the front of the room and at first I found a seat close to one of the screens.  There was a woman sitting at the table behind me that said hello, I said hello back and then realized that though there was a screen near my seat the podium where the speaker would be lecturing from was actually much farther over.  I like to be close to the speaker so I moved.  The woman at the table behind me moved with me. At first I thought she had also just noticed that the speaker was farther away and she wanted to be closer to him, but alas, no.  So the only end seat (left handed) open that was closer to the center of the room was in the front row.  I don't mind front row seats so I took it.  At first the woman sat behind me again.  Then she asked, "Do you like to be close to see or to hear?" I said, "I like to see. Inevitably I am the person that picks a seat and then the very tall person with the large hat sits in front of me."

So she picked up all of her things and moved to sit next to me. Or more specifically she put her bags on the seat between us and sat in the same row. She then pulled out a tape recorder and told me she was going to record everything so she could listen to it on the plane ride back to Phoenix, see, she used to live up here but moved to Phoenix three months ago so this seminar really isn't that inexpensive for her as it is for everyone else.  Instead of the $80 for the day she had to pay that plus the hotel room the night before plus the plane ticket. And then these things are always so much information that you really need to hear it three or four times to understand what they are saying and had I ever been to one before?

This is a lot of information coming at you at once and as flypaper for freaks it's the first warning sign that you are in trouble. So I told her that yes I had been to one before and she asked if I liked it.  Now if I were the sort of person who could shut someone down like that without worrying about their feelings I would have smarted off that "No, I hated it, that's why I am back for another one." Instead I told her that yes, I quite enjoyed it. And I also let her know that I was pretty sure she wasn't allowed to record the session. They sell the seminars on CD and DVDs so recording is a no no. She was shocked at that but the woman sitting behind us came to my rescue and showed her in the learning materials where it said you weren't allowed to.  I took this opportunity to try to scout out a new seat. The only other end seat near the area had the view blocked by the camera that was recording our session so I was stuck.

So I started on the subtle anti-social cues, Facebooking, reading the materials, anything that would give me my bubble back. But she was having none of it. And not only was she insisting on interacting with me (the nerve right?) she was a really soft talker so you would have to lean in to hear her. So I am as far out of my comfort zone as I can get. But even with all of that I am keeping my self in check by doing the reminder that she is just looking for interaction, it's not her fault she picked someone who has the outward appearance of an extrovert, smile, FFS, but is an introvert wanting to bolt for the door. She also was one of those people that just assumes you will take care of them. Every time she would decide she wanted coffee it was, "Watch my stuff." Not, do you mind watching my things? Or Will you be here for awhile, can you keep an eye on my things? But "Watch my stuff."  And when I grabbed my purse to go use the restroom before the lecture started she started to gather her things..."Are we moving?"'m going to the restroom. Then I turned to the person behind me, and asked her to keep an eye on my coat. (yes, it was passive- aggressive, sue me) Then she got weirder....

So the lecture starts and the speaker is one of those that engages with the audience, and if you are in the front row you are going to be part of his lecture.  He is giving an example and he says to my seat mate..."What's your first name?" and she says..."I don't have one."  WHAT?  He didn't even blink just moved to the person next to her and asked the same question and used her in the example.  But I was dying DYING to know what he thought at that moment.  See the speaker was a psychologist who specializes in borderline personality and toxic personality disorders. What do you think of the person who tells you they have no first name?

So then the first break period hits and another woman who is in attendance is handing out directions to Cascade Station for those who might want to head that way for lunch. My seatmate says, "Where are you going for lunch?" My first tactic is the passive pretend like you don't hear her move...So she asks again, but not once more, over and over and over until I respond. "I don't know yet." She then tells me if I am going to go to Cascade Station she will just ride with me. Excuse me? I don't know you.  Why in the hell would I give you a ride to lunch? Why would I want to do that? Put a stranger in my car? Are you kidding me? Now I wasn't planning on driving to lunch anyway, 650 people at a conference trying to get in and out of a parking lot at the same time, no thank you. I told her that the hotel had a restaurant and they offered a buffet during these things and she might want to check that out. She asked again what I was going to do.  I ended up telling her I was probably just going to grab something from the gift shop and eat in my car while I made a few phone calls. She wanted to know what the gift shop would have. Umm...snack type things. Nothing big. Lunch finally comes and I hang back long enough for her to get lost in the crowd.  Ended up grabbing a soda and a granola bar for lunch and going back in to the conference room to eat and read.

I don't know what she did but it didn't take long enough.  She ended up back in the conference room as well.  "What's that?"  "It's a Kindle."  "What's a Kindle?" "An electronic book, or reader actually." "What font is that? 10?" "I have no idea.  You can adjust it." "I would have to adjust it, that's too small I'm not sure how you can read it." "I was reading it just fine." THEN SHE PULLED OUT TOOTH FLOSS AND BEGAN FLOSSING HER TEETH! In the conference room. She tells me, make sure you keep looking ahead, I know this grosses some people out. You THINK??  You are flossing your teeth in the conference room! Go to the bathroom for goodness sake!  What the hell is wrong with you???  And that ladies and gentlemen is where I started writing this blog in my head to keep from flipping out on her....

You're welcome....

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