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02/12/01
D.C. Follies: Terribly Happy's back with a vengeance*

* note: vengeance not included

 

Remember how I was all bitching and moaning and whining about how sucky it is to be a manager (editor, whatever) anvd how I didn't want to go on an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington D.C. where I knew I wouldn't fit in because I'm all young and inexperienced and I try to be nice to people instead of a rampaging asshole with festering hemorrhoids?

Okay, well forget that. Sorry. I was being stupid. Just because I have a Web site and I write like I know what I'm talking about doesn't mean I'm smart or correct or anything. In fact, having archives on this site sucks because people can look back on exactly how dumb my predictions really can be.

The trip. It was fabulous. Seriously. I feel like a total management geek. I learned all these Jedi Manager Mind Tricks that I can't wait to go back and try on people. Like this one:

 

Employee: I think I'm a valuable asset to this company and I believe I really deserve a raise for all the

Manager: You don't need a raise.

Employee: -- but I don't really think I need or deserve a raise. Thanks for meeting with me.

Manager: Any time.

 

That's a slight exaggeration, but really, it was a fantastic session. It was at the American Press Institute, which is a big, gray, flat building in the middle of a bunch of brown, leaf-less trees near Dulles Airport. The American Press Institute was a bit mythical for me because newsrooms and newspapers are essentially scattered entities. You rarely have more than one big paper in any major city. So here's a place for all journalists, a place where people talk about serious Big Issues in journalism. Like, do you print the names of crime victims? Do you sell advertising on the front page like USA Today? Is Andy Capp an alcoholic, a victim of spousal abuse or both?

Tellingly, the building is ashy, as if somebody rubbed a bunch of newspapers along the outer walls.

The sessions were excellent. They brought in a bunch of really smart, really dynamic speakers. It was as if Tony Robbins had his Bastard Brigade of his best people and dispersed them on our 33-member group.

There was a session on Myers-Briggs testing, which tells you not only about your personality, but how your personality pisses people off who fall on the other end of the Myers-Briggs scale. My score was ENFP, which means I'm "Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceptive." I'll write another entry sometime about all this, but basically it means I hate deadlines and structure and I can be supremely innovative in finding ways to waste time. And I cry sometimes when Third Watch is on.

Oh, speaking of which, my dear friend Heather, who has graced these pages before, is moving to L.A.! She got a bad-ass job out there. In the midst of packing, she was gracious enough to fill in for me and do a Third Watch recap! Go check it out. It's really good.

Anyway, back to Washington. I arrived on a Saturday, which effectively ruined the weekend. But it's okay because my former co-worker Suzannne and her husband took me out for some Thai food in Arlington. What I didn't know was that Dulles is so far away from the actual monument-type locales in Washington D.C. that politicians routinely travel to Dulles to ferret away prostitutes, money, dead bodies, effective legislation, whatever. It's way out there. Suzanne was nice enough to drive down, which was nice because a cab ride would have cost me $50 each way. Our hotel (the Hyatt, by the way, which was lovely, if not stupidly located) was right off the highway, but not in any useful way. You had to take another highway after passing it, and then pass the hotel again to take another highway and then go through a bunch of apartment buildings and businesses. I have never seen a more pointless location for a hotel. It was literally 15 more minutes to get to it once you passed it the first time.


This makes me feel like I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free.

So anyway, the Thai food was excellent, maybe the best chicken Phad Thai I've ever had. Suzanne's husband had to work the next day, so he retired early. Suz (I'd never call her "Suz" to her face) and I took the metro to a place I'd been to once before called The Brickskeller, a very great, cavernous beer pub. They have beers from all over the world. The list is like 98 beers from Germany, 65 beers from Belgium, and like one beer from Uruguay. It's weird. I ordered a Beck's Golden, which turned out to be exactly like regular Becks, except they added a little bit of food coloring.

What with the cab ride and the metro, I didn't get back to the hotel till very late and I stayed up reading even later. So Sunday was just sleeping and reading (I finally finished the last Harry Potter book and am now filled with sadness because I have to wait like everybody else for the next one to come out) until our opening reception.

It set the tone for the rest of the week. People told funny little stories about their newspapers and were very friendly and chatty. The food was upscale and catered. I went back to my room still hesitant, but glad I came.

The rest of the week, though, was brilliant. Our speakers were fantastic. One of them spoke about the "architecture of power." His theory, to put it in layman's terms (and because I can't explain it any better than him) is that every organization is full of power struggles and you're much better off being aware of them than to be pushed around. He also maintains that power is really only "imposition." We're taught that imposition is bad, but really any decision anybody makes in a company or group is an imposition of their personal preference over others. You can call it "influencing" or "manipulating" or whatever, but it's liberating to think that you have as much say and control as anybody else if you choose to assert it. I'll probably talk a lot more about this in another entry, too, because it blew our minds. And it was the closest we actually came to learning Jedi Manager Mind Tricks.

In the evenings, I mostly stayed in my room, answering e-mail, watching TV, trying to get in touch with some people who had gotten in contact with me and enjoying the hospitality suite with other people from the session.

More on Page Two...
Crying over Pulitzer photos, the trip back home...

 

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