11 May 2009

Beggars Are Choosers

I was invited to a conference Wednesday to hear the keynote address. It was an opportunity for (a) free lunch and (b) free information. I had no reason not to go, and I should have no reason to complain. But the luncheon showed me I'm a beggar, and that beggars are choosers, I don't know from where this sense of entitlement comes, but it's there. And I don't feel any shame about it.


Let me to be specific in explaining my sense of entitlement. It's not superficial - although I admit I scoffed at the boxed lunches. They were filled with delicious food and packaged in compostable materials, so they were green. I may have acted as if I deserved full wait-staff benefits with my free lunch, but I was more than fine without it. My frown over my lunch (which really was delicious) was merely a reaction to something not being what I expected. This is not about food. It's about one speaker, and how she should have done better.


She was speaking to 4,000 people who were ready to be inspired. She's a big name, a decided success, and someone with an agenda to promote. She was someone whose advice I wanted to hear, and she was disappointing. Her speech was not too long, but it had more wordy anecdotes than concise points or action items. I listened for messages within the stories. I tried to piece together themes to tie them all together. I waited for a catchphrase to summarize it all. And when she was done I realized I'd rather talk to her mother, who seems to have had some truly awesome adventures.


I was a girl at a free lunch, unhappy with the free message coming from the subject of an international success story. I asked myself what gave me the right. And I didn't have a solid answer. She should have given me her best (I'm certain she didn't) because she had my attention. I was giving her my time, even after I finished eating. Maybe it's the recession. "Time" is the most abundant capital these days, and it's become just as important as money. Maybe I just didn't like the speaker personally, because she was on one side of the aisle, speaking to people on the other side, and trying to downplay her agenda by being non-specific. Perhaps I sensed something fake about her. I listened to one more speaker who was better than decent and left. I could not get the taste of the first speaker out of my mouth and I didn't like the way I was feeling.


One the way home, I saw a homeless guy selling newspapers. As I passed, he said he wanted to buy something to eat. I told him I had food, because there was a protein cookie and dried prunes in my conference bag.


"No miss, I want to buy my own food. I'm tired of leftovers."
"It's not leftovers. it's packaged food I just got."
"Okay. Not the prunes though."


I'm not the only choosy beggar out there.