EventsRandom Asides

Of TAM 5.5 and TAMs in General

Well, since Stacey and Rebecca and the other Skepchicks have pretty much covered the details of the TAM 5.5 speakers, as well as the excitement of the boozerific parties, I’ll forego a recap post for now, and just give my high-level impressions of the conference.

I think my last encounter with Rebecca on Sunday afternoon speaks volumes about what you experience at a TAM.

As I was sitting in the airport at my gate waiting to board my flight, I saw Rebecca walk by on the way to her gate. Of course I called her over, and we shared what I can only describe as a Forest and Bubba moment. You know the scene in Forest Gump where Forest pulls Bubba out of the jungle battle, and sets him down on the ground, and all they can say to each other is:

“Hey, Bubba.”

“Hey, Forest.”?

That’s what Rebecca and I did. I mean, we didn’t call each other “Bubba” and “Forest”. That would just be silly. But as she sat down next to me, we had a simple “Hey, Sam” and “Hey, Rebecca” exchange, and then we just kind of stared straight ahead in silence for a long time.

But the reason we were so brain dead was because of the enormous drain TAM has on a body; both mentally and physically.

The moment you arrive, you are transported to a heightened level of attention. You have to be. I mean, consider your everyday level of attention. It may be fairly high, but chances are you operate, at least partially, within the framework of a routine. And as such, you run on autopilot a lot of the time. Some things become sort of automatic.

But when you step into a TAM, you’ve just entered a world that may indeed include aspects of your routine, but those aspects quickly become mere motes of dust blowing helplessly in a Santa Ana wind. There is nothing in your routine that remotely resembles the whole of a TAM. There are just too many subjects with too many smart people for your routine to matter much.

The ideas come fast and furious. The intelligence is ceaseless. You must be bring all your tools to bear. You are charged with fully deploying your intellect, your wit, your math skills, your schmoozing ability, your memory, your modesty, your hubris, and at times, even your dancing and singing skills. Otherwise, you’re going to be left behind, and you’re not going to have any fun.

You have two choices at a TAM: Bring your A game, or sit in the corner drooling on yourself like a moron for three days. And believe me I’ve seen people who aren’t prepared end up in that exact position many times before. Eventually, hotel officials come by and give them a cookie and a sippy cup full of juice before strapping them down and rolling them out on a dolly.

It’s not pretty.

In addition to all the intellectual stimuli, there are the parties associated with the event that test your physical stamina. And don’t think age is going to help or hurt you here. I’ve seen young people peter out early, and old folks see the sunrise. Hell, I staggered to my room after the JREF forum party at 5:30am and there were still people alive and kicking, many of whom had several years on me.

So you have to be prepared to be tested on both fronts during a TAM.

The good news is, there’s nothing better than that Hey Bubba/Hey Forest moment. It is a feeling of pure accomplishment and joy.

Before they finally called me for my flight, I sat with Rebecca in silence, trying to sort through all the memories and to stop the high speed wobbles of a mother honey of a hangover, and you know what?

It was bliss.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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13 Comments

  1. I was indeed looking for a cookie. But I would have had to miss the Skepchick picture to get one, and no cookie is worth that.

    As to the sippy cup, we might have been able to mix our drinks better in them, but then you wouldn't have entertained everyone by doing the plastic spoon bending trick.

    I laughed harder each time you did it. Your commitment to that bit was admirable.

  2. "You are charged with fully deploying your intellect, your wit, your math skills, your schmoozing ability, your memory, your modesty, your hubris, and at times, even your dancing and singing skills."

    So many pithy retorts, so little time…

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