Written by Sherry
Saturday, 05 January 2008 09:46
Back from Houston for two days. Then off the San Francisco Bay area where a tremendous storm is brewing and there are all kinds of power outages. Hey, its all part of the relentless glamour of mendicant life.
The Catholic school teachers in Houston were a warm, great group and the workshop was very successful in the end but it didn't start out that way. Just about everything logistical that could go wrong did go wrong. This was Called & Gifted #331. Over time, you develop a personal hall of fame for workshop disasters. And they are pretty funny - in retrospect. You know that you are a pro when they strike you as funny at the time!
1) There was the one in California where we showed up to find a square 6 foot screen on a bent stand where a third of the screen had literally be torn off.
2) There was the time in Oregon when Fr. Michael Sweeney (my co-teacher for that event) was stranded by snow) and I had to teach a bunch of brand new material on 5 minutes notice.
3) There was the time (also in Houston!) where no one could find the projector and I had a first time teacher trainee with me.
4) There was the time I contracted e-coli in Jakarta and was bed-ridden on the eve of a huge bi-lingual workshop for 450. We scooted by on Friday night but I had to get up on Saturday and teach, my clothes clinging with sweat, and lay down exhausted during all breaks. I was too busy trying to endure to find that funny.
5) Of course, there was that notable moment in Detroit last October, when a total power failure occurred ten minutes before I was to begin a presentation to a widely advertised group of STL students at Sacred Heart seminary. No projector, no computer, and mostly in the dark with an audience of African priests and people like Ralph Martin and Dr. Janet Smith in attendance! The finger puppet version of the theology and practice of the New Evangelization that followed will go down in history as one of those Balaam's ass moments - when God uses the weaknesses of his people in amazing ways.
But yesterday was probably the most outrageous series of failures I've ever experienced.
It started off when I showed up 45 minutes before the event was due to begin and discovered that our carefully shipped boxes had not arrived. So I had to call one of our staff (nabbing him as he stepped out of the shower since it was only 6:40 am here) and send him racing to the office to wrestle with UPS. Fortunately, the principle had her copy of the Inventory in her office, so I sent her off to copy the questions and answer sheets since taking the inventory was the first thing we would do.
Then my co-teacher (Miriam) for the day called to say that she was struggling with back pain and would be late and that I should start without here (and the underlying message seemed to be - would Miriam make it at all?) No worries. I could manage a day's workshop on my own if necessary.
Then it turned out that no one had used the remote for the provided projector before and there was no connecting cord provided. I was not yet familiar enough with my new MAC to figure it out. Also my MAC was doing odd things like having the projected slide disappear from the screen.
No problems. I had anticipated problems on my first trip with the MAC so I had set up my own personal MAC support system before-hand: Fr. Mike. Fr. Mike was to have his cell phone on from the minute he finished celebrating early Mass so he could help me with any problems. I called. No answer. I left a message. A cascading series of computer weirdnesses required that I call him again and again. No answer. Left increasingly urgent messages. No call back.
By now, it was 15 minutes before I was due to begin and I am without inventories, co-teacher, or book table, my brand new computer was acting wonky and my tech help is unreachable. Time to breathe deep. If necessary, I told myself, I can teach the day by myself from the hand-outs and just add more stories and dramatize things more. When in doubt, use finger puppets.
At this point, my co-teacher shows! Hurrah! She's a tough and wonderful teacher so she's going to gut it out. Yeah Miriam! Thank you Lord!
Then it dawns upon me, that without the inventories, I have to provide another list of the 24 charisms that corresponds to their answer sheet so the 53 participants can figure out what their scores mean. Try to open another file that has such a slide. Computer freezes. Try to recreate alphabetized list of 24 charisms from my head. My brain fuses. Can only come up with 21. Miriam is able to come up with the list and tried to write it on the white board - but, of course, there is no marker and no one knows where one is.
At this point, Miriam and I just started to giggle. The day was already into the Disaster Hall of Fame and was quickly heading to the top of the pile.
It all worked out in the end. The inventories arrived in time for lunch, Fr. Mike finally got through to tell me that, bizarrely, his cell had not rung or vibrated so he didn't know I had called until he checked his messages. Miriam got through the day with great style and the principal seemed very pleased. I had a lovely dinner out with Miriam and her husband and made it to the airport with plenty of time.
But last night when my flight home started to buck as we neared Colorado Springs and I could feel the all too familiar pangs of motion sickness, I closed my eyes, bent over, and willed the plane to land, now, before I puked my lovely dinner. So, of course, the pilot circled the city again.
I'm gonna enshrine yesterday in memory - in the hopes that it remains forever at the top of my list of disasters. And provides an endless supply of funny stories. Which will seem much funnier when my stomach stops churning