Once upon a time, long, long ago, I had to drag my weary bones out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to put kids on the school bus before getting myself to work. I often wonder how working mothers survive! I don’t miss that hectic morning routine but I do miss a perk I had because I was employed. I had to have 30 continuing education hours every two years in order to renew my license to practice as an audiologist so I got professional leave to attend a conference every year. The expenses were picked up by my employer and it gave me a much needed break from my family and job. I got to leave my normal, boring routine behind and replace it with equally boring classes, but in a new environment with food and freebies included. I now proudly own at least twelve rulers imprinted with the American Speech and Hearing Association’s logo, and I haven’t had to buy a pen or an emery board since my career began. I went home with Frisbees, balloons, chapstick, and pencils, stress balls, posters, and post-it-notes, hats and t-shirts, and one year, I even won an iPod. Nine years into retirement, I still haven’t run out of sticky little pieces of paper.
I enjoyed going to conferences, I just didn’t always enjoy the conference classes. I was always happy to attend sessions relevant to my work but I worked exclusively with a pediatric population, and most of the conference sessions were about fitting hearing aids on adults. Over the years, I found ways to make the classes more tolerable, number one being an ability to snooze while sitting up. I’d had lots of practice with this in college but it is harder than one might think if one has a tendency to snore, or fall off the chair.
Just the act of traveling is entertaining for me. I have packing down to a science. but traveling from a cold climate to a warm one poses a few packing challenges. Not one to freeze on the northern end of the trip, I always wear layers. One time, while flying to a conference in New Orleans, I was removing my pullover sweater on the plane and my tank top came off with it. Sitting there in a nearly super bowl wardrobe malfunction moment, I was glad that I had taken my Mom’s advice about wearing nice undergarments when I traveled. The black lacy bra against the creamy white of my chest didn’t look too bad. The man smiling next to me agreed. I don’t embarrass easily but this was a giant step beyond my normal, and I could have died on the spot. It didn’t make matters any better when I hastily pulled my sweater back on…wrong side out. I’m grateful to this day that the trip was pre-cellphone so I didn’t end up plastered on a social media site!