There, now that's taken care of. Well, what reminded me of this sketch very recently was my brand-new, hot-off-the-press Volunteer Assignment at the New Jersey SCBWI Conference this coming weekend.
Let me explain. I've been attending this annual conference for the past umpteen years, and for the past five or so, I've offered to fulfill volunteer assignments. This has worked out great. It makes me feel like I'm helping, but it also serves the crucial function of giving me something to do other than obsess about the critiques of my manuscripts I'm about to receive. A win-win, you might say.
But then last year, something strange happened. In addition to my ordinary volunteer jobs, I was also given the task of serving as a Conference Liaison to two of the author faculty members. But what exactly does a Conference Liaison do?? The instructions I received were rather vague, but did seem to suggest that I not only remain constantly available to my liaisees throughout the two-day conference, but that I also call them on their cell phones five or six times during the course of the day (in case, I suppose, they needed me desperately but were too shy to initiate the contact) just to make sure they were happy and well-tended. Evidently, I was expected to function as a Helicopter Liaison.
In my perplexity, I brought this problem to my critique group. After all, I was there at the conference to network, attend workshops, and receive critiques. Was I really going to be expected to respond to a call from a liaisee instantaneously, no matter what else I happened to be doing at the moment? And once I DID drop everything and race at superhuman speed to my liaisee's side, what exactly was I to be expected to do for them? There seemed to be a consensus among my critique group members that if I were summoned to respond to a liaisee's life-threatening emergency, my lack of medical training would prove a distinct handicap. To be blunt, all of us doubted I'd be able to prevent their bleeding out right in the middle of presenting their workshops. As to what other circumstances might require my assistance... well, my group and I had a lot of thoughts on the subject, many of them centering around moist towelettes (as my friend Michele was kind enough to remind me this morning). As in: "Hello, I'm your Conference Liaison, and I'm here to meet your every need. May I offer you coffee? Tea? Whiskey? Cocaine? Bootleg CDs? Penicillin? Breath mints? Or perhaps a moist towelette?" As for our discussions of Conference Liaison Bathroom Etiquette, they will not be repeated here because some of us actually still care about our reputations.
But you have to admit: it was a silly volunteer assignment. It was like I was being pranked and someone was waiting to see when I would realize it. But I never let on I knew, so this year, the volunteer coordinators have upped the ante.
Oh, I'm still a Conference Liaison, don't you worry. But this year, in addition to that as well as my more traditional assignments, I have a brand new title. At this very moment, you are reading the blog of a MEAL TABLE FACILITATOR. Yup, you read that right. I'm an MTF at not one, not two, but three different meals.
So, the biggest FAQ that we MTFs get asked is: "Excuse me, please, O Honorable MTF, but could you possibly be willing to abase yourself to explain to a humble non-MTF like me what it is that you do?" And here is my reply: "Why, certainly. I may be an MTF, but that doesn't mean I've lost the common touch. I remember back three days ago when I was (hard as it is to believe) an ordinary non-MTF just like you. So yes, my dear supplicant, I will take a moment out of my busy and important schedule to explain to you that prior to each meal, the MTF is provided an Official List of the non-MTFs who have signed up to sit at his or her Assigned Table, along with one or two faculty members. And as the non-MTFs seat themselves around the circle, the MTF is entrusted with the supremely important task of ascertaining the identity of all the non-MTFs, checking them against the Official List, and if they do not appear on said List, assuring their... departure, shall we say. Yes, let's call it "departure." That sounds so civilized, does it not?
What's that you say, humble supplicant? I can hardly believe my ears. Did you actually dare to utter the phrase "glorified bouncer?" That was quite a foolish move on your part, I must say. No, no, I won't hear of your leaving. Stay right there. There are some people I'd very much like for you to meet....