December 16th, 2018
I met a young woman at the national immigration conference who remarked that it was a “professional” gathering. That’s one way to look at it. In some ways, it felt “corporate” to me. It reminded me of some of the conferences I attended when I worked at the trucking company. I didn’t know anybody this gathering, so every meeting was a chance for a first impression. I found people to be friendly, but wary.
It seemed like everybody had a business card, except for me. Almost everyone was better dressed than I was. Even the would-be revolutionaries looked more formal than I did. I got the sense early on that many people at the conference were there to impress somebody. They were there to make a sales pitch to someone. I felt like many of the participants were wearing a mask, at least at first. It was a show.
Often when I asked a person what they did, they answered me by stating their job title. You know: “executive director”, “assistant administrator”,”grand poobah”, whatever. I can only assume that they hoped to get my attention by telling their rank and position within their respective organizations. I wanted to know what they actually did, which is a completely different matter. I’ve had plenty of titles during the course of my life: “captain”, “platoon leader”, “operations officer”, “supervisor”. None of those ever meant a damn thing, not to me or to anybody else.
I’m not entirely sure why I was there, except that it was just some weird karma. I felt out of place as soon as I entered the hotel. The Crystal Gateway Marriott is, by far, the fanciest place that I have ever stayed. I couldn’t understand why a conference focusing on poor immigrants would choose to meet in facility that none of these immigrants could ever possibly afford to stay at themselves. It was eventually explained to me that some of the attendees were “funders”, the people with the big bucks. Then the location kind of made sense. It’s about attracting the money.
I don’t network, so maybe I shouldn’t have been at the conference at all. I don’t like to meet people simply to find out if they can advance my agenda. That seems mercenary, and somehow manipulative. I just tried to get to know people because I was curious about them. I wanted to understand what made them tick. I wanted to know who they really were.
I don’t have an agenda. I don’t have a job title. I don’t have a business card.
I’m not part of the game.